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Soldiers In The Battle Against Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death; Passion for Hawaii Forests Prompts Participation

Dozens of scientists, foresters, surveyors, researchers, and educators are actively involved in the fight to try and stop the spread of Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death. The fungal disease has decimated tens of thousands of acres of native ‘ōhi‘a on the Big Island. A virtual army of specialists from a wide array of federal, state, county, and non-profit organizations are engaged in the fight to find a treatment and simultaneously to stop it in its tracks. That’s where education and outreach come in.

ohia death

Anya Tagawa and Jeff Bagshaw of the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife’s (DOFAW)    Natural Area Reserve (NAR) program are two of the soldiers on the frontline of spreading awareness about Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death.  They’ve each created signs that hunters, hikers,     mountain bikers and other people recreating on state public lands will soon see.  DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said,  “It is critical that every person who goes into the woods or forest anywhere in Hawaii, takes steps to prevent this disease from spreading. Anya and Jeff’s work along with a team of other outreach experts, is vitally important in getting kama‘āina and visitors alike to be certain they don’t inadvertently track the fungus from place to place.”

Their individual signs are different in appearance, but contain the same basic message. Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death kills one of the most important native trees quickly and in wide swaths.  Failing to follow the simple recommendations outlined on both signs could make you responsible for spreading this disease inter-island and intra-island.

Tagawa’s passion is borne of a life spent in the forest. She comments, “My life has always been intertwined with ‘ōhi‘a, with our native forests. I grew up hiking, exploring, and being captivated by our forests. I continue to learn about their unparalleled uniqueness and feel an intimate    connection with these special places. Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death threatens this way of life. It is imperative that we do all what we can to ensure ‘ōhi‘a is present for our future generations to experience, engage, and form a relationship with. It is critical for the continued persistence of the countless unique plants and animals that rely on ‘ōhi’a.”

Bagshaw is the outreach coordinator at the Ahihi-Kina‘u NAR on Maui’s south shore. The nearest wild ‘ōhi’a is dozens of miles away yet he designed the sign for the Na Ala Hele Trails Access system, because he, like his colleagues, is deeply concerned about the fate of Hawai‘i’s ‘ōhi’a forests.

He said, “We hope hikers and all forest users will start to be conscious  wherever they go, even if there’s ‘ōhi’a there or not. We’d like them to realize, that they could be taking something into the forest that affects our native ecosystems. ‘Ōhi’a are the backbone of our native rainforest; they feed the honeycreepers, they protect the watershed.  I can’t imagine a Hawaiian rainforest without ‘ōhi’a.”

Recently, Bagshaw, his staff, and volunteers conducted awareness surveys with visitors to the Ahihi-Kina‘u NAR.  They’ve found very few people have any knowledge about ōhi’a or Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death.  They’re heartened though, by people’s willingness to adopt the preventative measures outlined on each of the trail signs.

Tagawa’s signs will eventually be at every DOFAW trailhead on the Big Island: more than 50 in all. On Maui, Bagshaw’s signs are being placed at all Na Ala Hele trailheads.

Soldiers in the Fight Against Rapid Ohia Death- Video News Release from Hawaii DLNR on Vimeo.

Hawaii Residents Can Spot the International Space Station Tonight

Hawaii residents can spot the International Space Station tonight (depending on clouds).

International Space Station

It will be visible beginning tonight, Thursday, May 26, at 8:02 PM. It will be visible for approximately 6 minutes at a Maximum Height of 61 degrees. It will appear 11 degrees above the Southwest part of the sky and disappear 11 degrees above the North Northeast part of the sky.

New Lava Flow Map Hints at Direction of New Flows

This small-scale map shows Kīlauea’s active East Rift Zone lava flow field in relation to the eastern part of the Island of Hawaiʻi.

flow 525a

The new breakouts from Puʻu ʻŌʻō that began on May 24 are shown in red, as mapped on May 25. The area of the original June 27th lava flow field is shown in pink, as last mapped in detail on May 9.

Click to enlarge

The blue lines show steepest-descent paths calculated from a 1983 digital elevation model (DEM; for calculation details, see http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2007/1264/). Steepest-descent path analysis is based on the assumption that the DEM perfectly represents the earth’s surface. DEMs, however, are not perfect, so the blue lines on this map can be used to infer only approximate flow paths. The base map is a partly transparent regional land cover map from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Coastal Management draped over a 1983 10-m digital elevation model (DEM). The bathymetry is also from NOAA. Click to enlarge

Puʻu ʻŌʻō lava flows erupted prior to June 27, 2014, are shown in gray. The black box shows the extent of the accompanying large scale map.

This map shows recent changes to Kīlauea’s active East Rift Zone lava flow field. The new breakouts from Puʻu ʻŌʻō that began on May 24 are shown in red, as mapped on May 25. The area of the original June 27th lava flow field is shown in pink, as last mapped in detail on May 9. Puʻu ʻŌʻō lava flows erupted prior to June 27, 2014, are shown in gray. Puʻu ʻŌʻō is at lower left.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The blue lines show steepest-descent paths calculated from a 1983 digital elevation model (DEM; for calculation details, see http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2007/1264/). Steepest-descent path analysis is based on the assumption that the DEM perfectly represents the earth’s surface. DEMs, however, are not perfect, so the blue lines on this map can be used to infer only approximate flow paths. The base map is a partly transparent 1:24,000-scale USGS digital topographic map draped over a 1983 10-m digital elevation model (DEM).

