Hawaii Bonds for Dam and Reservoir Assistance, SB 2876 (2014)

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Bonds for Dam and Reservoir Assistance, SB 2876
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Type:Constitutional amendment
Constitution:Hawaii Constitution
Referred by:Hawaii Legislature
Topic:Bonds
Status:On the ballot
2014 measures
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November 4
SB 886
SB 1084
SB 2876
HB 420
HB 748
Endorsements
Local measures


The Hawaii Bonds for Dam and Reservoir Assistance, SB 2876 is on the November 4, 2014 ballot in Hawaii as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. The measure, upon voter approval, would empower the legislature to issue special purpose revenue bonds to offer loans and financial assistance to dam and reservoir owners to improve their facilities.[1]

The amendment was introduced into the Hawaii Legislature by State Senator Donna Mercado Kim as Senate Bill No. 2876.[1]

Text of the measure

Ballot title

The text that will appear on the ballot is as follows:[1]

Shall the State be authorized to issue special purpose revenue bonds and use the proceeds from the bonds to offer loans to qualifying dam and reservoir owners to improve their facilities to protect public safety and provide significant benefits to the general public as important water resources?[2]

Constitutional changes

See also: Article VII, Hawaii Constitution

The measure amends Section 12 of Article VII of the Hawaii Constitution.[1]

The amendment’s full text can be read here.

Background

Kaloko Reservoir

The breached dam of Kaloko Reservoir. Image is from May 2, 2006.

On March 14, 2006, Kaloko Reservoir's dam was breached and ruptured after weeks of heavy rain. Approximately 370 million gallons of water rushed out of the reservoir and into the town of Kilauea. The wave of water was reported to be between 20 and 70 feet high and 200 feet wide.[3] Seven people were killed due to the dam's failure. The 118-year-old earthen dam was owned by Jimmy Pflueger, one of the wealthiest individuals in Hawaii, at the time of the accident.[4] The Hawaiian government has increased safety protocol since the 2006 disaster, but private landowners, including farmers, say they cannot pay for increased regulations. Edwin Matsuda, head of the state's Dam Safety Program, noted reservoir owners are shutting them down or draining the water to lower levels to avoid higher costs. In response, State Land Board Chairman William Aila suggested a bond ballot measure to help owners of dams and reservoirs finance improvements.[5]

2012 amendment

See also: Hawaii Dam and Reservoir Owners Assistance Amendment (2012)

A similar amendment was on the ballot in 2012, but was defeated by voters. William Aila said he believed the bond measure is still a good amendment, despite voter disapproval in 2012. He stated, "We have to back [sic] to the drawing board." Aila said voters may have thought the state would be liable for paying for assistance to dam and reservoir owners. He noted that the bond revenue would help finance projects, but dam and reservoir owners would be responsible for paying debt.[6]

Support

Supporters

Organizations

  • Hawai’i Farm Bureau[7]
  • Land Use Research Foundation
  • Hawaii Coffee Association
  • Hawaii Agriculture Research Center
  • Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii[8]
  • Maui County Farm Bureau[9]
  • Hawaii Cattlemen's Council[10]
  • American Society of Civil Engineers[11]

Businesses

  • Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company[7]

Arguments

Christopher Manfredi, president of the Hawaii Farm Bureau, said that the bonds are needed to help reservoir owners in light of recently implemented dam regulations. He continued:

Recent Dam and Reservoir Safety rules will levy an additional burden on reservoir owners and Hawaii farmers. Fuel, labor, equipment, transportation, and other expenses are already higher in Hawaii than on the mainland, placing locally grown products at a competitive disadvantage. Inevitably, increased costs will be passed on to consumers and are counterproductive to efforts to grow more food in Hawaii. Some landowners will simply decommission their dams, abandon their reservoir systems and decide what to do with their now fallow lands when agriculture is no longer viable.

The issuance of Special Purpose Revenue Bonds will help owners and operators comply with the laws without placing undue burden on the state budget. [2]

—Christopher Manfredi, [10]

Opposition

Arguments

Kenneth R. Conklin, an anti-Hawaiian sovereignty activist, issued a statement opposing the measure:

I oppose this proposed Constitutional amendment for four reasons: (1) Any private individual or corporation which owns a dam or reservoir could take out a bank loan to make improvements for fear of liability for injury or property damage if improvements are not made, but it's unlikely any bank or lender would agree to make such a loan because it is unlikely to ever be repaid, which is the reason why the owners of dams and reservoirs are seeking help from the government; (2) The proposed revenue bonds would almost certainly end up as permanent indebtedness of the State, because it is very unlikely that the revenue generated by a dam or reservoir would be sufficient to pay the interest on the bonds, let alone the principal; (3) The State is already swimming in an ocean of debt as well as unfunded pension liability; (4) If the State becomes involved in underwriting the financing of a dam or reservoir, then it seems likely that anyone suffering injury or property damage from it would add the State as a defendant to a lawsuit, necessitating government expenditures for legal defense and perhaps many millions of dollars for liability.

[2]

—Kenneth R. Conklin, [7]

Path to the ballot

See also: Amending the Hawaii Constitution

On January 23, 2014, State Senator Donna Mercado Kim (D-14) introduced a bill, known as Senate Bill 2876, into the legislature to alter the constitution. SB 2876 was approved through a two-thirds vote in both legislative chambers. The bill was approved by the Hawaii House of Representatives on April 8, 2014 and the Hawaii Senate on April 21, 2014.[12]

House vote

April 8, 2014 House vote

Hawaii SB 2876 Senate Vote
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 50 100.00%
No00.00%

Senate vote

April 21, 2014 Senate vote

Hawaii SB 2876 Senate Vote
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 25 100.00%
No00.00%

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See also

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