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H-3 Litigation Finding Aid

H-3 Freeway NARA.jpg

Scope and Content

The H-3 Litigation Archive documents the case surrounding the development of the H-3 Freeway that was constructed through the Koʻolau mountain range on the island of Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi. 

The boxes contain court case documentation, correspondence, news articles, and notes from 1978-1988.  The documents reflect litigation between plaintiffs Stop H-3 Association, Life of the Land, Hui Malama Aina o Koʻolau, Moanalua Gardens Foundation, among others, against defendants, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Hawaiʻi State Department of Transportation. 

The construction of the H-3 Freeway was initially planned to cut through Moanalua Valley. But when that route was cancelled, the H-3 freeway construction proceeded through Haʻikū Valley and Hālawa Valley.


See Box 1 and Box 2 for box lists and links to digitized court and miscellaneous documents. For assistance to access documents, or to request an research appointment, please see the Access page for more information.

An external resource, Archives & Political Processes: A Case Study on the History of the H-3 Freeway, curates some records from this H-3 Litigation Archive with U.S. Federal, Hawaiʻi State, and community organization records, to provide a glimpse of the multiple political processes behind the construction and opposition to the H-3 freeway. 

Physical Description

The archive is 2 archival storage boxes calculating a total of 2.66 linear feet. 

The first box consists of litigation documents between Plaintiffs Stop H-3 Association, Life of the Land and Hui Malama Aina o Ko’olau against Defendants Elizabeth Dole, Secretary of the United States Department of Transportation, Ralph Segawa Hawai’i Division Engineer, Federal Highways Administration, and Ryokichi Higashionna, Director of the Department of Transportation of the State of Hawai’i, on the construction of the H-3 Freeway on O’ahu, Hawai’i.  Documents include injunctions, Transcripts, Orders and Memorandums. 

The second box includes miscellaneous documents, new clipping, and the published book Ē Luku Wale ēPhotos of the H-3 Construction/Destruction by Kapulani Landgraf and Mark Hamasaki.  

Summary Chronology of the H-3 Construction History [1] By Dennis Kawaharada

From Ē Luku Wale ē: Photos of the H-3 Construction/Destruction by Kapulani Landgraf and Mark Hamasaki.

  • 1967 – A plan to route the H-3 freeway through Moanalua Valley is approved.
  • 1970 – The Moanalua Gardens Foundation forms to oppose the H-3 plan through Moanalua Valley; public education about the cultural and historical significance of the valley ensues.
  • 1970 – The National Environmental Policy Act is passed in Congress requiring federally-funded projects to submit an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  Environmental and cultural impacts of projects must be assessed and alternatives or mitigation measures are required to reduce those impacts. The Hawaii Department of Transportation contracts the Bishop Museum to complete an EIS.  The Bishop Museum finds “no significant archaeological sites” except the petroglyph boulders called “Pohaku ka Lua Hine,” or Grandmother’s Stone.  No archaeological study was undertaken on the Ko’olau Poko segment of the project. 
  • 1972 – Construction begins on the Halawa interchange, but opponents challenge the EIS conclusions.  The U.S. District Judge Samuel King is convinced to issue an injunction to halt further design and construction.
  • 1974 – Moanalua Valley is listed in the National Register of Historic Places because of the Pohaku ka Lua Hine.
  • 1976 – A 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision rules that the State of Hawai’i ignored the historic importance of Moanalua Valley and that the Secretary of Transportation failed to consider alternative routes.
  • 1977 – The State surveys the Halawa valley routes and produces a supplemental EIS with the Bishop Museum. The study concludes that there were no significant cultural or historic sites.
  • 1978 – Stop H-3 Association raises that the Ko’olau Poko route runs 1.7 miles adjacent to a future recreational area called Ho’omaluhia Park.  The U.S. Department of Transportation Act requires environmental quality in recreational areas and that alternatives be found to mitigate damages.  Construction is stopped for another EIS.
  • 1980 – The EIS on the Ko’olau Poko route adjacent to Ho’omaluhia Park was submitted.  The Federal Freeway Administration allows construction to proceed.
  • 1982 – A second supplemental EIS is ordered to address concerns regarding Ko’olau Poko’s proximity to Ho’omaluhia Park.  But construction is allowed to continue in other areas. 
  • 1983 – Construction on the Halekou interchange is restarted.
  • 1984 – The injunction was reinstated because the environmental impact was not addressed. While the construction ceased for two years, state attorneys tried to rescind the injunction. Meanwhile, 15 additional archaeological sites were identified along the Ko’olau Poko route.
  • 1986 – Senator Daniel Inouye leads freeway supporters in Congress to push an H-3 exemption for the Transportation Act. Reagan signs the exemption into law.
  • 1987 – The final ruling allows the construction to go forward. In August of that year, the Federal Highways Administration, State Historic Preservation Office, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, with the concurrence of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and State Transportation Department, signed a memorandum of agreement to mitigate adverse impacts of the H-3 on archaeological and cultural sites.
  • 1988 – As Archaeologist Earl Neller surveys the route of the H-3, he finds the remnants of a heiau. But upon further excavation, it is downplayed as “dry land agricultural terraces.” Neller is replaced.
  • 1989 – Two tunnels are blasted through the Ko’olau mountains. 
  • 1991 – Bishop Museum’s archaeological project director Scott Williams found that the sites identified by Earl Neller, and three other adjoining sites, formed an agricultural complex that included Kukuiokane, a heiau dedicated to to Kāne, the Hawaiian God of life giving water.  The State and OHA agree to preserve one of the three sites, identifying the agricultural complex, while burying the other two including Kukuiokane, beneath what is now the Kane’ohe interchange.  Other heiaus that were destroyed by the H-3 Freeway route were Hale o Papa, House of the Mother of Creation, and a neighboring luakini, an ali’i (chieftain’s) temple.

[1] This chronology is based on Dennis Kawarahada’s summary of the H-3 Freeway development history documented in E Luku Wale ePhotos of the H-3 Construction/Destruction by Kapulani Landgraf and Mark Hamasaki.  Kawarada, Dennis.  E Luku Wale ePhotos of the H-3 Construction/Destruction by Kapulani Landgraf and Mark Hamasaki. Accessed May 5, 2016.