Honolulu, Hawaii – Speaker Scott K. Saiki today announced that the Final Report of the House of Representatives Lahaina Wildfire Interim Working Groups has been published. The report is a culmination of efforts from six bipartisan working groups, formed on September 6, 2023, to evaluate topics related to the Lahaina wildfire.
Over the past fourteen weeks, the House interim working groups collaborated with federal, state, and county agencies and community stakeholders to conduct research, outline key issues related to wildfires, and craft recommendations for the 2024 Regular Session. The final report is available for public review on the Hawaii State Capitol website.
"Following the devastating Lahaina wildfires, the House took early action before the legislative session to address immediate issues requiring temporary or transitional relief. Public input was critical in shaping the final report and policy recommendations," stated House Speaker Scott K. Saiki. "We invite everyone to review the report, which contains comprehensive research and recommendations that could provide insights to improved response to wildfire emergencies."
The following House interim working groups collaborated on the final report:
"Our primary focus was to evaluate the short-term and long-term risks of the wildfires to the ecosystem, community, and environment by engaging with stakeholders and subject-matter experts regarding the environmental remediation of the Lahaina area. Through our collective research, we gained valuable insight on hazardous contaminants, monitoring efforts, and the cleanup process, including status updates on debris removal efforts, water and air quality, and impacts to harbors and marine life," said Co-Chairs Nicole E. Lowen and Elle Cochran. "The recommendations of the Environmental Remediation Working Group primarily call for additional funding resources for long-term monitoring of air and water quality, and support for research efforts to better understand the environmental concerns linked to urban fires."
Food, Water, and Other Supplies
"Our working group solidified six recommendations that act as a roadmap to improve the availability and distribution of food and essential supplies for displaced individuals and families. These recommendations encompass the maintenance of a distribution management plan, funding for food bank reserves, enactment of a right-to-garden law, establishment of safety standards for hot food donations, uninterrupted medication access for patients, and emergency surge personnel for disaster response," said Food, Water, and Other Supplies Working Group Co-Chairs Greggor Ilagan and Terez Amato.
Jobs and Business
"In the aftermath of the Lahaina wildfire, it is imperative to have well-coordinated and effective legislative efforts to address the pressing issues of unemployment, business activity, and the statewide impacts on tourism. Our group's recommendations include reinforcing the unemployment division and system, implementing workforce development initiatives, ensuring the availability of childcare services, providing additional assistance and relief to businesses, and promoting tourism with a focus on responsibility, respect, and compassion," stated Jobs and Business Working Group Co-Chairs Andrew Takuya Garrett and Daniel Holt.
"Community input was critical to the formation of our report, and we held a community listening meeting to hear directly from those impacted and verify that our Schools Working Group's focus was aligned with that of the West Maui community," said Co-Chairs Jenna Takenouchi and Justin H. Woodson. "Priorities in our final report include examining the state of displaced students and DOE employees at schools in West Maui and the efforts to return students to those schools, identifying gaps and inefficiencies in the process, and offering solutions to provide quality learning opportunities for our keiki."
"Hawaii faces a monumental challenge due to exorbitant housing costs, a shortage of long-term rental units, stringent building regulations, housing stock loss on Maui, and a surge in displaced families entering the rental market. Providing safe, healthy, and affordable housing for these displaced families is one of the largest public policy challenges that Hawaii has ever faced," said Shelter Working Group Co-Chair Luke A. Evslin. "Our working group's recommendations include leveraging state financing options, streamlining regulatory burdens, utilizing short-term rentals for long-term housing, and focusing on housing vulnerable populations.
"Our working group's focus is on proposing preventive measures to mitigate the risk of wildfires across the state," stated Linda Ichiyama and Darius K. Kila, Co-Chairs of the Wildfire Prevention Working Group. "Acknowledging the escalating threat of wildfires in Hawaii, our recommendations in the report include strategies such as minimizing ignitions and fuel loads, fostering community education through planning and engagement, enhancing capacity for wildfire suppression and post-fire response, and investigating the complex effects of climate change on wildfire patterns."
The final reports for the six working groups can be accessed here: www.capitol.hawaii.gov/house.aspx.