Hele-On (The Bus) Community Meetings in Puna

In 2010 Fourth District County Councilman Dennis “Fresh” Onishi received a grant check for $7.2 million on behalf of the County of Hawai‘i from U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye to fund mass transit improvements

I received the following from Councilwoman Jen Ruggles:

Aloha Kakou,

We are putting out the call to all the people in Puna that have ideas to improve our Hele-on Bus System. Now is the time to bring your needs and ideas forth.

This is the first of two rounds of meetings meant to guide the county in making its first ever 20 year Master Transit Plan. MARK YOUR CALENDAR to make one of the following meetings:

  • October 11th at 6pm at Kea’au Community Center 16-186 Pili Mua St. Kea’au HI 96749.
  • October 12th at 6pm at Pahoa Community Facility 15-2910 Kuahala St. Pahoa HI 96778.

Snacks and refreshments will be provided.

Now is the time to show our need for:

  1. More bus routes.
  2. Expanded routes into subdivisions
  3. Your ideas for improvements

Need a ride? Call Jo-Anna at 808-356-1260 to arrange a ride at least 5 days prior to the event. If you cannot attend, please submit your suggestions to heleonsuggestions@ssfm.com.

Update on North Kona Water Restrictions

The Emergency Water Restriction for North Kona remains in effect. Over the past few days there has been a water level decline in the tanks that service the general area between the Mākālei Fire station to just south of the Palani Road and Māmalahoa highway junction.

These areas include, but are not limited to, Mākālei Estates, Kona Hills, Palisades, Wainani / Lokahi Makai, Kaiminani Drive (including all side streets), Kona Acres, and Hina Lani Drive (including all side streets). Without everyone’s continued cooperation, there will be areas that will experience periodic loss of water service or lower water pressures. ALL residents and customers in North Kona must continue to restrict water use to health and safety needs (drinking, cooking, and hygiene purposes).

The Department appreciates the community’s continued efforts to restrict water use during this time. As such, limited hand watering of precious plants, on occasion, is still acceptable using the following best practices:

  • Water at night to reduce evaporation.
  • Use of County’s free mulch to preserve moisture around plants. Visit the County’s website at: http://www.hawaiizerowaste.org/recycle/greenwaste/ for more information.
  • Use of rainwater from downspouts for plants.
  • Do not over-water plants.
  • Use of sprinklers (manual or automatic) for lawns and grass areas is still prohibited. This restriction also prohibits the draining and refilling of swimming pools, hot tubs, water fountains, etc.

Customers should take appropriate measures to reduce the loss of existing water in swimming pools and hot tubs, such as checking the pool for leaks and consulting a pool supplier for appropriate pool covers.  In addition, customer should ensure proper operation and maintenance of pool pump equipment.

The installation process has begun for both the Hualālai and Palani Deepwell repairs. Contractor has two (2) crews working on both repairs concurrently. At this time, the anticipated completion of Hualālai Deepwell repair is this weekend, with Palani Deepwell repair to follow shortly thereafter.

We will update you throughout this installation process as more progress is made and/or more information becomes available.

For your use, potable water can be obtained from a portable water tanker located on Hina Lani Street below Anini Street as well as water spigots along Ane Keohokalole Highway, between Kealakehe High School and Palani Road. Please bring your own drinking water containers to fill. We also recommend that residents store a sufficient amount of water for basic household needs, such as drinking, cooking, and hygiene purposes, in the event of service disruptions.

For more information visit our website at www.hawaiidws.org. To report any observed wasteful use of water, call 961-8060 during normal business hours or email dws@hawaiidws.org. For after hour emergencies call us at 961-8790.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard Visits Armenia on Congressional Delegation to Enhance U.S.-Armenian Economic, Humanitarian, and Security Ties

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) last week traveled to Armenia on an official, bipartisan diplomatic trip as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees, and as a member of the Congressional Armenian Caucus.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, along with Armenian Assembly Co-Chair, Anthony Barsamian; Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., and Artsakh National Assembly Chairman, Ashot Ghoulian visited the “We Are Our Mountains” monument north of the capital city of Artsakh, Stepanakert.

