Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Jacqueline Kozak Thiel, the state’s sustainability coordinator, stressed Hawaii’s vulnerability to climate change during the first meeting of President Barack Obama’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience on Tuesday.
Abercrombie and Thiel emphasized the following issues according to Keith DeMello, a spokesman for the governor:
Freshwater. Hawaii is 100% dependent on rainfall for our very survival. Rainfall and stream flows are declining.
Coastlines. Hawaii’s shorelines (more than 750 miles) are its natural borders, but they are vulnerable to beach erosion and sea level rise.
Ocean Resources. Pacific Islanders are ocean peoples. Rising temperatures and acidification kill the reefs, damage fisheries and jeopardize the island way of life.
Security. Climate change is a matter of security for Hawaii. Climate change will disrupt and then threaten economic systems — food, water, energy, biodiversity, and health. Hawaii’s people will be at risk.
The meeting was held at the White House’s Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C.
Obama established the task force to advise the administration on how the federal government “can respond to the needs of communities nationwide that are currently dealing with or anticipate extreme weather, sea level rise, and other impacts of climate change,” according to a press release.
The first meeting focused on “building climate resilience into efforts to better prepare for and recover from natural disasters.”
Named to the task force last month, Gov. Abercrombie attended along with Deputy Chief of Staff Blake Oshiro and Thiel.
— Sophie Cocke and Chad Blair
Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources is holding public hearings throughout the islands this week (Dec. 10 - Dec. 12) on proposed rule changes governing stony coral and live rocks.
The new rules “clarify what activities constitute “damage” to stony coral and live rock, and establish a formula for calculating administrative penalties for such violations,” according to a DLNR press release.
You can read the proposed amendments here.
The hearing schedule is as follows:
Dec. 10, 2013, in Lanai City at the Senior Center, 309 7th Street, 1:00-3:00 p.m.
Dec. 10, 2013, in Kailua-Kona at Kealakehe High School Cafeteria, 74-5000 Puohulihuli Street, 6:00-9:00 p.m.
Dec. 10, 2013, in Honolulu at Stevenson Middle School Cafeteria, 1202 Prospect Street, 6:00-9:00 p.m.
Dec. 11, 2013, in Hilo at Aupuni Center Conference Room, 101 Pauahi Street, Suite 101, 6:00-9:00 p.m.
Dec. 11, 2013, in Lihue at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School Auditorium, 4431 Nuhou Street, 6:00-9:00 p.m.
Dec. 11, 2013, in Kauanakakai at Mitchell Pauole Center Conference Room, 90 Ainoa Street, 1:00-3:00 p.m.
Dec. 12, 2013, in Kahului at Maui Waena Intermediate School Cafeteria, 795 Onehee Avenue, 5:30-8:00 p.m.
Photo: coral (NOAA)
— Sophie Cocke
Hawaii’s anti-GMO movement is ramping up pressure on Kamehameha Schools to stop leasing land to Monsanto.
The state’s largest landowner leases 1,000 acres of its land in Haleiwa to the biotech giant.
The Hawaii GMO Justice Coalition and Dustin Barca, a well-known surfer and leader in the movement against genetically modified organisms, have organized a protest march for Sunday, Dec. 15, beginning at noon.
— Sophie Cocke
Mayor Billy Kenoi signed Bill 113 into law on Thursday, prohibiting biotech companies from operating on the Big Island and banning farmers from growing any new genetically altered crops.
The bill exempts the island’s GMO papaya industry.
Kenoi said that the new law signals the county’s desire to encourage community-based farming and ranching, as opposed to playing host to global agribusiness corporations in a letter to council members announcing his decision to sign the bill.
None of the biotech companies that have taken up root in Hawaii in recent years, such as Monsanto, Syngenta and Pioneer, operate on the Big Island. The new law makes sure that remains the case.
"Our community has a deep connection and respect for our land, and we all understand we must protect our island and preserve our precious natural resources," Kenoi wrote to council members. "We are determined to do what is right for the land because this place is unlike any other in the world."
Kenoi said debate over the bill at times grew “divisive and hurtful” and that some of the island’s farmers have been “treated disrespectfully.” He urged community healing.
