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Coast Guard Enforcing Lava Delta Safety Zone – Large Delta Collapse Expected

The Coast Guard continues to enforce the temporary Kamokuna Lava Delta Safety Zone for the navigable waters surrounding the Kilauea Volcano active lava flow entry into the Pacific Ocean on the southeast side of the Big Island, Hawai’i.

According to the U.S. Geologic Survey, several large cracks have developed in the lava delta, running parallel to the coastline and spanning the width of the delta. These cracks increase the likelihood of a large delta collapse.

“For mariners without prior limited entry approval, the safety zone encompases all waters extending 300 meters (984 feet) in all directions around the entry of the lava flow into the ocean and remains in effect,” said Lt. Cmdr. John Bannon, Coast Guard Sector Honolulu, waterways management lead. “All waterway users should be aware of this new delta formation, the potential for a significant collapse with little or no warning and the natural hazards associated with such an event.”

According to the Hawaii Volcano Observatory, large and dense fragments ejected during delta collapses can be thrown in all directions from the point of collapse, including out to sea.  Based on a review of nearly 30 years of delta collapse and ejection distance observations in the Hawaii Volcano Observatory records, a radius of 300 meters was determined as a reasonable minimum high hazard zone around a point of ocean entry.

Enforcement of the safety zone began March 28.  Lava delta growth and subsequent lava bench threat of collapse could cause an increase in hazardous conditions for mariners.  The ocean entry hazards result in lava delta instability and fracturing from lava accumulation built on unconsolidated lava fragments and sand.  This loose material can easily be eroded away by surf, causing the new land and existing sea cliff to become unsupported and slide explosively into the sea.  Getting too close to the lava can result in serious injury or death.

As long as lava enters the ocean, further sea cliff degradation, delta construction and hazardous conditions relating to the collapse are likely to occur.  These collapses occur with little to no warning and cannot be predicted. The Coast Guard took action to ensure public safety because of the aforementioned dangers.

The temporary Safety Zone is set to expire in September 28. Notification of any changes to the waterway safety zone enforcement will be provided to the public if the Safety Zone is changed or deactivated earlier than anticipated.

Furthermore, the Coast Guard promulgated a Notice of Proposed Rule Making to establish a permanent Safety Zone for this region.  Feedback was solicited from the public on this rule making process.  Comments were collected in docket number USCG-1017-0234 viewable in the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov.

Hawaii Supreme Court Refuses to Reconsider Decision in Substitute and Part-Time Teachers Case

The Hawaii Supreme Court yesterday denied a motion for reconsideration in Kawashima v. State of Hawaii. Last month the Supreme Court ruled in Kawashima that certain substitute teachers and part-time teachers who had worked for the State of Hawaii at relevant times between 2000 and 2012 were not entitled to back wages or interest for alleged underpayments by the State.

That decision by the Hawaii Supreme Court closed more than a decade of litigation and ends the claims raised by the class action plaintiffs. The plaintiffs filed a motion for reconsideration of that decision, which the Supreme Court has now denied.

The State of Hawaii was represented at all stages of this litigation, including the appeal, by state attorneys from within the Hawaii Department of the Attorney General. The class action plaintiffs were represented by the local law firm Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing.

A copy of yesterday’s ruling from the Hawaii Supreme Court denying the motion for reconsideration is attached.

Land Board Sets Oral Arguments for TMT Contested Case

Today State Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) Chair Suzanne Case set Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017 to hear oral arguments in the Contested Case Hearing for the Thirty Meter Telescope at the Mauna Kea Science Reserve on Hawai‘i Island.

Click to view

Two days ago, the Contested Case Hearing Officer presented her recommendations which serve as the “proposal for decision” by the BLNR.  Parties to the contested case may file exceptions to retired Judge Riki May Amano recommendations not later than August 21, 2017 at 4:00 p.m.

During the BLNR hearing, each party to the case will have fifteen (15 minutes) to present oral arguments.  Time may not be assigned from one party to the other.  The BLNR may elect to ask questions after each party has completed argument but that time will not count toward the 15 minute total. There are twenty-three (23) parties to the case.

The oral arguments will be heard at the Grand Naniloa Hotel Crown Room, 93 Banyan Drive in Hilo.  Extended media coverage provisions approved for the Contested Case hearing will be continued for the BLNR oral arguments.  Naleo Community Television will be the designated electronic pool provider and will live stream the proceedings.

Hawaii State Land Board Approves “Safe Harbor Agreement” for Keauhou, Kilauea, Ka’u Areas on the Big Island

Approving a 50-year-long Safe Harbor Agreement today, the State Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) agreed to Kamehameha Schools plan to promote the recovery of endangered and threatened species on nearly 33,000 acres of forest and shrubland at Keauhou and Kīlauea on Hawaiʻi Island.

The Safe Harbor Agreement is a cooperative effort between Kamehameha Schools, DLNR, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to support the conservation of threatened and endangered (federally listed) species, while KS conducts certain land-use practices. It establishes baseline populations for species, details the type of habitat that must be maintained and specifies land-use practices to increase population baselines.

The agreement covers seven native birds including the Hawai‘i Creeper, the Hawai‘i ‘Ākepa, the Hawaiian Hawk (‘Io), the Hawaiian Crow (‘Alalā), and the Hawaiian Goose (Nēnē).

Hawaiian Creeper

It also includes the Hawaiian Hoary Bat (‘Ōpe‘ape‘a) and 25 plant species. The SHA outlines detailed monitoring protocols to avoid and minimize injury or mortality and to provide “net benefit” to the species. Net benefits include increasing the current ranges of covered species, restoring historic ranges and increasing wild populations of species. It is also intended to reduce habitat fragmentation by connecting a network of protected and managed state, federal, and private lands within the south central region of Hawai‘i Island.