Free Window Screening Workshop #FightTheBite

Lowes, Habitat For Humanity West Hawaii and the State Health Department have created a “Free Window Screening” workshop day on June 16th from 10-1 in the Lowe’s parking lot near the garden area to help repair people’s screens and teach residents how to do it themselves, as well.

Lowes Fight the Bite

Qualified residents can sign up to have Habitat folks provide the materials to make sure people have homes with screens to avoid contracting mosquito borne illnesses. Perk? A free BBQ from Randy’s BBQ!

Puʻu ʻŌʻō Breakouts Continue – No Significant Advancement

The two breakouts that began at Puʻu ʻŌʻō yesterday (May 24) are still active.

As of 8:30 a.m., HST, today, May 25, 2016, lava continued to flow from two breakout sites on the flanks of the Puʻu ʻŌʻō cone, which was shrouded by rain and steam during HVO’s morning overflight.

Click to enlarge

This morning, the active portions of both flows remained relatively short, extending no more than 1 km (0.6 miles) from their breakout points. The northern breakout, shown here, changed course slightly overnight, but is still directed towards the northwest in an impressive channel, with lava spreading out at the flow front. Click to enlarge

At the northern breakout (see maps at http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/maps/), a new lobe of lava broke out of yesterday’s active channel and was advancing to the northwest. This new lobe of lava had advanced about 950 m (0.6 mi) as of this morning. Yesterday’s channel—now inactive—is visible to the right of today’s flow.

hvo52516b

In this thermal image of the northern breakout, the active lava channel and flow front are clearly revealed as bright yellow and pink colors. The channel that was active yesterday, but now stagnate, is visible as a bluish-purple line to the right of today’s active flow.

This morning (May 25, 2016), the northern breakout on Puʻu ʻŌʻō was feeding an impressive channel of lava that extended about 950 m (0.6 mi) northwest of the cone. This channel was about 10 m (32 ft) wide as of 8:30 a.m., HST.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The second flow from the eastern breakout on Puʻu ʻŌʻō—in the area of the “Peace Day” flow that broke out in September 2011—remained active as of this morning, and its total length was about 1.2 km (0.75 mi) long.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

This lava flow was slowly spreading laterally, but the flow front had stalled.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Despite heavy rain, which resulted in blurry spots on this photo due to water droplets on the camera lens, HVO scientists were able to do some of the work they hoped to accomplish during this morning’s overflight.

Click to enlarge

Here, an HVO geologist maps the location of active lava from the eastern breakout on Puʻu ʻŌʻō. Click to enlarge

Amidst steam created by rain falling on the hot lava, another HVO geologist uses a rock hammer to collect a sample of the active flow.

Analyses of this sample will yield data on the temperature and chemical makeup of the lava, information that is needed to help determine what's happening within the volcano.  Click to enlarge

Analyses of this sample will yield data on the temperature and chemical makeup of the lava, information that is needed to help determine what’s happening within the volcano. Click to enlarge

Nēnē Class of 2016 Takes Flight

It’s springtime and nēnē have begun to reappear in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, after being less visible since fall and winter, when they hunker down to nest, raise goslings and grow a new set of flight feathers (molt).

An adult pair of nēnē in pūkiawe bush near Crater Rim Drive in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. NPS Photo/Kathleen Misajon

An adult pair of nēnē in pūkiawe bush near Crater Rim Drive in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. NPS Photo/Kathleen Misajon

Nēnē have started to flock, and younger nēnē are taking their first flights. Drivers are reminded to slow down and watch out for the native geese on roadways in and out of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.

Two young fledglings were killed last Saturday on Crater Rim Drive, between Kīlauea Overlook and Jaggar Museum, by an unknown motorist. The young birds, which were around six months old, were discovered by a park ranger.

“Young fledglings test out their wings and explore new territories this time of year,” said Wildlife Biologist Kathleen Misajon, Manager of the Nēnē Recovery Program at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. “The park uses nēnē crossing signs to alert motorists to key areas, however, until the young birds learn the ropes from their parents, the areas they choose to land can be unpredictable. It’s so important to be extra vigilant when driving so these kinds of accidents don’t happen,” Misajon said.

Nēnē, the largest native land animal in Hawai‘i, are present in the park and other locations on Hawai‘i Island year-round. They blend in with their surroundings and can be difficult for drivers to spot. They are federally listed as endangered.

Nēnē crossing signs posted throughout the park call attention to roadside areas frequented by nēnē. These include Crater Rim Drive, Chain of Craters Road, and sections of Highway 11. Motorists are urged to use extra caution in signed nēnē crossing areas, and to obey posted speed limits.

A young nēnē fledgling tests its wings in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. NPS Photo/Kathleen Misajon

A young nēnē fledgling tests its wings in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. NPS Photo/Kathleen Misajon

By 1952, only 30 birds remained statewide.  Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park began efforts to recover the species in the 1970s.  The Nēnē Recovery Program continues today, and more than 250 birds thrive in the park from sea level to around 8,000 feet. More than 2,500 nēnē exist statewide.