"We are determined to reunite our farming community to create a stronger and more vibrant agricultural sector," he wrote. "It is time to end the angry rhetoric and reach out to our neighbors."
The majority of Hawaii’s farming industry opposed the bill.
Passage of the Big Island bill comes just weeks after Kauai passed its own law relating to GMO and pesticide disclosure. A bill similar to Kauai’s law is expected to be introduced in the Maui County Council on Friday.
Photo: Mayor Billy Kenoi (Civil Beat)
— Sophie Cocke
The Hawaii Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling on Wednesday that said the state violated its own rules in allowing construction of a $17 million activity center at Kawaiahao Church to proceed without requiring the church to do an archaeological inventory survey first.
Some 660 dug-up human remans have languished in the church’s basement while the project has remained stalled for months amid court proceedings. The burials were expected to be reinterred in another part of the church property, but last year’s ruling by the Intermediate Court of Appeals on the AIS halted the project and left the fate of the remains in limbo.
It’s still not clear whether the bones will have to be reburied in their original resting place. But the ruling will likely transfer such decision-making power away from the church and to the Oahu Island Burial Council. It’s also not clear if or how the church project will proceed with its activity center, which is supposed to include a social hall, kitchen and conference rooms.
Such details are expected to be worked out in circuit court and among the various parties.
Dana Naone Hall, the defendant and a well-known Native Hawaiian activist, is awarded attorney’s fees from Kawaiahao Church, but not the state, according to the Supreme Court ruling.
You can read Civil Beat’s past coverage of the controversy and legal battle here:
Photo: Kawaiahao Church (Civil Beat)
— Sophie Cocke
Makena beaches on the south shore of Maui are closed for a second time this week after an aggressive shark chased two spear fishermen out of the water on Wednesday.
On Monday, a shark killed a kayaker in the same vicinity, prompting beach closures.
The fishermen told lifeguards that an 8- to 10-foot Galapagos shark made several passes at them while fishing off of Black Sand Beach, according to Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources.
"They tried to fend it off with their spears but the shark kept coming, so they let it take their catch of speared fish and headed back to shore at Little Beach," according to a DLNR press release.
There have been a record number of shark attacks in Hawaii this year. In addition two fatalities, 11 other people have been injured by shark bites.
Photo: Makena Beach, Maui (Credit: Hawaii Savvy)
— Sophie Cocke
A Waipahu fisherman has been fined $250 for catching undersized ulua at Kalaeloa Deep Draft Harbor on Oahu, according to a Wednesday press release from Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Lionel Tunac pled guilty to the offense in Waianae District Court late last month.
It’s illegal to catch ulua that are smaller than 10 inches. The offense is punishable with a fine of up to $1,000 and 30 days in jail.
Tunac was cited by state officers in October after being reported by an anonymous caller. Officers responded and found that Tunac had three undersized ulua.
“Taking undersized ulua presents a threat to Hawaii’s near shore fisheries. DOCARE continues to patrol ocean waters and shorelines to ensure compliance with fishing regulations,” said Randy Awo, DOCARE chief, in a statement.
Ulua are large predatory fish that can grow up to six feet in length and weigh up to 190 pounds. (The juveniles are called papio.)
— Sophie Cocke
Makena beaches on Maui’s south shore reopened Tuesday after a man died from a shark attack.
The victim, 57-year-old Patrick Briney of Stevenson, Washington, was kayaking near Big Beach on Monday morning when a shark bit his leg, severing his foot. A friend who was paddling nearby and a charter boat tried to rescue him, but Stevenson died before they could get him to shore.
Maui County lifeguards and state ocean officials reopened beaches from Little Beach to Makena Landing around noon on Tuesday after not sighting any sharks, according to the Department of Land and Natural Resources. The Maui County Fire Department also did a flyover in a helicopter.
The shark attack marks the 13th this year for Hawaii, making it a record-breaking year. Most shark attacks are not lethal, but a young, German woman also died after being bitten by a shark while snorkeling off Maui’s south shore earlier this year.
— Sophie Cocke
A 400-foot Japanese Navy mega-submarine that traces back to World War II and was scuttled by the U.S. military in 1946 has been discovered by University of Hawaii and NOAA researchers off of the southwest coast of Oahu.
