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Hawai’i County Wins National Climate Protection Award for Windfarm Project

The County of Hawai’i has won a national climate protection award from the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) for the Department of Water Supply’s Lālāmilo Windfarm project.

Groundbreaking at the Lālāmilo Windfarm project a few years ago.

The Large City – Honorable Mention Award for Hawai’i County puts it in the company of three other Honorable Mention winners: Cleveland, Ohio; Columbia, South Carolina; and Cagus, Puerto Rico.

The Large City category is for cities or counties whose populations exceed 100,000. Only one other large city, First Place winner Long Beach, California, was in a tier above the Honorable Mentions.

“We are so happy for Hawai’i County to be recognized by this nationwide award,” said Mayor Harry Kim.  “The Lālāmilo Windfarm is reducing greenhouse gas emissions significantly – and at no cost to Water Supply’s customers.”

The Windfarm officially opened for commercial operations in September 2016, with five turbines generating 3.3 megawatts of electricity with no-export to the grid.  It contributes to the State of Hawai’i’s Clean Energy Initiative’s goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.

This project is arguably the first time in Hawai’i, and perhaps the nation, that a local government has developed such a wind-powered, water-pumping facility capable of significant greenhouse gas reductions at no cost to the taxpayer.  The Windfarm is located on 78 acres adjacent to eight Department of Water Supply water wells in South Kohala.

The award to Hawai’i County was announced at a ceremony on Friday at the U.S. Mayor’s Conference annual meeting in Miami.

Hawaii Department of Education Announces Transition Centers Initiative in Honor of Late Congressman K. Mark Takai

In partnership with Hawaii 3Rs and the Military Affairs Council, the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) announced today an effort to develop high-quality transition centers for Hawaii public schools. The effort is in honor of late Congressman K. Mark Takai, who was a staunch advocate for Hawaii’s students and supporter of military-dependent students throughout his career.

Takai Transition Center partners and Kailua Intermediate AVID students announce the new HIDOE initiative. Photo Credit: Department of Education

School Transition Centers provide a safe and stable foundation for all students, particularly newly arrived military-dependent students, offering peer-to-peer mentoring to help students acclimate into their school community.

“Transition Centers provide tremendous support to new students as well as instilling leadership skills for student mentors,” said Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “We’re grateful for this partnership that allows us to not only expand this program, but fulfill one of our goals in our Strategic Plan in helping as many students and families as possible.”

HIDOE will commit $250,000 annually for four years using federal Impact Aid funds towards school Transition Center facility improvements, technology, furnishings and special events.  Program partners at the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affairs Council and the Hawaii Business Roundtable will provide matching funds each year to be managed by the Hawaii 3Rs Special Fund.

“Hawaii 3R’s is pleased to partner with the Hawaii Department of Education to develop transition centers that will help students assimilate into an unfamiliar environment,” said Hawaii 3Rs Board Chairman Alan Oshima. “By easing them into the rhythm of a new school and campus, learning can become the priority.”

U.S. Rep. Takai’s conscientious work was essential in securing tens of millions in federal Impact Aid funding every year that goes to all public schools

“In working on this initiative there was no question that the effort would be in honor of our friend Mark Takai who was fiercely committed to public education and his service to our nation,” added Superintendent Matayoshi.

“Transition Centers provide tremendous support to new students as well as instilling leadership skills for student mentors,” said Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. Photo Credit: Department of Education

Transition Centers are rooted at public schools with higher populations of military-dependent students, such as Radford High, Leilehua High, Mokapu Elementary and many more.  The success of these Transition Centers will be expanded to serve more students at other schools across the state.

Future transition centers that benefit from this effort will be known as a “Takai Transition Center” and will feature the following pledge.

