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Commentary on Bill 256 (Geothermal) by Councilman Pete Hoffmann

Probably no issue in recent memory has as many twists and turns as the discussion regarding Bill 256.  We have a cast of supposed villains, heroes, politicians, angry constituents, and an almost endless litany of related topics to add spice to the confused mix.  We have the ‘perfect storm’ of conflicting interests.  I’m not sure that even a professional group of writers could have scripted a more complex scenario.  Let’s see if I have this correct:

Bill 256 proposed by Mr. Yagong alters the current objectives for which the County expends resources from the geothermal relocation fund.  These payouts were mandated as part of the settlement due to the 1991 blow-out of the well.  Initially these were designed to resettle residents who wished to escape from the ‘dangers’ of living near a possibly unstable volcanic hole in the ground.  For a variety of reasons, the County used very little of the funds since not many residents exercised the option of moving, and the few that did, found the bureaucracy daunting.

In 2007 the Council, at the urgings of Ms Naeole the Puna Council member at that time, expanded the purposes for which the funds could be used, determining that Puna’s infrastructure needed some resources.  This measure was passed without much debate (as I remember) and with almost unanimous support from those community members who did testify.   Now, with the backlash generated by the drilling of a new well, some community members want to see these funds employed to better monitor and plan for emergencies associated with the future operation of the geothermal facility, citing concerns for public health.

In response to these vocal concerns, the County Civil Defense Director Benedict Fuata initially indicated his office would become pro-active and prepare the specific evacuation plan called for many years ago as one of the necessary measures to plan for future contingencies.  I think even Mayor Kenoi added his public support for this new plan.  Mr. Fuata also promised to actually conduct an evacuation drill in July to test the system.  One can only wonder why the County’s Civil Defense office didn’t take such actions previously?? Nevertheless, it was good to hear that the current administration was rectifying this long period of inactivity.

Now, if  I read correctly the latest newspaper article, the administration is backtracking.  We are now told we don’t require a specific evacuation plan for Puna, that the current general plans will suffice.  And we aren’t going to conduct any drills at the present time.  I can only speculate what changed the administration’s approach to this issue, but I don’t believe this latest statement will do much to enhance the County’s credibility with Puna residents on either side of this issue.

Another component of the current geothermal discussion involves the State.  The Governor wishes to exploit the geothermal resources present in the volcano and has encouraged Puna Geothermal Ventures (PGV) to drill another well.  The State indicates it wants to export geothermal power to Oahu by means of a cross-island cable.  I’m not opposed to this concept; after all we are one state and we would benefit (indirectly at least) from any effort that would reduce the state’s dependency on fossil fuel.  However, the state does not wish to prepare another Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for this new well.

PGV maintains that previous documents, dating back some years, are sufficient to cover this EIS requirement.  Residents are skeptical about this argument and even those advocating for geothermal power wonder whether the State is not marching down the same unsuccessful path trod by the superferry in respect to EIS requirements.

Then we also have Ormat, the geothermal developer.  From the information I have gathered (and I’ll admit I am no technician in this field) Ormat’s history seems to be a solid one.  While I can’t evaluate expertly all the details, it would seem that if we had to find some developer to operate the geothermal plant, Ormat would be a reasonable choice.  I recognize that Ormat has a considerable stake in this process and obviously doesn’t wish to have its safety responsibilities subject to public veto.  However, as the rhetoric increases and becomes more shrill, Ormat is now criticized for being ‘foreign’ and I’ve even heard testimony and have received at least one e-mail that chastises Ormat as an “Israeli” enterprise.   The aloha spirit suffers in the wake of these comments.

Finally, we have the Leilani Estates homeowners now realizing that this entire debate/discussion may have unintended consequences, i.e. property values may be adversely impacted if the Council passes Bill 256.  Someone has ‘connected the dots’ and recognizes that safety issues, real or imagined connected with the geothermal facility, could affect property values, not to mention home insurance.  This may have been overlooked by many in the initial stages of this discussion. I know I raised this when speaking to a few Puna residents some weeks ago, commenting that to ‘awaken the sleeping dog’ has potential side-effects.  Did we not understand that when residents of Leilani Estates recently supported Mr. Blas’ legislation for an evacuation center in the Leilani community, that the question of property values would arise?  I’ve heard testifiers say that when they came into the area in the mid-90s looking to purchase a home, they were not informed by realtors that a potential danger might exist.

Does anyone not see that with all the public discussion now on this topic that it will be extremely difficult for realtors to avoid disclosure of this issue in the future, if indeed they were guilty of this in the past?  Didn’t anyone see the connection?  I fully sympathize with homeowners in the area, but I fear that regardless of what the Council does with Bill 256 in any form, property values will suffer.  One can speculate whether the County’s inactivity on certain aspects of this issue for the past 20 years didn’t take into account just this aspect of the problem? Whatever the reason the ‘sleeping dog’ is now awake.

