April 20, 2012
Federal Agency Reviews SHPD Corrective Action Progress
Some progress seen, but concerns remain; State has one year to complete requirements
April 19, 2012: The National Park Service has issued an interim finding that the State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD) is still in jeopardy of being decertified as a federally-approved program under the National Historic Preservation Act.
In March, the National Park Service (NPS) held an interim review of the State’s progress on achieving Corrective Action Plan (CAP) requirements that have been underway for two years. In a letter to the State dated April 19, Stephanie Toothman, NPS Associate Director of Cultural Resources, Stewardship and Science, outlined areas that remain of concern, especially related to hiring and retaining qualified staff.
“We were very impressed by the dedication and expertise of the current SHPD staff, and appreciate the support that has been provided by the Legislature in providing the funding for new positions,” Toothman wrote. “However…current staffing levels are not sufficient to meet the workload of the SHPD.”
The assessment letter outlined additional areas where adequate progress had not been demonstrated, especially in the developing an accessible state inventory, but also recognized achievements in the areas of the Certified Local Government, National Register, and Review & Compliance programs.
Toothman outlined specific benchmarks and outcomes that need to be met by the final evaluation in early 2013.
“Please understand that NPS remains committed to the success of the Hawai‘i SHPD,” she wrote. “In light of the lack of progress in attaining sufficient staff and in planning for development of an accessible state inventory however,…NPS has begun discussions with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to develop contingency plans for the review of Federal agency undertakings if the Secretary of the Interior determines the CAP has not been met.”
The technical team of government officials met with the management and staff of the State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD) and some of its contractors in Honolulu and Kapolei the week of March 20-23. The NPS investigators also held an informal pau hana event to meet with stakeholders and members of the preservation community on March 22.
SHPD was placed on “high risk status” for failing to adequately meet the requirements of the federal historic preservation program, which delegates some functions—and funding for those items—to the states. NPS issued the correction action in March 2010 with the direction to remedy deficiencies in five areas. The report outlined a “corrective action plan” to be completed by October 2012, with benchmarks along the way. NPS will conduct a final compliance review in February 2013.
Areas for improvement include review of any federal undertaking (including those requiring federal funding, permit, license or approval) by appropriately qualified professional staff; conducting and maintaining an inventory and survey of historic sites; keeping the National Register of Historic Places for Hawai‘i; managing the Certified Local Government program; and conducting preservation planning.
Consequences of failing to correct the deficiencies would include the loss of standing for the state to review federal projects for their impacts to historic resources. The federal agencies would therefore need to utilize an alternative review mechanism, which could add delays and uncertainty to both the federal funding and approvals and to adequate protection for Hawaii’s historic properties.
Several other states and territories have been through the corrective action process. None of the other historic preservation offices has failed to reverse the decline or has lost its status.