Future transition centers that benefit from this effort will be known as a “Takai Transition Center” and will feature a pledge welcoming all transitioning students and recognizing military-connected students and their families. Photo Credit: Department of Education

As a member of the K. Mark Takai Transition Center Network, we:

  • Understand the challenges that are an inherent part of matriculating into a new and unfamiliar school environment;
  • Welcome all students transitioning into our school, including military-connected students, and will support and sustain them throughout their time in our school community;
  • Recognize and honor our military personnel for the contributions and sacrifices they make for our defense and the preservation of our rights, and the sacrifices of our military families to support them;
  • Value the added richness and experience that students from varied cultural and social backgrounds bring to our school community; and
  • Commit to providing high-quality supports through dedicated resources via the establishment and sustained operation of a transition center on our school campus.

Schools interested in establishing a new Transition Center or upgrading existing Transition Center facilities should contact HIDOE Military Liaison Cherry Okahara at cherry_okahara@hawaiidoe.org.

US Navy Missile Defense Test Fails Off Hawaii

An interceptor missile fired from a US Navy destroyer off the coast of Hawaii failed to hit it’s target, the US Missile Defense Agency said:

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency and the Japan Ministry of Defense conducted a development flight test today of a new Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA missile off the coast of Hawaii.

A planned intercept was not achieved.

US Navy destroyer John Paul Jones (DDG 53) fires a missile interceptor in this file photo

The SM-3 Block IIA is being developed cooperatively by the U.S. and Japan to defeat medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. This is a new, developmental interceptor that is not yet fielded by either country.

At approximately 7:20 p.m., Hawaii Standard Time, June 21 (1:20 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, June 22), a medium-range ballistic target missile was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Kauai, Hawaii. The USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) detected and tracked the target missile with its onboard AN/SPY-1 radar using the Aegis Baseline 9.C2 weapon system. Upon acquiring and tracking the target, the ship launched an SM-3 Block IIA guided missile, but the missile did not intercept the target.

Program officials will conduct an extensive analysis of the test data. Until that review is complete, no additional details will be available.

This was the fourth development flight test using an SM-3 IIA missile, and the second intercept test. The previous intercept test, conducted in February 2017, was successful.

Though currently still in the development and test phase, the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor is being designed to operate as part of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system. Currently, the Aegis BMD system operates with the SM-3 Block 1A, SM-3 Block 1B, and SM-6 interceptors.

EPA Requires County of Hawaii to Close Large Cesspools – Reaches Agreement with Aloha Island Mart

Agency also reaches agreement with Aloha Island Mart in Captain Cook over LCC violation

Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced an agreement with the County of Hawaii to close seven large capacity cesspools (LCCs) that serve the Pahala and Naalehu communities. The County will replace the cesspools with wastewater treatment systems approved by the Hawaii Department of Health.

In a separate action, EPA reached an agreement with Aloha Petroleum, Ltd. requiring the company to pay a civil penalty of $57,500 for its operation of an LCC at its Aloha Island Mart convenience store and gas station in Captain Cook on the Big Island. EPA found that Aloha Island Mart operated an illegal LCC until 2014. Aloha Petroleum has since closed the non-compliant cesspool and replaced it with an approved wastewater system.

Click to read the consent agreement

An LCC is a cesspool that serves multiple residential dwellings or a commercial facility with the capacity to serve 20 or more people per day. Cesspools collect and discharge waterborne pollutants like untreated raw sewage into the ground, where disease-causing pathogens can contaminate groundwater, streams and the ocean. LCCs were banned under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act in April 2005.

The agreement with the County of Hawaii requires the closure of two LCCs serving the Pahala community, three LCCs serving the Naalehu community, and two LCCs serving the Pahala Elderly Apartments. Combined, the seven cesspools serve about 280 households.

“EPA and the County of Hawaii are taking important steps to close these banned cesspools and replace them with modern wastewater treatment systems,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “These actions will protect Hawaii’s drinking water and coastal resources, as we seek to modernize Big Island water infrastructure.”