The landmark discovery of the “I-400” warship, which was found submerged 2,300 below water in August, is being described by UH as a feat that “resolves a decades-old Cold War mystery of just where the lost submarine lay, and recalls a different era as one war ended and a new, undeclared conflict emerged.” (Researchers had to review their findings with the U.S. and Japanese governments before announcing the discovery.)
The I-400 was the largest submarine ever built until the introduction of nuclear-powered submarines in the 1960s. Unlike any other diesel-electric submarine to this day, it could travel a range of 37,500 miles — one and a half times around the world — without refueling, according to the UH press release. The innovative submarine could hold up to three folding-wing float-plane bombers, each with a 1,800-pound bomb, that could be catapulted off within minutes after surfacing.
But the bombs were never used. At the end of WWII, the U.S. Navy captured five Japanese submarines — including the I-400 — and brought them to Pearl Harbor for inspection. The U.S. then sank the submarines off the coast of Oahu when the Soviet Union demanded access to them in 1946, claiming that it didn’t know where the warships were located. The Cold War was just beginning, and the U.S. didn’t want the submarine technology in the hands of the Soviet Union. The discovery of the I-400 marks the fourth such submarine to be discovered by UH.
Terry Kerby, a veteran undersea explorer who serves as operations director and chief submarine pilot at the university’s Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory, led the undertaking. The UH undersea laboratory has been searching for submarines and other submerged artifacts for more than two decades as part of NOAA’s maritime heritage research efforts.
“The I-400 has been on our ‘to-find’ list for some time. It was the first of its kind of only three built, so it is a unique and very historic submarine,” said Kerby. …
“These historic properties in the Hawaiian Islands recall the critical events and sacrifices of World War II in the Pacific, a period which greatly affected both Japan and the United States and shaped the Pacific region as we now know it,” said (Hans) Van Tilburg, maritime heritage coordinator for NOAA in the Pacific Islands region. “Our ability to interpret these unique weapons of the past and jointly understand our shared history is a mark of our progress from animosity to reconciliation. That is the most important lesson that the site of the I-400 can provide today.”
Photo: The Japanese I-400. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)
— Alia Wong
The History Channel’s new series "American Jungle," which depicts clans of Big Island hunters battling it out as they hunt down pigs, goats and cows, is angering top state officials, including Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who has threatened legal action.
"Portraying our local hunters as primitives demeans our people and their contributions to subsistence and wildlife conservation," Abercrombie said in a Wednesday press release. "This appears to be a fictional ‘reality’ production with no connection to actual hunters in Hawaii. If we discover any laws or regulations have been broken we will vigorously pursue legal and/or criminal charges.”
Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources called the show “inaccurate, offensive, and in some cases, potentially illegal.”
The department says it is investigating whether anyone involved with the show broke state laws or administrative rules during the production’s filming. Violators may be subject to prosecution or DLNR administrative hearings.
The show’s producers could not be immediately reached for comment.
DLNR points out that hunting at night is illegal in Hawaii. The department also says that it denied a permit request from the show’s producers to film on state forest lands.
"We denied the film permit request because it failed to provide sufficient details to indicate the show’s content, and raised concerns as to possible illegal activities that might be depicted in the series,” DLNR Chair William Aila said in a statement.
The show hasn’t just upset state officials angry because they feel it provides a warped view of Hawaii’s culture and hunting practices. Animal rights and game management groups have also weighed in. The Hawaii Humane Society said the hunting practices depicted in the show allowed for prolonged and unnecessary animal suffering.
The History Channel describes the show this way on its website:
In American Jungle, we witness the triumphs of families that have chosen to live off a land they love and revere. Just like their ancient ancestors, these hunters choose to use knives and spears to take down their prey, which includes feral bulls, wild boar, goats and rams. Each clan takes a unique path through the jungle. As the animals desperately search for water during the dry season, the hunting families are forced to follow their prey and cross trails fought over for generations. In a land where traditions run deep and ancient spirits rule the mountains, a new challenge takes hold for these two months. The will to survive takes hold as these clans battle nature and each other to become king of the American Jungle.
You can watch a clip of the series on the History Channel’s Facebook page.