In Armenia, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard met with President Sargsyan, Prime Minister Karapetyan, distinguished members of the Ministry, representatives from Armenia’s National Assembly, Americans of Armenian ancestry, and a wide range of business, academic, and community leaders to discuss areas of mutual interest to strengthen regional and national security efforts, enhance humanitarian assistance for refugees, build economic opportunities, learn about the ongoing conflict and struggle of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, and to pay tribute to the victims of the Armenian Genocide.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard along with Reps. Frank Pallone, Jackie Speier, Anna Eshoo, and David Valadao met with President of Artsakh Republic, Bako Sahakyan to discuss a diplomatic, peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Last year, Hawaii’s State Legislature passed a resolution recognizing the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh and previously, along with 46 other states, passed legislation formally recognizing the Armenian Genocide, and honoring its victims.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and other members of the bipartisan congressional delegation met with the Speaker of the National Assembly of Armenia, Ara Babloyan and other heads of Standing Committees to further cooperation and understanding between the governments of Armenia and the United States.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said:

“I traveled to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh with a bipartisan group of congressional colleagues to hear and see firsthand the challenges and opportunities that exist within Armenia and the region, and identify areas of mutual interest and cooperation that will strengthen the security, economic, and cultural relationships that bind our two countries. Focusing on the priorities of a peaceful, sustainable, and secure region remains the key to deepening the American-Armenian relationship.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, along with other members of the congressional delegation, met with Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, His Holiness Karekin II to discuss the diplomatic resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

“The resilience and courage I witnessed in the people of the Nagorno-Karabakh region who remain in an ongoing conflict over their independence, further demonstrates our shared values of freedom, democracy, and self-determination. We must support a diplomatic resolution to this ongoing conflict, such as what has been proposed by the Minsk Group (made up of the United States, France, and Russia), to allow for the people of  Nagorno-Karabakh to exercise their freedom and independence.

“One major issue that continues to be unresolved, is global recognition and condemnation of the Armenian genocide. It is unconscionable that the United States government still has not formally recognized and condemned the Armenian genocide.  I stand with Armenians in America and around the world in condemning the Armenian Genocide, and I call on my colleagues to adopt House Resolution 220 so we never forget, or repeat, the suffering endured by the Armenian people. 

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and colleagues met with the President of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan to hear firsthand about the challenges and opportunities of Armenia, and to identify areas of mutual interest and cooperation between Armenia and the United States.

“While there is much progress to be made within Armenia, the resilience of the Armenian people, their rich culture, values, and the depth of economic and academic investment I witnessed during my trip leaves me hopeful for the future of Armenia and the region.”

‘Alalā Released Into Natural Area Reserve

Six young ‘Alalā—critically endangered Hawaiian crows—were released into Pu‘u Maka‘ala Natural Area Reserve on the Island of Hawai‘i, today. The first group of birds: two females and four males took some time to emerge from the aviary where they had been temporarily housed and they appeared to show a natural curiosity for their surroundings. Plans are to release a second group of five birds: two females and three males in mid-October from the same release aviary.

Previously, in December 2016 a reintroduction attempt was halted after challenges posed by winter storms and predation on ‘Alalā by `Io, (Hawaiian hawk). The concerted reintroduction efforts, funded by the State of Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), San Diego Zoo Global, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have addressed those challenges by changing the timing of release to avoid winter storms, changing the release site location, releasing a social group of both males and females, and enhancing the “antipredator training program” to teach the released birds how to better respond to predators like `Io.  A high mortality rate is associated with releasing species into the wild. This is especially true for species like ‘Alalā that have been in captivity for longer periods of time. A successful conservation breeding program gives managers the flexibility to adapt their management techniques to improve successful transition to the wild. Conservation breeding programs are key tools for recovering threatened and endangered species.

For example, the nēnē, or Hawaiian goose, has returned from the brink of extinction thanks to an intensive breeding program and the dedication of many partners over decades, and this species still requires active management and monitoring. For ‘Alalā, these continued efforts are also essential to the species’ recovery.