In the Pahala and Naalehu communities, the County has developed closure and replacement plans for the cesspools. Newly-constructed secondary wastewater treatment facilities and updated collection systems will come online in 2021 for Pahala and in 2022 for Naalehu. Cesspools serving the Pahala Elderly Apartments will be closed by September 2018 and replaced with septic systems. The agreement also includes specific reporting requirements and allows for stipulated penalties should the county fail to meet agreed-upon deadlines.

Construction of the new treatment and disposal facilities will be financed in part with federal grants and low-interest loans from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund loan program. Under the agreement, an additional 95 properties in the Pahala and Naalehu communities not currently served by the LCCs will also be connected to the new county sewer systems.

Cesspools are used more widely in Hawaii than in any other state, despite the fact that 95 percent of all drinking water in Hawaii comes from groundwater sources. over 3,000 large capacity cesspools have been closed state-wide, many through voluntary compliance.

For more information on this specific agreement visit: https://www.epa.gov/uic/hawaii-cesspools-administrative-orders#hawaii

For more information on the large capacity cesspool ban and definition of a large capacity cesspool, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/uic/cesspools-hawaii

Hawaii Governor Signs Heat Abatement Bill to Expedite Cooling Public School Classrooms

Gov. David Ige signed HB 957 (Act 57) – authorizing the Department of Education to borrow money, interest-free, from the Hawai‘i Green Infrastructure Loan Program for heat abatement measures in Hawai‘i’s public school classrooms.

This will expedite the cooling of classrooms across the state while decreasing energy usage and electricity costs.

“I ordered the cooling of 1,000 public school classrooms about a year and a half ago. The state and the DOE have worked very hard to achieve this goal. Although the process hasn’t always been easy and it has taken more time than we would have liked, I am happy to say that we expect to have 1,000 classrooms cooled off by the end of August,” said Gov. David Ige.

The DOE is expecting significant decreases in energy use and electricity costs. The use of LED indoor lighting in public school classrooms is expected to result in a $4 million drop in energy costs annually. Such reductions in energy consumption and the lowering of the kilowatt load may enable the installation of AC units in classrooms without expensive and time consuming electrical upgrades.

The governor’s Cool the Schools initiative and the DOE’s Heat Abatement program have resulted in:

  • The installation of 456 classroom air conditioning units
  • The installation of 201 photovoltaic AC units
  • The distribution of 402 portable AC units to the hottest classrooms across the state
  • Ordering of 1,062 AC units

In addition, 461 portable classrooms have been covered with heat reflective material; trees have been planted to shade buildings and minimize heat; awnings have been installed on at least four buildings; ceiling fans have been installed in 139 classrooms; and large diameter fans are being installed in cafeteria dining rooms.

“A big mahalo to our state legislators for their support of our efforts to cool the schools. Thank you also to the DOE for its hard work and for helping us to achieve our goal of creating a learning environment in which our students and teachers can thrive,” Ige said.

Coast Guard Suspends Search for Missing Solo-Sailor in South Pacific

The Coast Guard suspended the active search Thursday for a solo-sailor aboard the 36-foot sailing vessel Celebration last reported 1,800 miles southeast of Hilo, Hawaii.

Richard Carr, 71, remains missing.

“Mr. Carr had a deep passion for sailing and was on a very long and arduous voyage,” said Capt. Robert Hendrickson, chief of response, Coast Guard 14th District. “Our thanks to all our partners and the many mariners who helped us search for this vessel in one of the most remote regions of the world in an attempt to locate Mr. Carr. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends and also to the sailing community.”

Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules and French Falcon Guardian aircrews and the crews of three commercial vessels, two of which searched with embarked helicopters, conducted 17 searches in the region without any sign of the vessel. Search and rescue personnel from Rescue Coordination Centers in Tahiti and China also assisted in communications and planning evolutions.  Fishing fleets from several Pacific nations assisted by making callouts in their areas with no response from Carr. Limited vessel traffic and a lack of land to use as aircraft staging areas reduced the number of available assets and resources.