There are other related participants in this saga (I haven’t even mentioned HELCO for example, which seems to be everyone’s bad guy), and other detours in this very complex debate.  Let’s remember, Bill 256 did not set up the mechanism to relocate Puna residents if they wished to move.  This was part of the original code adopted years ago.  Bill 256 does establish a specific radius (one mile) around PGV for relocation, replacing the word ‘near’ in the original code with a specific distance.  Some are now calling this a “condemnation zone”, but the relocation option was always present.  What was not present is the current very vocal and strident debate regarding geothermal drilling.  And Bill 256 does call for the use of funds to purchase and/or expand a number of safety items and equipment to meet the concerns of local homeowners.

Bottom line: In my opinion, it would be negligent of the Council to refuse to emphasize procurement of safety equipment.  I understand fully the concerns of homeowners regarding their property values.  For many their homes represent a life-long investment.  But I see this in a different light, primarily as a safety issue, and as an elected public official if I have to make a choice between property values and public health and safety, I must choose the latter.  I’m certainly willing to continue this discussion to make certain I haven’t missed anything, but for the moment, this is how I see this matter.

Councilman Pete Hoffmann


$30.5 Million Ane Keohokālole Highway to Open this Weekend on the Big Island

(UPDATE – Please see corrections provided by Kona resident Aaron Stene below)

Mayor Billy Kenoi invites the public to a ceremony this Saturday, June 23 when the County of Hawai‘i will bless the $30.5 million Ane Keohokālole Highway. The 2.5-mile highway will be open to traffic later Saturday afternoon.

The Keohokalole Family, descendants of Ane “Annie Keohokalole,” mother of Kalakaua, Liliuokalani and Leleiohoku, following a tour of the Ane Keohokalole Highway site. Second from left is family friend John DeFries, president of Hokulia.

Ane Keohokālole Highway runs parallel and about a mile mauka of the Queen Ka‘ahumanu Highway from Palani Road to Hina Lani Street in Kaloko. It is named after the mother of Lili‘uokalani, the last monarch of the Hawaiian Kingdom. A large portion of the land for the highway was donated by the Queen Lili‘uokalani Trust.

“The Ane Keohokālole Highway is an incredible example of teamwork and cooperation between government, the private sector and cultural and environmental organizations,” said Mayor Billy Kenoi. “But most importantly, it could not have been accomplished without the support of our West Hawai‘i community.”

The $30.5 million highway represents the largest expenditure of American Recovery & Reinvestment Act money in Hawai‘i. It is also the first major road in Kona to be built by Hawai‘i County since statehood. Ground was broken on the first phase on March 30, 2011, and was originally planned as a mile and a half of highway from Palani Road to the West Hawai‘i Civic Center.

The county notified the Hawai‘i Island Burial Council and Native Hawaiian community early on in the process, and worked closely with cultural descendants to ensure proper treatment of Native Hawaiian remains if found along the corridor. Working with Federal Highways Administration officials, a project team was able to make design modifications that assured the remains were preserved in place.

Project planner Belt Collins Hawai‘i worked on the design of the highway in parallel with the environmental and cultural processes. In November 2010, the project received a finding of no significant impact. The process, which normally takes as long as two years, was accomplished in eight months.

Put out to bid in December 2010, the construction contract was awarded to Nan Inc. of Honolulu and called for two lanes from Palani Road to Kealakehe Parkway, as well as the ground work for a future phase from Kealakehe Parkway to Hina Lani Street. But deft management of the project by the County’s Department of Public Works saved almost $3 million, and that was applied to the cost of finishing an additional mile, linking the road to Hina Lani Street.

“The connection to Hina Lani Street is a tremendous addition to this project,” said Mayor Kenoi. “This highway will make an immediate and lasting positive impact on West Hawai‘i residents who have long deserved traffic relief.”

Ane Keohokālole Highway will also facilitate the development of the state’s Kamakana Village affordable-housing project, commercial development by the Queen Lili‘uokalani Trust to support children’s programs, and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands’ expansion of La‘i‘ōpua Village and its planned community center.

It is also good news for those who rely on public transportation to get to and from work, shopping and play. County Mass Transit has committed to establish a Hele-On bus loop using Ane Keohokālole Highway and the Queen Ka‘ahumanu Highway.

“We haven’t just built a road,” said Mayor Kenoi. “By opening up opportunities for affordable homes, shelters for the homeless, places to work and play, a way to get to college, commuter buses and bike paths, we are facilitating the creation of a safe and vibrant community.”