In addition to the Safe Harbor Agreement, the BLNR approved an Incidental Take License, which provides mitigation measures in the event land-use practices result in the loss of any of the endangered or threatened species covered by the agreement. The result of an Incidental Take License is to end up with a net positive gain in the population of a covered species.

This Safe Harbor Agreement, which has been reviewed extensively for more than a year and was the subject of numerous open meetings, is being heralded as an important step towards species protection and recovery across critical habitat for these endangered and threatened species. Jackie Gaudioso-Levita, the ‘Alalā Restoration Project Coordinator for the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife said, “The momentous finalization of this large-scale Safe Harbor agreement will particularly benefit imperiled species, such as the ‘Alalā, which will be reintroduced on State land adjacent to the Keauhou-Ka‘ū Kamehameha Schools parcel, thereby in-part, protecting and managing potential ‘Alalā habitat for decades to come.”

Kamehameha Schools CEO Jack Wong commented, “This agreement strengthens Kamehameha Schools’ ability to steward these lands in a manner that fosters healthy habitats for species fighting to survive. As we work toward a thriving lāhui, the cultural connection to ‘āina that is healthy and vibrant becomes much more important for Native Hawaiians and all the people of our State.”

Kamehameha Schools Ecologist Nāmaka Whitehead said that Hawaiians are Hawaiians because of the ‘āina. “Healthy, functioning native ecosystems are the foundation of Hawaiian cultural identity and well-being. Stewarding our ʻāina to be more resilient ensures that future generations will continue to have a relationship with the native species and ecological processes that make us who we are. I Hawaiʻi no nā Hawaiʻi i ka ʻāina. Our ʻāina, Hawaiʻi, is what makes us Hawaiian.”

DLNR Chair Suzanne Case added, “The vast acreage covered by this Safe Harbor Agreement is incredibly important to the recovery and perpetuation of these vital bird, bat, and plant species. We are extremely happy to have worked out this agreement with Kamehameha Schools and in the coming decades look forward to many great stories of native species success as a result.”

About Pahoa’s New Library

Well it looks like Pahoa will be getting a new library!

In a Mayor Kim response letter to State Librarian Stacey A. Aldrich dated July 26th 2017,  Kim stated that the county fully supports a new public library for Pahoa and would allow it at the existing location where the Pahoa Police and Fire Station currently exists on Highway 130 as long as there is a separate access that wouldn’t interfere with emergency response vehicles.

Hawaii Electric Light Warns Customers About Impersonators on Hawaii Island

Hawaii Electric Light Company warns electric customers about an apparent telephone scam targeting business customers on Hawaii Island. Customers reported receiving calls threatening immediate disconnection unless they pay their bill by making a money transfer or cash express payment via a bill payment machine at a retail establishment. The utility does not accept bill payments via MoneyGram and Green Dot MoneyPak.“We would like to remind customers to be cautious when responding to callers who demand immediate payment of their electric bill,” said Rhea Lee-Moku, Hawaii Electric Light spokesperson. “Ask for the individual’s name and phone number and say you will call back; then call our Customer Service Center to verify the call.”

Customers wishing to pay their electric bills in person may do so at the utility’s customer service offices in Hilo and Kona. In addition, official walk-in payments may also be made at these approved locations:

  • First Hawaiian Bank
  • Foodland
  • Kmart
  • Sack-N-Save
  • Safeway
  • Wal-Mart
  • Western Union

Hawaii Electric Light offers these safety tips to protect customers from scams:

  • Your best defense is to exercise caution.
  • Don’t provide personal, confidential, or financial information—including billing information—to any unidentified individuals.
  • Ask questions. Get the caller’s name, phone number, and company name. Offer to call back after you verify the information.
  • If you have any doubt about a call, email, or visit from someone claiming to represent Hawaii Electric Light, please call our Customer Service Center in Hilo (969-6999), Kona (329-3584) or Waimea (855-4605).
  • If you made a payment, do not call an 800 number to provide the confirmation number or to report it. Instead, call our Customer Service Center.
  • Report any suspicious activity to police.

Hawaii Attorney General Leads Coalition Urging Congress to Protect Transgender Service Members

In a letter to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, Attorney General Doug Chin today led a coalition of 19 attorneys general expressing their opposition to the President’s ban on transgender people serving in the Armed Forces. The letter was joined by attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Washington D.C.

Attorney General Chin said, “Policies that have no factual basis and that marginalize and reject classes of people have no place in the 21st century.”

On Wednesday, the President by tweet announced a new ban on transgender service members, citing unnamed support from military leadership. In response, the attorneys general declare the ban is discriminatory and, despite the President’s claims otherwise, is actually harmful to military readiness. The letter notes that approximately 150,000 transgender service members have served in the United States Armed Forces:

“Transgender service members fill a number of critical military roles. Retaining these talented service members strengthens—not weakens— our military readiness.”

The attorneys general remind the House and Senate committees of the honorable service performed by transgender service members, writing:

“The members of our Armed Forces put their lives on the line to protect freedom for all Americans. Thousands of transgender Americans serve in uniform today. This policy tells them, ‘you are not welcome here.’ The decision to oust honorable, well-trained, and patriotic service members based on nothing more than their gender identity is undiluted discrimination and therefore indefensible. We urge that this newly announced policy be immediately reversed.”

Click to read full letter