Weather on scene the day of Carr’s last communication was reportedly 11.5 mph winds, seas to 6-feet with good visibility.

On-scene assets searched a total area of more than 59,598 square miles (51,790 square nautical miles), an area the size of Oklahoma, over the 24-day period.

Involved in the search were:

  • HC-130 Hercules airplane crews from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point working out of Tahiti
  • French Falcon Guardian airplane crews out of Tahiti
  • Fishing Vessel American Enterprise: 258-foot U.S.-flagged seiner
  • Motor Vessel Hokuetsu Ibis: 688-foot Panamanian-flagged cargo ship
  • Fishing Vessel El Duque: 259-foot Mexican-flagged seiner

The Coast Guard recommends multiple means of communications and proper emergency equipment and supplies, such as an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) when sailing near and offshore.

May 28, watchstanders at the Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu received notification from Coast Guard 11th District watchstanders reporting Carr had communicated to his spouse via a GPS message device that he was in distress. The spouse forwarded the information to the Coast Guard and based on his last communications strongly suspected her husband was suffering from severe sleep deprivation.

Upon notification, JRCC Honolulu issued a SafetyNet alerting vessel crews in the area to keep a sharp lookout for the Celebration and efforts to identify potential response resources began. Carr was reportedly on a voyage from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to Hiva Oa, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia, and had been at sea for a couple of weeks.

Hawaii Island Students Win $20,000 in Scholarships

Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union (HCFCU) is pleased to announce the recipients of its 2017 College Scholarships. A total of $20,000 was awarded to eight deserving Hawaii Island recipients. Seven of the scholarships were awarded to high school graduates planning to attend a two- or four-year institution of higher learning in the coming school year, and one of the scholarships was awarded to a recipient who is continuing her education post-high school graduation. The scholarships are named after a retired HCFCU employee and community volunteers who made important contributions to the HCFCU.

Aaliyah Kamalii-Keka of Pahoa Intermediate and High School

  • The $2,500 Mitsugi Inaba Scholarship was awarded to Aaliyah Kamalii-Keka of Pahoa Intermediate and High School who intends to pursue studies in Nursing and Hawaiian Language.
  • The $2,500 Peter T. Hirata Scholarship was awarded to Andre Fazeli. The Konawaena High School graduate intends to pursue a career in Mechanical Engineering.

Kamehameha Schools Graduate Shariah Mae Olomua

  • Shariah Mae Olomua, a Kamehameha Schools Hawai graduate, was awarded the $2,500 Albert Akana Scholarship. Olomua’s career goal is to study Business and Law.
  • The $2,500 Katsumasa Tomita Scholarship was presented to Danielle Brown. The Hilo High School graduate intends to become a Professional Writer.
  • Lois Taylor, a graduate of Kealakehe High School, is the recipient of the $2,500 Frank Ishii Scholarship. Taylor will be studying Environmental Biology
  • Gabriella Boyle, a graduate of Kohala High School, was awarded the $2,500 Student Credit Union Scholarship. Boyle intends to pursue a career in Psychology.
  • The $2,500 John Y. Iwane Scholarship was awarded to Hailey Briseno who graduated from Hawaii Preparatory Academy. Hailey intends to pursue a career in Ecosystem and Marine Sciences.
  • Sarah Rouse of Wheaton College is the very first winner of our new $2,500 Yasunori Deguchi Scholarship. The scholarship is offered to high school graduates who could not attend college right after graduation or are currently in their second year of college and in need of further financial assistance.

Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union is a not-for-profit credit union owned by it’s over 39,000 member/owners with branches in Honokaa, Kailua-Kona, Kaloko, Kealakekua and Kohala. In addition to complete checking and savings services, the credit union offers credit cards, auto, mortgage, construction, small business, educational and personal loans; online and mobile banking; investment services; youth programs and supports numerous Hawaii Island programs and events. Membership in Hawaii community Federal Credit Union is open to all Hawaii Island residents. For more information visit www.hicommfcu.com.