Photo: Screenshot from the History Channel’s American Jungle series.
— Sophie Cocke
Do you have solar panels sitting idle on your roof? Have you invested thousands of dollars in a solar system, but now don’t know whether Hawaiian Electric Co. will allow it to be turned on?
If so, help may be on its way. HECO has agreed to suspend new interconnection rules for customers caught in limbo when the utility changed its policy for hooking up solar systems on Sept. 9.
Customers living in areas where there are high penetrations of solar on the utility’s electrical circuits must now wait for HECO to conduct studies to see if their system can be safety interconnected to the grid. And if it can, the customer may have to shell out an unknown amount of money to HECO for technical upgrades
These rules will be suspended for customers caught in the middle of the solar installation process when HECO changed its policy. Customers must meet the following qualifications, as detailed in a HECO press release on Wednesday:
(1) The system must be 10 kilowatts or less in size; and
(2) The customer must provide to Hawaiian Electric (postmarked by Dec. 31, 2013) a fully executed and binding contract with a solar company signed on or before Sept. 9, 2013 for the purchase/lease/installation of a net energy metered PV system OR other evidence that they made a legally binding financial commitment (such as a loan document) on or before Sept. 9, 2013 for purchase/lease/installation of a net metered PV system. (A utility-provided form — available on the utility website at hawaiianelectric.com/goingsolar — attesting to the validity of the documents must also be completed); and
(3) Hawaiian Electric must have received the customer’s signed net energy metering agreement by Oct. 31, 2013.
The new rules left what the solar industry estimates is hundreds of solar customers caught in a bind.
Some customers already had panels installed on their roof, only to find themselves paying a monthly bill to HECO for electricity and another monthly bill for the solar system that isn’t generating electricity. Other customers took out loans for systems and signed contracts before the Sept. 9 rule change, but were later told that HECO may not turn their system on or that they may have to pay thousands to the utility for interconnection studies.
The waiver from new rules comes after nearly three months of protests from the solar industry.
“We want to be fair and assist customers in high PV areas who made financial or contractual commitments to install a PV system prior to the procedure change,” Jim Alberts, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president of customer service, said in the press release. “We’re committed to helping our customers move forward with their installations.”
The rule change left customers in limbo, but also led some solar companies to engage in unethical business practices. You can read more about that in Civil Beat’s previous coverage here:
Photo: A PV solar array. (Flickr: johncallas)
— Sophie Cocke
The owners of Niihau, its residents and Hawaii senators are urging state officials to enact a fishing ban around Niihau for all people other than the small Native Hawaiian population that lives there.
The reason? Kauai residents are increasingly trolling the nearby island’s coastal waters because Kauai’s own fisheries are being depleted, according to a press release from Sen. Clayton Hee’s office.
To this end, the Hawaiian Caucus of the Senate held a press conference Wednesday urging the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to establish a “no fishing zone” around the island. Caucus members include senators Hee, Michelle Kidani, Brickwood Galuteria, Kalani English, Gilbert Kahele and Leomalama Solomon.
Senators also intend to introduce a bill this legislative session that would ban non-resident fishing off Niihau.
"There is no question that unless the government takes dramatic proactive steps to reserve the near shore fisheries for the island population their survival going forward is in jeopardy,” Hee said in a statement.
Niihau is the only main Hawaiian island that doesn’t have grocery stores and residents depend on fish from the coastal waters for food.
Niihau, also known as the Forbidden Island, is owned by the Robinson family and home to about 130 Native Hawaiians. The Robinsons have worked to ensure that the island’s culture remains intact and unfettered by marks of the modern world. The island has no paved roads, cars, stores, restaurants, doctors, indoor plumbing, police or fire department, according to the Niihau Cultural Heritage Foundation.
Hee’s office provided Civil Beat with the below videos shot by Niihau residents that show non-residents picking opihi and a fishing boat approaching the shore.
"This is our opihi!" one resident can be heard saying to two men. "What makes you guys think you have the right to come here and take our food?"
Photo: Aerial view of Niihau. (Wikimedia Commons: Christopher P. Becker, Polihale)
— Sophie Cocke
For some residents of a former plantation village in Kahuku, Thanksgiving isn’t so happy this year.