“The recovery of the ‘Alalā is an excellent example of partners working together to do something that has never been done before.” said Bryce Masuda, conservation program manager of the Hawai‘i Endangered Bird Conservation Program. “Although bringing the ‘Alalā back from the brink of extinction will take a lot of time and perseverance, many people are dedicated to saving this important species.”

Nine of the 2017 release birds were moved to a flight aviary in early 2017, to allow them to acclimate to the sights and sounds of the Hawaiian forest, and to socialize them with the two males that survived the December 2016 release. They were then transferred to a smaller aviary in the forest two weeks prior to the release. Pu‘u Maka‘ala Natural Area Reserve is an area that conservationists of the Three Mountain Alliance and DLNR have worked for decades to preserve, protecting native plants and species, and it represents a type of high-elevation habitat where ‘Alalā originally lived before their numbers began to decline.

The outcomes of the 2016 release posed great conservation challenges to the members of the ‘Alalā Working Group, the decision-making body of the ‘Alalā Project. The next step to the recovery for ‘Alalā could only be realized through innovative thinking, consultation with outside experts, and extensive revisions to the reintroduction strategy. This was a process that took over six months to complete. “If not for the strength of partnerships in the ‘Alalā Working Group, we would not be able to move forward as efficiently as we have”, said Jackie Gaudioso-Levita, project coordinator of the ‘Alalā Project. In addition to the funding agencies and organizations of the ‘Alalā Project, cooperative partners include Kamehameha Schools, Three Mountain Alliance, U.S. Geological Survey, and the National Park Service.

The ‘Alalā, or Hawaiian crow, has been extinct in the wild since 2002, preserved only at the Keauhou and Maui Bird Conservation Centers managed by San Diego Zoo Global’s Hawai‘i Endangered Bird Conservation Program. With more than 125 individuals of the species at the centers, conservationists are ready to return the birds to their native forests. ‘Alalā are an important part of the life of the Hawaiian forest, as they eat and assist with the dispersal of native plant seeds. The reintroduction of this species, which has been gone from the forest for more than a decade, is expected to play an important part in the overall recovery of the ecosystem. ‘Alalā are not only ecologically significant as dispersers of Hawai’i’s native plants, but they are also significantly revered in Hawaiian culture. At sunrise on the day of the bird’s release, a ceremony was held by members of the ʻAlalā Project to set the intentions for their return to their forest home.

“Recovering threatened and endangered species takes dedicated partnerships like The ‘Alalā Project,” said Michelle Bogardus, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Geographic Team Leader for Maui Nui and Hawaii Island. “We will continue to work with our partners to protect and recover Hawaii’s threatened and endangered species.”

DLNR Chair Suzanne Case commented, “This has been an ongoing learning process for everyone, to get it right for the ‘Alalā to learn the skills they need to survive. The entire project highlights the benefits of protecting habitat and addressing threats such as predators, disease, and invasive species before populations decline so rapidly that recovery becomes even more challenging.”

Six Alala Released into Hawaii Natural Area Reserve from Hawaii DLNR on Vimeo.

Mayor Kim to Declare October “Stop the Ant” Month in Hawaii County

This Friday, September 29th, Mayor Harry Kim will sign a proclamation declaring the month of October “Stop the Ant Month” for Hawaii County.

The Big Island will be joining with the rest of the state in an effort to raise awareness about the threat of little fire ants in Hawaii. The tiny pest, first detected in Puna in 1999, has been confirmed in every district on Hawaii Island and populations have been found on Oahu, Maui, and Kauai.

Little fire ants are considered a threat not just because of their painful sting, but also due to their impacts on agriculture and threat to food security. Little fire ants are associated with plant pests such as aphids and mealy bugs, and have driven farmers in other Pacific islands to abandon their farms. They are also associated with cloudiness and blinding in the eyes of domestic animals, including dogs, cats, and horses.

On the Big Island, residents have been very active in working to reduce LFA populations and mitigate the threat. In the last two years alone, over 2,000 Hawaii islanders have attended training on LFA control provided by BIISC or the Hawaii Ant Lab. More than two dozen neighborhoods are currently working on a year-long plan to eradicate the ants from localized areas.