Hawaii County Civil Defense Message on King Tides

This is a Civil Defense message.  This is an Extreme High Tides Message for Thursday, June 22.

The National Weather Service reports unusually high tides, also known as “King Tides”, may cause dangerous flooding conditions along all shores of Hawaii Island from today through the weekend before gradually subsiding next week.

The water came over the parking lot at Coconut Island last King Tide.

Due to King Tides, be aware that coastal areas of beaches, low-lying roads, boat ramps, and harbors may be dangerously impacted during the afternoon and evening hours.

These tides may cause higher than usual beach run-up, flooding, and erosion.

Because of these dangerous conditions, the following precautions should be taken; ocean front residents, beach-goers, and boat owners are advised to be on the alert for high surf, strong current, and coastal flooding.

As a precaution, consider postponing ocean activities until these hazards are over.  As always, precautionary measures should be taken before the onset of night fall.

Special caution should be taken to the coastal areas in and around Kapoho during the high tide periods.

There are no closures of roads or beaches at this time. Please be aware however that closures may occur without notice.

Radio station will be updated and you will be informed of any conditions that may affect your safety.

Thank you and have have a safe day.

Informational Public Meetings for Hawaii County’s FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is at the end of a multi-year effort to update and modernize the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) for Hawai‘i County.  The FIRM has been finalized and will become effective on September 29, 2017.  The opportunities to appeal the maps were over last year.  The FIRM will help community officials better identify known flood risks and will be used for flood insurance, land use, development, and regulatory purposes.  Use of the FIRM is required for the County’s participation in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which makes the County eligible for federal disaster aid in the event of a federally declared natural disaster.

Click to access the Flood Assessment Tool

The main purpose of these informational public meetings is:

To inform property owners, residents, and interested parties about the impacts the final Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) will have on flood insurance.  It will help them make an informed decision about flood insurance options and flood protection measures.  The details on the two informational public meetings are shown below:

  • Hilo – Wednesday, July 12, 2017, Aupuni Center Conference Room, 101 Pauahi St., Suite 1, Hilo, HI  96720, 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • Kona – Thursday, July 13, 2017, West Hawaii Civic Center, Bldg. G, 75-5044 Ane Keohokalole Hwy., Kailua Kona, HI  96740, 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Doors open at 5:00 p.m., formal presentation starts at 5:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Personnel from FEMA, State of Hawai‘i’s Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), and Hawai‘i County will be available to answer questions, concerns, and provide information on flood insurance and property specific flood zone determinations.

The final FIRMs are currently available for viewing at the Hawai‘i County Department of Public Works Engineering offices at either 101 Pauahi St., Suite 7 in Hilo (808 961-8327) or 74-5044 Ane Keohokālole Hwy., Building D, 1st  floor of the West Hawai‘i Civic Center in Kona (808 323-4850). They are also available for online viewing on the State of Hawai‘i’s Flood Hazard Assessment Tool (FHAT) at http://gis.hawaiinfip.org/fhat.  To learn how to view the preliminary maps using the FHAT, click on the tutorial link provided on the Hawai‘i NFIP Website http://dlnreng.hawaii.gov/nfip/.

Be advised that flood insurance rates will be based on the new flood data.  If a property is mapped into a high-risk area (an SFHA labeled with letters starting with “A” or “V”) on the new FIRM and the owner has a mortgage through a federally regulated or insured lender, flood insurance will be required when the FIRM becomes effective.  Property owners who obtain flood insurance before the FIRM becomes effective may be able to benefit from the NFIP’s “grandfathering” insurance rating process and pay a lower premium.

Everyone is at some risk from flooding, even those behind levees or in low or medium-risk areas. Therefore, FEMA encourages everyone to purchase flood insurance.  Property owners should contact their insurance agent or visit www.FloodSmart.gov for more information.