Wild nēnē, the world’s rarest goose, are only found in Hawai‘i and are the last survivor of several other endemic geese. Their strong feet sport padded toes and reduced webbing, an adaptation that allows them to traverse rough terrain like lava plains. Most nēnē fly between nighttime roosts and daytime feeding grounds. Watch this short Public Service Announcement for more information. To report nēnē on the road in the park, call 808-985-6170. Outside the park, call 808-974-4221.

Map of New Breakouts at Puʻu ʻŌʻō

This map of two new breakouts at Puʻu ʻŌʻō, which began just before 7:00 a.m., HST, this morning, shows the extent of the lava flows based on aerial photos that were taken at 8:30 a.m.

The new breakouts had not extended beyond the boundary of the Puʻu ʻŌʻō flow field at the time the photos were taken, and neither lava flow currently poses an immediate threat to nearby communities. Click to enlarge

The new breakouts had not extended beyond the boundary of the Puʻu ʻŌʻō flow field at the time the photos were taken, and neither lava flow currently poses an immediate threat to nearby communities. Click to enlarge

At the time, the larger flow from the northern breakout was traveling down the north flank of Puʻu ʻŌʻō, towards the northwest, and was about 1 km (0.6 miles) long, and the flow from the eastern breakout was about 700 meters (0.4 miles) long. The aerial photos used to map the flows are shown over an older satellite image. The new breakouts had not extended beyond the boundary of the Puʻu ʻŌʻō flow field at the time the photos were taken, and neither lava flow currently poses an immediate threat to nearby communities.

State Conservation Officers Seeking Person of Interest for Mauna Kea Road Obstruction

Anyone who may have witnessed or have knowledge of rocks being placed on the   Mauna Kea Access Road, late afternoon, on May 16, 2016, is asked to contact the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE). This happened at the 5.5 mile marker of the summit road, at the 12,500 foot level. The rocks created a potential safety hazard as they were placed in the downhill lane, in the middle of a sharp right hand corner.

Rocks

DOCARE officers interviewed workers on Mauna Kea, who reported seeing a man in the area just before and after rocks appeared on the road.

Photos taken by a Hale Pohaku Visitor Center security camera show a shirtless man carrying a plastic gallon container and walking uphill along the road. A telescope worker confirmed that this was the person they witnessed on the road at about the time the rocks were placed.

Rocks personHe is described as 5’5″ – 5’8”, with a slim build. He was seen wearing light-colored white to light gray-colored board shorts and slippers, with a black-colored backpack. He was carrying an opaque plastic container.

If anyone has information about this incident you are asked to contact DOCARE at 643-DLNR.

Two New Breakout Lava Flows at Pu’u O’o

Two new breakouts at Puʻu ʻŌʻō began this morning just before 7:00 a.m., HST. The larger of the two breakouts, shown here, originated on the northeast flank of the cone, at the site of the vent for the ongoing June 27th lava flow.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

This breakout point fed a vigorous channelized flow that extended about 1 km (0.6 miles). This lava flow had not extended beyond the existing Puʻu ʻŌʻō flow field at the time this photo was taken (8:30 a.m., HST).

A wider view of the larger breakout traveling down the north flank of Puʻu ʻŌʻō, towards the northwest. This photo was taken at about 8:30am.  Click to enlarge

A wider view of the larger breakout traveling down the north flank of Puʻu ʻŌʻō, towards the northwest. This photo was taken at about 8:30am. Click to enlarge

Another breakout occurred just east of Puʻu ʻŌʻō, about 500 m (0.3 miles) from the crater, in the area of the “Peace Day” flow that broke out in September 2011.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

This second breakout was smaller than the one on the northeast flank, but was still feeding an impressive lava channel. At the time of this photo (8:30 a.m., HST), this flow was about 700 m (0.4 miles) long and traveling towards the southeast.

A video of the larger breakout, flowing northwest.

Legislators, Unions Gather in Support of Hu Honua

More than 30 Hawaii Island officials in government and labor gathered this morning at Hu Honua Bioenergy (HHB) in Pepeekeo for a briefing on the biomass project’s status.
Hu Honua 1
Hu Honua spokesperson Harold “Rob” Robinson said yesterday’s filing with the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) requests that the regulatory body conduct a technical review of the actions surrounding Hawaii Electric Light Company’s (HELCO) termination of the power purchase agreement (PPA).
Hu Honua 2
Robinson, a member of Hu Honua’s board of managers, and president of Island Bioenergy, the parent of HHB, said for more than a year, HELCO delayed meaningful response to Hu Honua’s repeated requests for milestone extensions and reduced pricing proposals.
Hu Honua 3
“We have provided the utility with a pricing proposal that significantly reduces HELCO’s costs,” said Robinson. “More importantly, we believe Hu Honua will provide a hedge against rising oil prices, which have historically whipsawed Hawaii Island consumers.”

Hu Honua has invested $137 million to date in the biomass-to-energy facility and has secured an additional $125 million to complete the project. All that’s needed is an extension of the PPA, which Robinson said, we are trying to negotiate with HELCO but are concerned they are stalling a decision.

Hu Honua 4
“The public should know that despite what HELCO claims, Hu Honua’s proposals will deliver value to ratepayers,” said Robinson. “Our project will have more than 200 workers on site during construction. After completion, the community will benefit from more than 180 new jobs and the formation of an invigorated forestry industry. There will also be environmental benefits when old HELCO power plants are deactivated and replaced with renewable energy from Hu Honua in 2017.”

