Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cultural Impact Assessments: Preliminary Findings

Research Question:
Since 2000, cultural impacts are required to be discussed in EISs.
  1. Is the cultural impact assessment process working well or could it be improved?
Stakeholder Interview Comments
Overwhelmingly, stakeholders responded that the cultural impact assessments need more consistency and clarity, though some considered it to be working well as it is presently. Many stated uncertainty over the scope of the CIA—whom to include (Hawaiian only?), what and who are experts, and how to effectively address non-physical cultural impacts (lifestyle, traditional uses of space). Others added that some cultural information can be private and may not be included in a public document like an EIS, but may still suffer significant impacts.

To improve CIAs, the following actions were most commonly suggested:
  1. The State should define ‘cultural impacts’ and ‘traditional cultural practice’, clarify the role of cultural experts, and establish better guidelines/rules to clarify and make the assessment more consistent.
Stakeholder Workshop Results
Session 1: Review of Results
The participants in the review of finding identified the lack of consistency as very important. To address this issue, most respondents supported having better guidelines and standardizing the process. Others supported fixes that include clarifying the roles of SHPD, OHA, and the Burial Councils, as well as other agencies; and the role of ‘cultural experts’.

Session 2: Discussion Group and Report Back
In discussion, participants agreed that a lack of consistency in the rules exists. More guidance would be helpful, but clarifying rules must come before guidelines. One solution would be to establish a review body to assess the CIA section of EIAs and recommend changes to the rules. For guidance, checklists that are general enough to be relevant for different geographic areas, should be provided to preparers and reviewers. Also, a database at either the State or county level for the reports is needed. Participants objected to adopting 6E completely, since it provides for little public consultation or privacy for sensitive cultural issues, but supported looking into the federal 106 process more. Furthermore, the group agreed that preparers should be neutral, certified, and have existing local knowledge or experience of Hawaii. Also, the group declared that natural resources are cultural resources to native people.

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