Glen Maghanoy, a village resident and president of the Kahuku Plantation Residents Association, says his belongings are being hauled out of his house this week. He lost a court battle earlier this month to stay his eviction.
Maghanoy is one of about 30 residents entangled in a complicated legal battle with Florida-based developer Continental Pacific. Residents have been fighting to stay in their homes and stave off gentrification in the midst of Continental Pacific’s attempts to develop the prime coastal real estate.
In an eyebrow-raising twist to the drawn out saga, Lex Smith, the local attorney for Continental Pacific, bought Maghanoy’s home and two other village homes earlier this year. The purchase raised ethical and legal questions about whether a lawyer for the seller, embroiled in legal challenges, can become a buyer for that very development.
Maghanoy, who is currently in California visiting his daughter for Thanksgiving, said his neighbors told him that his possessions were being removed from his home.
He expressed frustration that government officials weren’t doing enough to help village residents and that evictions are taking place over the holidays. “What happened to the aloha way? What happened to take care of your aina? What happened to take care of your ohana?” he said.
UPDATE: In an email sent to Civil Beat after this post was published, Smith noted that Maghanoy had lost his court battle to stay in his home. Judge Hilary Gangnesdeclined to consider prior case law related to retaliatory evictions. As a result, Maghanoy had 48 hours to vacate his home from the date of the judge’s Nov. 7 ruling.
As to whether Smith’s other tenants will also be evicted, Smith said that it’s “up to them.” He said he offered one tenant a two-year lease, but was told the offer was “insulting.” He said another tenant has a poor history of paying rent.
— Sophie Cocke
About 450 people, including as many as 435 students, had to evacuate Hawaii Kai’s Kamiloiki Elementary School this morning following complaints of an “irritating odor,” Civil Beat media partner KITV reports. The children were taken to the nearby Kaiser High School, where parents are being asked to pick them up.
Two Kamiloiki students were hospitalized as a safety precaution, according to KITV, which reports that fire officials are still trying to track down the source of the smell.
The evacuation comes on the heels of a similar smelly incident yesterday, when an odor attributed to the pesticide malathion caused a stir at three Ewa Beach schools. Two of them — Kaimiloa and Pohakea elementary schools — reported complaints of itchy eyes and headaches as a likely result of the pesticide stench. Several Pohakea students were evaluated by paramedics, including an 11-year-old girl who was transported in stable condition to a hospital.
KITV reported yesterday that the malathion in Ewa Beach had been used the day before on a yard about 600 feet away from the nearest school. Wind on Monday blew the odor toward the schools.
Photo: Evacuation at Kamiloiki Elementary School. (Screenshot from KITV.com)
— Alia Wong
Hawaii’s consumer advocate, Jeff Ono, says he has no objections to re-certifying Sandwich Isles Communications and its affiliate, Pa Makani, so the companies can continue receiving federal subsidies to provide telecommunications services to rural residents.
Hawaii’s Public Utilities Commission will make a final ruling on the certification, taking into account Ono’s “statement of position,” which he filed with the commission on Wednesday.
Ono’s support for the companies comes in spite of major concerns raised about Sandwich Isles by the Federal Communications Commission in May.
The federal regulatory agency pointed to exorbitant expenses and unjustified payments made by Sandwich Isles to affiliated companies, in a decision rejecting Sandwich Isles’ request for a waiver from new rules that restrict the amount of federal subsidies companies can receive from the Universal Service Fund.
The fund is supported by a monthly charge of about $2.50 on everyone’s phone bill.
Sandwich Isles has received more than $200 million from the fund during the past decade. The company serves about 3,000 residents who reside on Hawaiian Home Lands.
It’s not clear how much the company is expected to receive for 2013 and 2014 — the consumer advocate redacted this information in its PUC filing:
"Based on the consumer advocate’s review, it appears that all federal high-cost support provided to SIC were used in 2012 and will be used in 2014 only for the provision, maintenance, and upgrading of facilities and services for which the support is intended," Ono wrote.
He acknowledged FCC concerns, but expressed confidence that the companies were in compliance with federal rules:
You can read Civil Beat’s previous coverage of Sandwich Isles here:
— Sophie Cocke