During the conference, various government officials expressed support for the project and welcomed the creation of additional jobs and industry for Hawaii Island. Many were hopeful that the utility would work with Hu Honua to amend its PPA.

Valerie Poindexter, Hawaii County councilmember for the district, talked about growing up in a sugar plantation camp and the demise of the island’s sugar industry. “Hu Honua would revitalize the culture and lifestyle of the sugar days, and create jobs so people don’t have to travel so far to work.”

State Senator Kaialii Kahele touched on the importance of energy security. “If a catastrophic event happens on the West Coast, we’re stuck because we are out here in the middle Pacific, heavily reliant on fossil fuels and food imports. We must come up with creative solutions to address those issues,” said Kahele. He stressed that while he welcomed mainland investment, any and all development must be done the pono way, and commended Hu Honua’s new collaborative, collective style of leadership.
hu honua 5
Hawaii County Councilmember Dennis Onishi said Hu Honua would help reduce energy costs and put more renewable energy on the grid. Onishi suggested starting a dialogue between the County and Hu Honua to explore the possibility of processing green waste streams to divert what’s going to landfills.

Robinson explained that significant investment made in emissions control equipment, including a new turbine generator, will result in increased efficiencies, generating capacity and cleaner emissions.

Following the event, Robinson addressed a statement issued by Hawaii Electric Light Company that criticized Hu Honua. “The utility’s reference to the cost of the project is a smokescreen. When a utility builds a power plant, that cost is passed to ratepayers. This is not the case for us. We decided to invest in increasing generation capacity from 21 to 36 megawatts, but that has no impact on the price to consumers or the ratepayer. The financial risk of the project cost is ours,” he said.

Click to view Affidavit

Click to view Affidavit

Shark Study Helps Explain Higher Incidence of Encounters Off Maui

A spike in shark bites off Maui in 2012 and 2013 prompted the Dept. of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), with additional support and funding from the Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System (PacIOOS), to commission a two-year-long study of shark spatial behavior on Maui.  The research was conducted by a team from the University of Hawaii’s Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB).

shark bites in maui

Dr. Carl Meyer, principle investigator for the study, explained that the Maui Nui complex, consisting of Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Kahoolawe, has more preferred tiger shark habitat than all other main Hawaiian Islands combined.  According to Dr. Meyer, “Tiger sharks captured around Maui spend most of their time on the extensive Maui Nui insular shelf, which is also an attractive habitat for tiger sharks arriving from elsewhere in Hawaii.  The insular shelf extends offshore from the shoreline to depths of 200 meters (600 feet), and is home to a wide variety of tiger shark prey.”

Although tiger shark movement patterns revealed by the latest study are generally similar to those seen in previous studies, the larger area of shelf habitat around Maui may be able to support more tiger sharks than other main Hawaiian Islands.  In addition, the most frequently-visited areas by tiger sharks around Maui include waters adjacent to popular ocean recreation sites.

Meyer noted “This combination of factors may explain why Maui has had more shark bites than other Main Hawaiian Islands, although we cannot completely rule out a higher number of ocean recreation activities on Maui as the primary cause of these differences.  However, despite the routine presence of large tiger sharks in waters off our beaches, the risk of being bitten remains extremely small, suggesting tiger sharks generally avoid interactions with people.”

Dr. Bruce Anderson, administrator for DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR), said, “This study provided us with important new insights into tiger shark movement behavior around Maui, and helps answer some questions about why that island has led the state recently in shark bites.  We agree with the study’s recommendation that the best approach to reducing numbers of these incidents is to raise public awareness of what people can do to reduce their risk of being bitten.  This has been our focus for a long time.  People who enter the ocean have to understand and appreciate that it is essentially a wilderness experience.  It’s the shark’s house, not ours.

DAR will continue to work with other agencies to expand outreach regarding hazards in the ocean, such as drownings, to include shark safety information so people can make well-informed, fact-based decisions.”

As for the 2012-2014 spike in shark bites around Maui, Meyer said the reasons remain unclear.  He noted, “2015 saw only one unprovoked shark bite off Maui.  Shark behavior didn’t change year to year, and there was no shift in human behavior.  These spikes occur all over the world, and are most likely due to chance.”

Citing previous studies, the HIMB team also noted that historical shark culling in Hawaii neither eliminated nor demonstrably reduced shark bite incidents.  Tiger sharks tracked around Maui exhibit a broad spectrum of movement patterns ranging from somewhat resident to highly transient. This ensures a constant turnover of sharks along coastal locations.  Sharks removed by culling are quickly replaced by new ones locally and from distant locations.

Maui Shark Report-Media Clips from Hawaii DLNR on Vimeo.

PacIOOS makes tiger shark tracks available online and provides funding for ongoing and future tagging efforts. Melissa Iwamoto, Director of PacIOOS explained, “We are pleased to be a partner in this important effort by offering an online platform where you can view the tiger sharks tracks. Providing ocean users, agencies, residents and visitors with relevant ocean data is our priority. While the tracks do not serve as a warning or real-time monitoring system, they are a great way to raise awareness about the ocean environment and to inform long-term decision-making.”

All of the partners agree that the more information people have, the better decisions they can make when entering the ocean.