The Ane Keohokālole Highway project also involves preservation efforts at each end of the road. An interpretive center is being built at the Palani Road end of the project, while an initiative to preserve one of Hawai‘i’s last remaining dryland forests is taking place at the Hina Lani Street intersection.

Saturday’s blessing ceremony begins at noon at the West Hawai‘i Civic Center and is open to the public. The ceremony will include representatives from each ahupua‘a the road runs through, as well as members of the Keohokālole family. Lunch will be served. For more information, or to request special accommodations, please call the Mayor’s Office at the West Hawai‘i Civic Center at (808) 323-4444.

Corrections provided by Aaron Stene:

  1. The cost of constructing this highway was 29.9 million + 4 million allocated to reconstructing Palani Road.
  2. The entire highway is 3 miles (from Palani Road to Hina-Lani Street) of Palani Road was reconstructed between Henry Street and Queen Kaahumanu
  3. Ground was broken on March 30, 2010
  4. EA FONSI finding was announced in November 2009
  5. The project was put out to bid in December 2009

New Pest Found Only on The Big Island – Ice Plant Scale Insect (Pulvinariella mesembryanthemi)

NEW PEST ALERT! Please keep a look out for the ice plant scale insect (Pulvinariella mesembryanthemi) that can attack not only non-native plants such as the ice plant (Carpobrotus species) but could also attack native ‘akulikuli (Sesuvium species), ‘ihi (Portulaca species) and species in the plant family Chenopodiaceae (such as the native ‘aheahea).

Pulvinariella mesembryanthemi

It is currently only known from the Kona side of the Big Island, but pests can hitchhike to other islands. If you see this scale, report it to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture at 643-PEST or 832-0566 (O’ahu).

Common name: Iceplant scale

Field Characters: Body oval to circular; moderately convex in cross section; body green in newly formed females turning reddish brown in older females; without obvious wax covering except just before oviposition when covered with sparse mealy secretion; ovisac produced beneath and behind female, convex, often with mediodorsal goove, white, flocculent, about 1 or 2 times length of body. Occurring on succulent leaves of host. Males are common. Eggs laid inside ovisac.

Validation characters – Diagnosis: Marginal setae spinelike, usually curved, with simple apices; without submarginal tubercles; anal plates each with 1 subdiscal seta. Other characters: Each anal plate with 3 apical setae and 2 or 3 subapical setae; anal fold with 4 fringe setae; ventral tubular ducts scattered over surface; multilocular pores normally with 10 loculi; multiloculars present in vulvar area forward to segment 2; dorsal tubular ducts present; tibio-tarsus articulated, with sclerosis; claw with minute denticle; claw digitules equal; 3 pairs of prevulvar setae (posterior pair often obscured by anal plates); stigmatic setae differentiated from other marginal setae, middle seta longer than lateral setae; anal plates with posterior margin about equal in length to anterior margin; antennae 8-segmented; preopercular pores relatively conspicuous, restricted to area anterior of anal plates.

Comparison: Pulvinariella mesembryanthemi is similar to P. delottoi by having spinelike marginal setae, numerous tubular ducts, and multilocular pores predominantly with 10 loculi present in medial areas of most abdominal segments. Pulvinariella mesembryanthemi differs by having thin and predominantly curved marginal setae (marginal setae in P. delottoi are relatively thick and straight).

U.S. quarantine notes: Between 1995 and 2005, this species was intercepted at U. S. ports-of-entry 1 time (Italy on Aizoaceae). We have examined specimens taken in quarantine from Italy (Mesembryanthemum, Portulaca), Mexico (Aizoaceae), and Portugal (Mesembryanthemum). ScaleNet includes hosts in only 2 plant families and species in Carpobrotus (=Mesembryanthemum) are the most common. The species is reported from all zoogeographic regions except the Oriental region. No other species of Pulvinariella has been taken in quarantine.

References: Gill1988; Hodgso1994a; WashbuFr1985.

All references mentioning: Pulvinariella mesembryanthemi

Google Street View Images Catches Me… But I Caught Them First

I mentioned earlier today how Google had expanded it’s street view here in Hawaii.

Well in November of 2011, I wrote about how I ran into the Google Car and the Google Trike at Waiola Park,  and it turns out they were recording me while I was following them around!

[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=embed&hl=en&geocode=&q=Waiola+Park+Hilo+hawaii&aq=&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=34.313287,86.572266&t=h&ie=UTF8&hq=Waiola+Park&hnear=Hilo,+Hawaii&ll=19.726039,-155.08836&spn=0.008841,0.006295&layer=c&cbll=19.720186,-155.077742&panoid=M7W0_CScwknNgi5JvbV6Vg&cbp=12,357.95,,1,-4.65&output=svembed&w=425&h=350]

I’m the white car in the picture above and you can play around with the map to see me stalking them!  Here is the car and the trike that I saw in Wailoa Park that day.

