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Conservation District Use Application: Use of Land Sites

A. Legal Authority

  • Chapter 205, HRS, as amended, Land Use Commission
  • Chapter 183 C, HRS, as amended, Forest Reservations, Water Development, Zoning
  • Title 13, Chapter 5, HAR, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Providing for Land Use within the Conservation District


B. Purpose

The Land Use Commission (LUC) has classified all lands in the state, public and private, into one of four categories of zoning; Urban, Rural, Agricultural or Conservation. The Conservation District (CD) includes areas necessary for: 1) protecting watershed and water sources; 2) preserving scenic and historic areas; 3) providing park lands, wilderness and beach reserves; 4) conserving endemic plants, fish and wildlife, including those which are threatened or endangered; 5) preventing floods and soil erosion; 6) forestry; 7) open space areas whose existing openness, natural condition, or present state of use, if retained, would enhance the present or potential value of abutting or surrounding communities, or would maintain or enhance the conservation of natural or scenic resources; 8) areas of value for recreational purposes; 9) other related activities; and 10) other permitted uses not detrimental to a multiple use conservation concept. The Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) that manages the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) regulates activities within the Conservation District. The Department requires that a Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) be approved prior to any use of land in the CD.

C. Applicability to Aquaculture

Use of lands within the CD requires submission of a Conservation District Use Application (CDUA) for BLNR approval. In general, the CD encompasses large areas of mountain and shoreline lands, along with areas necessary for protecting watersheds and water sources. Also included is most of the state’s submerged land in state marine waters and outlying small islands. Most of the state’s historic Hawaiian fishponds are in the Conservation District.

Pursuant to Title 13, Chapter 5, HAR, land within the CD is classified into one of four use subzones:

  • Protective (P): The objective of this subzone is to protect valuable resources in such designated areas as restricted watersheds; marine, plant and wildlife sanctuaries; and significant historic, archaeological, geological, and volcanic features and sites and other designated unique areas.
  • Limited (L): The objective of this subzone is to limit uses where natural conditions suggest constraints on human activities (e.g., land susceptible to flooding, erosion, tsunami, volcanic activity or landslides).
  • Resource (R): The objective of this subzone is to develop areas to ensure sustained use of natural resources, (e.g., future parkland, lands for growing and harvesting of timber, outdoor recreation, and shoreline and ocean waters).
  • General (G): The objective of this subzone is to designate open space where specific conservation uses may not be defined, but where urban use would be premature.

It is important to note that certain permitted uses within the Conservation District subzones are cumulative; that is, all uses permitted in the Protective subzone are also permitted in the Limited subzone, all uses in the Limited subzone are also permitted in the Resource subzone, and all uses in the Resource subzone are permitted in the General subzone. The specific uses permitted in each subzone are listed below.

Aquaculture is a permitted use in the Resource and General subzones. The restoration or operation of significant historic and archaeological sites listed on the National Register of Historic Properties or State Register of Historic Places, e.g. Traditional Hawaiian fishponds, is a permitted use in all of the subzones.

The following land uses are permitted in the Protective (P) subzone:

  • Research, recreational, and educational uses which require no physical facilities;
  • Establishment and operation of marine, plant, and wildlife, sanctuaries and refuges, wilderness and scenic areas, including habitat improvements;
  • Restoration or operation of significant historic and archaeological sites listed on the National or State Register;
  • Maintenance and protection of desired vegetation, including the removal of dead, deteriorated and noxious plants;
  • Programs for the control of animal, plant, and marine populations, including fishing and hunting;
  • Monitoring, observing, and measuring natural resources;
  • Occasional use; and
  • Government use where public benefit outweighs any impact on the conservation district.

The following land uses are permitted in the Limited (L) subzone:

  • All uses permitted in the Protective subzone;
  • Emergency warning systems or emergency telephone systems;
  • Flood, erosion, or siltation control projects; and
  • Growing or harvesting of forest products.

The following land uses are permitted in the Resource (R) subzone:

  • All uses permitted in the Protective and Limited subzones;
  • Aquaculture;
  • Artificial reefs; and
  • Commercial fishing operations.

The following land uses are permitted in the General (G) subzone:

  • All permitted uses in the Protective, Resource, and Limited subzones; and
  • Development of water collection, pumping, storage, control and transmission.