Hawaii Tiger Shark Tracking Report: http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dar/files/2016/05/Maui_tiger_shark_spatial_dynamics_final.pdf

Hawaii Tiger Shark Tracking website: http://pacioos.org/projects/sharks

Hawaii Sharks website: www.hawaiisharks.org

Video – Subtle Uplift of Puʻu ʻŌʻō Crater Floor Over Past Few Days

The crater floor at Puʻu ʻŌʻō has recently experienced minor uplift due to inflation within Puʻu ʻŌʻō cone.

Click to view video

Click to view video

The crater floor uplift is subtle, and probably no more than about 1 meter (3 feet) since May 15. Small, hot cracks have appeared on the crater floor during the uplift. Time-lapse images from a thermal camera were used to make this video, which is looped 10 times to highlight the uplift.

Hawaiian Electric Companies Propose Using Natural Gas with Modernized Generation

The Hawaiian Electric Companies today asked the Hawai’i Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to review and approve a proposed contract with Fortis Hawaii Energy Inc. to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) for electricity generation on O’ahu, Hawai’i Island and Maui.

key benefitsThe contract, the culmination of a request for proposals issued two years ago, would provide a cleaner, low-cost fuel to replace oil in the transition to achieving Hawai’i’s 100 percent renewable portfolio standard by 2045. If approved, Hawaiian Electric envisions beginning use of natural gas in 2021 with a 20-year contract ending as Hawai’i approaches its 100 percent renewable energy goal.

“We are committed to achieving our state’s 100 percent renewable energy goal with a diverse mix of renewable resources,” said Ron Cox, Hawaiian Electric vice president for power supply. “As we make this transition, LNG is a cleaner-burning alternative that potentially can provide billions of dollars in savings and stabilize electric bills for our customers compared to continuing to rely on imported oil with its volatile prices. LNG is a superior fuel for the firm generation needed to keep electric service reliable as we increase our use of variable renewables like solar and wind.”

At the same time, Hawaiian Electric is asking the PUC for authorization to construct a modern, efficient, combined-cycle generation system at the Kahe Power Plant to get the maximum customer benefits from use of cleaner, less expensive natural gas; better support integration of renewable energy; and facilitate retirement of three older, oil-fired generators at the Kahe Power Plant.

Critical timing for customer benefits

The Fortis Hawaii contract is also contingent on PUC approval of the merger of Hawaiian Electric with NextEra Energy. This project requires substantial upfront financial support and expertise that NextEra Energy can provide.  If the merger is not approved, the Hawaiian Electric Companies would still be interested in pursuing on their own the benefits of LNG for customers, but the companies would need to negotiate a new contract which likely would mean lower, delayed savings for customers and delayed benefits for the environment.

Significant projected savings and environmental benefits for Hawai’i

Hawaiian Electric estimates the natural gas contract and greater efficiencies from modernized generation could save electricity customers from $850 million to $3.7 billion through 2045, depending on future oil prices. At the same time, annual oil imports for electricity generation would be reduced by over 8 million barrels, or 80 percent, as soon as 2021. Hawai’i’s carbon footprint would be reduced by significantly cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The reduction of over 4 million tons in carbon dioxide emissions alone equals taking more than 80 percent of Hawai’i’s passenger vehicles off the road.

Savings on electric bills for typical residential customers using 500 kilowatt-hours a month, when compared to alternative generation planning scenarios using oil, could be as much as $390 a year for O’ahu customers. Savings for Hawai’i Island and Maui customers are estimated at $100 and $15 per year, respectively.

The savings take into account the estimated $341 million cost of converting existing generating units to use natural gas at Kahe Power Plant on O’ahu, Mā’alaea on Maui, and Keahole and Hāmākua Energy Partners on Hawai’i Island, and the estimated cost of $117 million for LNG containers. The logistics system to deliver and offload the LNG will not require development of new infrastructure off- or on-shore in Hawai’i.

“We know Governor Ige has expressed opposition to importing LNG,” Cox said. “However, we have just reached contract terms with a supplier after a long negotiation and now have much more than a theoretical plan for the governor, Public Utilities Commission, energy stakeholders and the public to consider. We believe we have a responsibility to put forward an option that has significant economic and environmental benefits for the people of Hawai’i, and that addresses some of the Governor’s concerns.

“This proposal, negotiated with the added expertise and experience of NextEra Energy as an advisor, will support achieving our 100 percent renewable energy goals. It will allow us to integrate increasing amounts of renewable energy at much lower cost while providing more reliable service for our customers. Further, our plan keeps new LNG infrastructure, both on- and off-shore, to a minimum and preserves flexibility to reduce LNG imports as renewable energy increases,” Cox said.

For 50 years, natural gas has been safely transported around the world in liquefied form for use in power generation. It is subject to strong international, national and local regulation and monitoring for safety and environmental protection. For Hawai’i, this proposal will provide enhanced security of fuel supply by avoiding the risk of sourcing fuel from more remote and politically unstable locations.

Under the proposed plan, Fortis — a leader in the North American electric and gas utility business — would liquefy the gas piped from northeastern British Columbia at its Tilbury facility in Delta, near Vancouver. The LNG would be transported from British Columbia to Hawai’i in mid-sized LNG carrier ships.

The Hawaiian Electric Companies would use natural gas in power plants to generate the electricity delivered via island power grids to homes and businesses where customers will use the same electric water heaters, stoves, refrigerators and other appliances as today. As with all fuel purchases and purchased power, the actual cost of the natural gas would be passed directly to customers on electric bills, without mark-up or profit to the Hawaiian Electric Companies.