Stop the Ant month is an effort to urge all residents of the state of Hawaii to survey their property for little fire ants. Because the ants are tiny (less than 1/16th of an inch) they are difficult to see. Ants can be present for six months ore more before they reach noticeable levels, and many people mistakenly believe the ants are not present because they have not yet been stung.

To remain fire ant-free, Big Island residents should survey for fire ants using peanut butter and chopsticks 4 times a year. Infestations can be controlled, but require regular and consistent effort.

More information can be found at StopTheAnt.org.

Baby in Puna Catches Rat Lungworm Disease – Hawaii Department of Health Confirms 17th Case of Rat Lungworm Disease in Hawaii for 2017

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed an additional case of rat lungworm disease in an infant from the Puna District of Hawaii Island. This is the tenth laboratory-confirmed case of rat lungworm disease contracted on Hawaii Island this year, bringing the statewide total to 17 cases in 2017. After a detailed investigation, DOH learned the infant became infected likely after accidentally consuming a slug or snail.

“Kane’s slowly getting better but it will take time. He had RAT LUNGWORM for 9 DAYS & i took him to his doctor, urgent care & hilo medical center MULTIPLE TIMES before they finally listened to me & did a blood sample on him. Can you imagine if my baby would have died from this? & Me knowing that i did my best to tell doctors to check his blood because in my gut i could feel that it wasn’t the flu or him teething. I hope you guys feel real dumb for ignoring my instincts, i am glad that i was firm because the ER wanted to SEND US HOME AGAIN WITHOUT A BLOOD SAMPLE, but i refused to let that happen a 2nd time around. Any ways, i am grateful that he is a fighter & i am positive that he will make a full recovery.” Santini N Dylan Tauanuu

“This is an extremely unfortunate incident, with the infant currently hospitalized and receiving care,” said Aaron Ueno, Hawaii Island District Health Officer. “While the department is unable to provide specific information on this individual case, we can take this time to remind parents and caregivers about the importance of preventing infants and young children from putting slugs, snails, or other items in their mouths. We know that slugs, snails, and rats in all counties carry the parasite that can cause rat lungworm disease, so watching over young children is especially important.”

He added, “The Hawaii Island District Health Office is making a concerted effort to reach parents and caregivers of infants and young children by providing education and resources about rat lungworm disease prevention to our Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and Early Intervention Services clients and our partners, including pediatricians and other healthcare providers.”

DOH recommends all parents and caregivers of infants and young children take extra precautions, including:

  • Watch infants, toddlers, and children carefully while they are playing and make sure they are not picking up slugs, snails, or other objects from the ground and putting those into their mouths.
  • Help children properly wash their hands after playing and/or on the ground using running water and soap.
  • When consuming food and drinks, close and seal containers when not in use to prevent slugs and snails from crawling inside, especially when left on or near the ground.

The public is urged to take the following precautions to prevent rat lungworm disease:

  • Carefully inspect, wash, and store produce in sealed containers, regardless of whether it came from a local retailer, farmer’s market, or backyard garden.
  • All fruits and vegetables should be washed and rubbed under running water, especially leafy greens, to remove any tiny slugs or snails.
  • Controlling snail, slug, and rat populations is one of the most important steps in fighting the spread of rat lungworm disease. Eliminate slugs, snails, and rats around properties, and especially around home gardens.
  • Farmers as well as food handlers and processors should increase diligence in controlling slugs, snails, and rats on the farm.

Rat lungworm disease (angiostrongyliasis) is contracted when a person becomes infected with the parasite Angiostrongylus cantonensis. This happens when a person accidentally consumes raw or undercooked infected slugs, snails, freshwater shrimp, land crabs or frogs. The most common symptoms include severe headaches and neck stiffness, but symptoms may vary widely among cases. The most serious cases experience neurological problems, pain, and severe disability.

More information about the signs and symptoms of rat lungworm disease may be found at http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/disease_listing/rat-lungworm-angiostrongyliasis/ and https://health.hawaii.gov/docd/files/2017/01/RLD-rackcard-version1_06152017.pdf. The first in a series of public service announcements about rat lungworm disease prevention is posted on the Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s website at http://hdoa.hawaii.gov/blog/main/rat-lungworm-information/.