According to statute, the BLNR uses the following general guidelines in considering approval of CDUA applications:

  • The objectives of the subzone are given primary consideration;
  • Any physical hazard identified shall be alleviated when required by the BLNR; Subdivision applications shall address the relationship with the county general plan; and
  • The application shall meet the purpose and intent of the Conservation District.

D. Administering Department

The CDUA is administered by the DLNR, Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands (OCCL). The BLNR has the sole responsibility for approving a CDUA and has the option of attaching governing and legally binding conditions to the resulting permit.

Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands
Department of Land and Natural Resources
Kalanimoku Building, Room 131
1151 Punchbowl Street Honolulu, Hawaiʻi 96813
Phone: 808-587-0377
Web site:

E. Information Requirements

A detailed application form is available from DLNR and on the OCCL web site. The complete application must include at least the following information:

  • A Draft EA must be prepared for the project and attached to the CDUA (and after review an EIS may be required);
  • Description of the location and boundaries of the area to be utilized, including regional and site maps;
  • Description of the parcel’s characteristics including existing use, structures, utilities, access, vegetation, and topography, including appropriate photographs;
  • Description of any existing covenants, easements, and restrictions for the parcel;
  • Information on any historic sites which may be affected by the proposed use, including a plan for protection, salvage or restoration;
  • Statement of the reasons for selecting the proposed location;
  • Description of the activities to be conducted, including a specification as to whether the activities are commercial or noncommercial, a timetable for construction, deployment and operation of the facilities, and planned levels of use;
  • Preliminary site plans for the proposed development (where applicable these should include site and elevation plans, floor plans, grading and drainage plans and landscaping plans); and
  • As appropriate, a Construction Plan, abbreviated Business Plan, Management Plan, and Emergency Plan

F. Public Participation

A Public Hearing is required for all applications involving the following:

  • Land use(s) for commercial purposes, e.g., commercial aquaculture;
  • Change of subzone(s) or boundaries;
  • Land use(s) in the Protective “P” subzone;
  • Land use(s) as determined by the Chairperson where the scope of the proposed use or the public interest requires one.

G. Process Time

The processing time for a CDUA is 180 days from the date the application is officially received. If the application is for state lands under the control of DLNR, the processing time starts when the Chairperson signs the application as land owner. If the activity is on private land, the timeframe starts when the application is submitted to DLNR and deemed complete.

The application is considered during regularly scheduled public meetings of the BLNR. If the BLNR fails to act within 180 days after the receipt of an application, the applicant may automatically put the land to the proposed use, subject to the conditions outlined in §13- 2-21, HAR. If the application involves an EIS or a contested case hearing (see §91-9 HRS), the 180-day period may be extended for an additional 90 days at the request of the applicant, or, subject to approval by the BLNR, for a longer period.

H. Sequence of Filing

The BLNR will not act on an application until the environmental review process has been completed and a determination made, and if applicable, a Special Management Area Permit, Shoreline Setback Variance, Department of Health approval of sanitation facilities, and water supply permits or approvals have been obtained.

I. Cost 46

The cost of assembling the information required to supplement the CDUP application, e.g., EA or EIS, can be substantial depending on the size of the property, the complexity of the proposed development, the surrounding environmental conditions and community concerns. All CDUA fees shall be in the form of cash, certified or cashier’s check, and payable to the State of Hawaiʻi. The various fee categories are listed below:

  • Board Permit – $100 application fee, plus an additional $100 per potential developed acre, or major fraction thereof, up to a maximum of $2,000;
  • Department Permit – $50 application fee;
  • Site Plan Approval – $50 fee;
  • Subzone Boundary Determination – $50 fee;
  • Emergency Permit – Waived;
  • Temporary Variance – $100 fee; and
  • A fee of $250 will be required for a public hearing.
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Department of Agriculture – Aquaculture and Livestock Services
99-941 Halawa Valley Street
Aiea, Hawaiʻi 96701-5602
Phone: 808-483-7130
Fax: 808-483-7110
Web site:


Pacific Region Aquaculture and Coastal Resource Hub
2525 Correa Road, HIG 238
Honolulu, HI 96822
Phone: (808) 956-7031

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