Flexibility for the future

The price of natural gas will be tied to market prices in British Columbia, not to oil prices, providing lower, less volatile prices, especially as today’s low oil prices rise, as expected. The contract provides for lower

payments if the Hawaiian Electric Companies decide to take less than the full capacity commitment of LNG; for example, if more renewable resources come online more quickly than expected.

The vessels  and trucks (owned by others) and the containers  to import LNG under this plan are modular and movable so a significant portion can be resold or repurposed when no longer needed to serve power generation in Hawai’i. The carrier ships, barges and possibly the trucks to deliver LNG to power plants will be fueled by LNG, further reducing oil use in Hawai’i.

Modernizing generation for lower fuel costs and more reliable service

To gain the greatest savings for customers and better ensure reliable service as the integration of renewable energy increases from variable sources like sun and wind, Hawaiian Electric also proposes to modernize the  generation fleet on O’ahu. Three steam generators at the Kahe Power Plant (Units 1-3) would be deactivated by the end of 2020 when each will be over 50 years old and replaced with an efficient, combined-cycle generation system located at the plant further from the shoreline than the existing units. The location provides greater energy security, for example from tsunamis, and a less visible profile.

The combined-cycle system would include three modern, quick-starting, fast-ramping combustion turbines with three heat recovery steam generators and a single steam turbine to generate power using the waste heat that is recovered. This flexible, fuel-saving combination would be 30 percent more efficient than the deactivated generators. This modern generation is needed to balance the increasing amounts of variable renewable energy being added as Hawai’i transitions to 100 percent renewable energy. The combined-cycle system will be capable of using renewable biofuels.

Measured against current levels, the combined generation modernization and natural gas plan produces lower carbon dioxide emissions by over 4 million tons when fully operational.

To secure these benefits for customers as quickly as possible and ensure reliable service as the new combined-cycle system replaces old generating units, Hawaiian Electric is seeking Public Utilities Commission permission to construct the new generating system with an estimated in-service date of January 2021.

In the Commission’s Inclinations on the Future of Hawaii’s Electric Utilities (April 28, 2014), the PUC recognized the need for generation modernization and stated that Hawaiian Electric Companies need to “move with urgency to modernize the generation system as delays are lost savings opportunities” and should “expeditiously…[m]odernize the generation to achieve a future with high penetrations of renewable resources.” (emphasis added)

The proposed combined-cycle system is intended to be responsive to these PUC concerns. The estimated cost for modernized generation at Kahe Power Plant and to interconnect the new system to the grid is $859 million. This cost is factored into the overall savings projected for the LNG plan.

The Hawaiian Electric Companies’ plan also proposes using natural gas in two remaining Kahe units (5-6) and the Kalaeloa Partners power plant on O’ahu. In addition, natural gas is proposed for use on Maui at Mā’alaea Power Plant and on Hawai’i Island at Keahole Power Plant and the Hāmākua Energy Partners plant. Natural gas could also be used at the planned Schofield Generating Station and other future generating sites to provide savings for customers.

An Environmental Impact Statement will be prepared. In addition to thorough Public Utilities Commission review with input from the Consumer Advocate, community stakeholders and others will have many opportunities for input through the extensive environmental review and permitting approval process.

Additional details are available in the accompanying fact sheet.

PDF – http://origin-qps.onstreammedia.com/origin/multivu_archive/ENR/369667-hawaiian-electric-lng-plans-and-benefits-fact-sheet.pdf

Two Dozen State, County and Federal Agencies Combine Efforts to Raise Awareness About Hawaii Wildfire and Drought

Government and non-government organizations from across the state today, announced a collaborative effort to raise awareness about the threat of wildfire and drought to Hawaii’s natural resources and to private and public property.  Wildfire & Drought Look Out!, is a continuing campaign to keep people across the state informed of current fire and drought conditions, provide tips on protecting life and property from wildfire, and to provide information and education on how to deal with prolonged drought.

Wildfire and Drought Look Out

The Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) is the lead agency charged with wildfire prevention and suppression on public lands across the state. DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said, “We hope this campaign, which has both a public and a media component, will educate and inform everyone living in and visiting Hawaii about the year-around threat of wildfires. While fires here in Hawaii burn smaller acreages than in much larger western states, the percentage of forest land we lose each year to wildfire, based on Hawaii’s actual land mass, is equal to states like California.”

This year already 10,865 acres have burned, over twice the number of acres burned during all of 2015. A recent wildfire on Oahu’s leeward coast, at Nanakuli, destroyed or damaged thousands of acres, including some native forest. Honolulu Fire Chief Manuel Neves commented, “During this fire, flames crept precariously close to homes. The work of county and state fire fighters prevented property loss, and the precautions taken by many homeowners to create defensible space between their houses and surrounding areas prevented serious property loss.  This is exactly the type of activity we hope to encourage during the “Wildfire & Drought Look Out!” campaign.