If you require special accommodations or auxiliary aid/ and or services to participate in this meeting, (i.e. Sign language interpreter, large print,) please call (808) 961-8321 by July 5, 2017.

For more information call Barett Otani, Department of Public Works Information and Education Specialist at (808) 961-8787.

Lessons From a Tsunami Could Help Protect Seabirds in the Face of Rising Seas

Sudden flooding hit islands of global importance for Pacific birds highlighting threats and opportunities for conservation planning

In a study published Thursday, researchers evaluated the effects of sudden flooding from the Tohoku tsunami on more than 20 bird species nesting on the distant Pacific islands. The results shed light not only on how those birds weathered the dramatic rise in seas from the extreme event, but also how island wildlife may fare with the threat of rising sea levels and increased storm surges.

Young Laysan albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) at its nest near the coastline at Midway Atoll, Hawaii

Many seabird species have disappeared from human populated higher islands, and their worldwide distributions are now concentrated on the low-lying islands protected as Wildlife Refuges and Marine National Monuments.

“Much of our Pacific island biodiversity is vulnerable to catastrophic flooding. Many of the bird’s eggs are in low-lying island baskets, so to speak,” said U.S. Geological Survey ecologist, Dr. Michelle Reynolds, lead researcher on the study. “The research here shows that sudden flooding from dramatic events like tsunamis as well as longer-term sea level rise create risks for the birds, but also reveal that there are opportunities to establish breeding colonies at higher elevations. Higher elevation habitat that is free of invasive predators may provide more resilience for island seabirds.”

“Estimates of nest flooding from the tsunami combined with models of sea-level rise flooding and storm wave flooding give us a tool to glimpse into future,” said John Klavitter, co-author of the study and manager with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife. “We can better understand where the populations are most vulnerable to flooding, what proportions of the seabird populations are most vulnerable, and where restoration and invasive predator management may achieve the most long-term value.”

At the far northwestern reaches of the Hawaiian Island chain, protected as part of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, Laysan Island and the three islands of Midway Atoll have a combined area of about 2,300 acres and a mean elevation of less than 11.5 feet. These islands are used by 6 million to 10 million birds including the world’s largest colonies of Black-footed and Laysan albatrosses, and the global populations of endangered Laysan teal.

An aerial photograph of Laysan Island, Hawaii, part of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. USGS photo July 2010

Catastrophic flooding of Pacific islands occurs periodically not only from tsunamis but also from storm surge and rainfall. With rising sea levels, the frequency of flooding events will likely increase. To understand where and which bird populations are most vulnerable to sudden flooding, the spatial extent of flooding from the 2011 Tohoku tsunami was detailed on the islands of Laysan and Midway Atoll. The spatial boundary of flooding on each island was then combined with bird nesting data. Species that nest near the coast, nest simultaneously, or have strong nest site and island fidelity are identified as more sensitive to population declines from island over-wash events.

The scientists estimated the 2011 tsunami flooded 26 to 52 percent of the Black-footed albatross nests concentrated on the coast of islands and that across the four islands more than 275,000 Black-footed and Laysan albatross and Bonin petrel nests were flooded. Populations of endemic land birds, such as the Laysan teal were especially vulnerable to the longer-term habitat changes from catastrophic flooding.

This study and recent research describing potential inundation from sea level rise and storm wave highlight the vulnerability of these low islands to wave over-wash and the opportunity restore species to the higher islands. The researchers hope the information can help natural resource managers make decisions about where restoration and conservation efforts can have the most long-lasting effects.

Map of the 11 March 2011 Tohoku earthquake epicenter in relation to the Northwestern and main Hawaiian Islands

The study “Lessons from the Tohoku tsunami: a model for island avifauna conservation prioritization” was published in the journal Ecology and Evolution by USGS authors Michelle Reynolds and Karen Courtot, Paul Berkowitz of Hawaii Cooperative Study Unit at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, and John Klavitter of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.