By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser East Honolulu Bureau
HAWAII KAI State planners are recommending that the city be given final approval to start building its education center at Hanauma Bay.
Should the state Board of Land and Natural Resources approve the application for a conservation district-use permit during its meeting on Friday, the city can begin construction on the $10 million in improvements, which includes an education center along the upper edge of the nature preserve.
Approval hinges on a list of minor conditions, including the start of construction within a year and a state review of the construction plans.
The city has been pitching a plan since 1998. Controversy greeted the initial proposal, which included an aquarium, a tram ride and restaurant up Koko Head. But residents objected and after a series of meetings with the community, the city amended the proposal. Now the plan calls for an education center, snack shop and gift shop with administrative offices on the upper bay, in addition to removing the beach-side snack shop and rebuilding the restrooms, city officials said.
The city said the improvements are necessary to protect the fragile marine environment.
Opponents fear that the buildings will take away from the natural surroundings. The East Honolulu Community Coalition has kept the plan in doubt with its objections, and despite losing a bid to be heard in a contested-case hearing before the land board, vows to fight on.
The plan has the support of the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board. The Waimanalo and Diamond Head neighborhood boards oppose the project.
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