The campaign has two components. The Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization (HWMO) is one of the primary partners in the Wildfire & Drought Look Out! project and HWMO Executive Director Elizabeth Pickett explained, “We have set up both a public and a media page on the HWMO website. The public page will have loads of information for home and property owners on how best to prepare for the possibility of wildfire well in advance.  We’ll include water saving information which is really topical during this prolonged drought event in many areas across the state, largely caused by El Nino weather conditions.” HWMO will also maintain and manage a media page, where partners can contribute story ideas and leads for reporters and their news organizations. Pickett added, “We hope media outlets across the state will find this information valuable and topical and join all of us in spreading prevention and preparedness messages widely.”

There was a time when wildfire season in Hawaii typically started in late spring or early summer and lasted until late fall.  “Now with prolonged drought across large regions of the Hawaiian Islands and long-range predictions that show no apparent relief soon, the timing of the Wildfire & Drought Look Out! campaign couldn’t be better,” said Derek Wroe, a forecaster with NOAA’s National Weather Service office in Honolulu, another of the project partners.

Joint Task Force Established to Combat Rat Lungworm Disease in Hawaii

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) and the East Hawaii Liaison to the Office of the Governor announced today the establishment of a Joint Task Force to assess the threat of rat lungworm disease (Angiostrongyliasis) in Hawaii. The mission of the task force is to share scientific knowledge in the application of diagnostics, treatment, mitigation and public education activities.

rat lungworm

Rat lungworm disease is caused by a nematode, which is a roundworm parasite called Angiostrongylus cantonensis. The parasitic nematode can be passed from the feces of infected rodents to snails, slugs and certain other animals, which become intermediate hosts for the parasite. Humans can become infected when they consume, either intentionally or otherwise, infected raw or undercooked intermediate hosts.

Although rat lungworm has been found throughout the state, Hawaii Island has a majority of the cases. Some infected people don’t show any symptoms or only have mild symptoms. For others, the symptoms can be much more severe, which can include headaches, stiffness of the neck, tingling or painful feelings in the skin or extremities, low-grade fever, nausea, and vomiting. Sometimes, a temporary paralysis of the face may also be present, as well as light sensitivity. This infection can also cause a rare type of meningitis (eosinophilic meningitis).

“Establishing a joint task force with local experts in the medical field and leaders in government will produce a set of best practices that be used to target rat lungworm disease not only on Hawaii Island, but on a statewide scale as well,” said Wil Okabe, East Hawaii Liaison to the Office of the Governor. “There is no specific treatment yet identified for this disease, so finding the best ways to prevent its spread and educate the public is crucial.”

The members of the task force are as follows:

  • Wil Okabe (Facilitator), East Hawaii Governor’s Liaison Office
  • Robert Cowie, Ph.D., Pacific Biosciences Research Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • Robert Hollingsworth, Ph.D., U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Sue Jarvi, Ph.D., School of Pharmacy, University of Hawaii at Hilo
  • Jerry Kahana, Hawaii State Department of Agriculture
  • Kenton Kramer, Ph.D., Department of Tropical Medicine, John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM)
  • John Martell, M.D., Hilo Medical Center
  • Marian Melish, M.D., Pediatric Infectious Disease, Kapiolani Medical Center
  • Donn Mende, Research and Development, County of Hawaii
  • DeWolfe Miller, Ph.D., Tropical Medicine Microbiology and Pharmacology, JABSOM
  • Peter Oshiro, Sanitation Branch, DOH
  • Sarah Park, M.D., F.A.A.P., State Epidemiologist, DOH
  • Joanna Seto, Save Drinking Water Branch, DOH
  • Aaron Ueno, Hawaii District Health Office, DOH
  • Chris Whelen, Ph.D., State Laboratories Division, DOH
  • Jonnie Yates, M.D., Kaiser Permanente

USGS Updates Lava Flow Map – Widening and Advancement Since Last Map

This small-scale map shows Kīlauea’s active East Rift Zone lava flow field in relation to the eastern part of the Island of Hawaiʻi. The area of the flow field on March 25 is shown in pink, while widening and advancement of the flow field as mapped on May 9 is shown in red.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Puʻu ʻŌʻō lava flows erupted prior to June 27, 2014, are shown in gray. The black box shows the extent of the accompanying large scale map.

The blue lines show steepest-descent paths calculated from a 1983 digital elevation model (DEM; for calculation details, see http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2007/1264/). Steepest-descent path analysis is based on the assumption that the DEM perfectly represents the earth’s surface. DEMs, however, are not perfect, so the blue lines on this map can be used to infer only approximate flow paths. The base map is a partly transparent regional land cover map from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Coastal Management draped over a 1983 10-m digital elevation model (DEM). The bathymetry is also from NOAA.

Because the flow field is changing very little at the moment, mapping of the lava flow is being conducted relatively infrequently. We will return to more frequent mapping if warranted by an increase in activity.

This map shows recent changes to Kīlauea’s active East Rift Zone lava flow field. The area of the flow field on March 25 is shown in pink, while widening and advancement of the flow field as mapped on May 9 is shown in red.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The yellow lines show the mapped portion of the active lava tube system. Puʻu ʻŌʻō lava flows erupted prior to June 27, 2014, are shown in gray. Puʻu ʻŌʻō is at lower left.

The blue lines show steepest-descent paths calculated from a 1983 digital elevation model (DEM; for calculation details, see http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2007/1264/). Steepest-descent path analysis is based on the assumption that the DEM perfectly represents the earth’s surface. DEMs, however, are not perfect, so the blue lines on this map can be used to infer only approximate flow paths. The base map is a partly transparent 1:24,000-scale USGS digital topographic map draped over a 1983 10-m digital elevation model (DEM).