Wanna Street View Race?

I knew at the time that the guy had to turn around at some point so I got out of my car and filmed this video of the guy:


3.1 Magnitude Earthquake Shakes Volcano Area of Big Island This Afternoon

Magnitude 3.1
Location 19.387°N, 155.246°W
Depth 3.3 km (2.1 miles)
  • 7 km (4 miles) S (189°) from Volcano, HI
  • 15 km (10 miles) SW (232°) from Fern Forest, HI
  • 19 km (12 miles) SW (231°) from Eden Roc, HI
  • 39 km (24 miles) SSW (205°) from Hilo, HI
  • 344 km (214 miles) SE (128°) from Honolulu, HI
Location Uncertainty horizontal +/- 0.3 km (0.2 miles); depth +/- 0.4 km (0.2 miles)
Parameters Nph= 30, Dmin=2 km, Rmss=0.09 sec, Gp=104°,
M-type=duration magnitude (Md), Version=1
Event ID hv60362376

County Council Candidate Greggor Ilagan’s Campaign Begins

Greggor Ilagan’s campaign kickoff Sunday (June 17) was a big success. Several hundred people came to the event throughout the afternoon, enjoying free food and great entertainment. The event marked Ilagan’s 26th birthday and included a salute to Fathers for Father’s Day. “We had a great turn-out” Ilagan said, “We invited everyone and hoped for the best.”

Ilagan is running for the 4th District Council seat. His goal is to make the County more responsive to Puna’s needs, as well as to recognize and encourage the potential within our island community.

Entertainment ranged from a magician and singers to various Hulas and Filipino cultural dances. With a full cross cultural buffet line one guest remarked “It’s like an international festival. You wouldn’t see this anywhere else”.

The Kick Off was held at the HPP activity center and was open to all.

Volunteers Needed to Remove Fountain Grass in Ocean View

Volunteers are invited to work with the Ocean View Community Association and Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park staff to remove invasive fountain grass from roadsides in Hawaiian Ocean View Estates (HOVE) on Sat., June 23 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Paul Keliihoomalu of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park points out a fountain grass plant bearing seeds. NPS Photo/David Benitez.

Fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum) is a highly flammable bunch grass native to North Africa. This fire-promoting plant spreads quickly, and is one of the few invasive species that can colonize young lava flows that would otherwise serve as natural firebreaks. In August 2005, this noxious weed contributed to the spread of a 25,000-acre wildfire that forced evacuation of Waikoloa Village. Fountain grass aggressively chokes out native plants and increases fire potential in natural areas. It is a problem for all districts around the island, especially leeward areas.

Volunteers will meet at the Ocean View Community Center at 9 a.m. on Sat., June 23. Bring lunch, water, a hat and sunscreen. For more information, call Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park ecologist David Benitez at 985-6085 or email david_benitez@nps.gov.

Google Rolls Out Expanded Street View of the Hawaiian Islands

Well it looks like Google has expanded it’s street view of the Hawaiian Islands… Check out Pahoa!

[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=embed&hl=en&geocode=&q=15-3013+Kekauonohi+Way&aq=&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=34.313287,86.572266&t=h&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=15-3013+Kekauonohi+St,+P%C4%81hoa,+Hawaii+96778&ll=19.491654,-154.943895&spn=0.001257,0.002642&z=14&layer=c&cbll=19.493891,-154.946269&panoid=W1UdFwqrX_riP4HxnvsZZg&cbp=13,323.81,,0,5.75&output=svembed&w=425&h=350]

I have to admit, it’s kind of cool… in a creepy way!

20th Annual Hawaii Conservation Conference to Feature Anuhea on the Public Day

I’m excited to attend the 20th Annual Hawaii Conservation Conference over on Oahu and I just got wind that there will be a public event that anyone can attend and Anuhea will be the featured entertainer!

Anuhea Jenkins at the 2010 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards

The public event is entitled “Conserve Hawai‘i! Our Islands, Our People, Our Future” and will take place on Wednesday, August 1st from 3pm to 8 pm at the Hawaii Convention Center.


The 2012 Hawaii Conservation Conference Public Day has activities for all to enjoy! Such as a live mural painting by Wyland, Maoli Art in Real Time, the Knowledge in Motion film series, a Slow Food Hawaii Sampler Booth and music from singer/songwriter Anuhea! That’s not all, check out www.hawaiiconservation.org/ for more event details.