Community Meeting on Rapid Ohia Death (ROD)

On Tuesday, May 10th at 7:00 pm, a community meeting will be held to discuss what can be done to stop the Rapid Ohia Death that has been happening on the Big Island of Hawaii.

ROD

Judge Riki May Amano Affirmed as TMT Contested Case Officer

All seven members of the Hawai‘i Board of Land and Natural Resources (Board), in a decision released today, directed retired Hawai‘i island Judge Riki May Amano to proceed as the contested case hearing officer for the Conservation Use District Application (CDUA) for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) at the Mauna Kea Science Reserve.

TMT laser

In response to objections raised by certain parties (“Petitioners”) to Judge Amano’s selection as the TMT hearing officer due to her family membership in the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center (“‘Imiloa”) operated by the University of Hawaii-Hilo, the Board stated: “A ‘family membership’ does not confer any right to participate in ‘Imiloa’s governance or decision making, in contrast to organizations where members may vote for a board of directors or other officers,” and the membership simply allows her and her family to “view exhibits and displays at a museum that focuses on astronomy, Mauna Kea, and Hawaiian culture.”

In written disclosures to the Board last month, Judge Amano stated that she and her husband paid $85 per year since 2008 to maintain an ‘Imiloa family membership, which allows free admission to the astronomy center and discounts at the center restaurant and gift shop. Judge Amano further declared that her family membership expires on May 24, 2016 and will not be renewed.

The Board stated, “No reasonable person would infer that the possibility of this ‘benefit’ (‘Imiloa family membership) would override the hearing officer’s duty to make an impartial recommendation to the Board.”  The Hawai’i Revised Code of Judicial Conduct directly addresses the issue of how to treat Judge Amano’s membership if ‘Imiloa is assumed to be a party to the contested case. “The rule provides that a judge shall disqualify herself if the judge or her specific listed relative are a party to the proceeding, or an officer, director, general partner, managing member of trustee of a party.  While this list is not exhaustive, what is significant to the BLNR is that all of these grounds involve some kind of fiduciary or managerial relationship between the judge (or the judge’s relative) and the party.  Such relationships do not remotely resemble the ‘family membership’ at issue here,” said the Board in its decision.

The Board carefully deliberated as to Judge Amano’s statement that she initially saw no connection between ‘Imiloa and the TMT application, and her statement that she did not know that ‘Imiloa was part of UH-Hilo. The Board accepted Judge Amano’s explanation and added, “The Board would certainly encourage hearing officers to disclose a broad range of known relationships…but it will not disqualify Judge Amano for not disclosing her ‘Imiloa family membership, which even in connection with facts she did not know, is not something that a reasonable person would consider likely to affect the impartiality of the arbitrator. The Board finds that under the applicable legal standards, a reasonable person knowing all the facts would not doubt the impartiality of Judge Amano.”

The Board also found that the public notice soliciting attorneys to apply to serve as the TMT contested case hearing officer was properly published on January 29, 2016. Additionally the Board ruled that its decision to delegate the selection of the hearing officer to the Board Chairperson did not need to be made in an open meeting pursuant to chapter 92 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes (the “Sunshine Law”).  Citing legal decisions, the Board found that the Sunshine Law did not apply to boards exercising adjudicatory functions, such as conducting a contested case hearing. Further, the Petitioners’ claim that they should have received prior notice of the selection process was not required because, “The Board’s decision to delegate authority to a hearing officer and the selection of a hearing officer are properly adjudicatory functions.”

On December 2, 2015, the Hawaii Supreme Court remanded the TMT permit application to the circuit court to further remand to the Board for a contested case hearing.  On February 22, 2016, circuit judge Greg K. Nakamura remanded the matter to the Board.  Four days later on February 26, the Board met to restart the contested process.  A public solicitation for a hearing officer occurred, a three member committee evaluated applications, and the hearing officer was announced on March 31.  Three supplemental disclosures were filed by Judge Amano in April, followed by more opportunities for the Petitioners to respond. The Board gave all parties until May 2 to raise legal arguments for or against the selection process and selection of the hearing officer.

Today’s sixteen-page decision denies the Petitioners’ objections and directs Judge Amano to begin the contested case process.

National Science Foundation Awards $20 Million Dollar Grant to UH System for Clean Water Research Project

Today, Hawaii’s Congressional Delegation announced that the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a $20,000,000 grant to the University of Hawaii System for a clean water research project. The project, titled Ike Wai from the Hawaiian words for knowledge and water, will address the critical needs of the state to maintain its supply of clean water, most of which comes from groundwater sources.

Ike Wai

“This grant will greatly improve our understanding of one of Hawaii’s most precious natural resources,” said Representative Mark Takai (HI-01). “Through public-private collaboration with federal, state and local agencies, we can increase the efficiency of our state’s water management, and ensure that we have the federal resources necessary to promote a workforce capable of conducting this type of research for generations to come.”

“Due to our volcanic origins, our system of aquifers is far more complex than we once thought,” said U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i). “This grant will allow scientists to use modern mapping tools to provide policymakers with critical information about our water resources, and help ensure that there is enough for the needs of people, agriculture, and future generations.”

“Hawaii’s water is a precious resource, and this competitive funding will support the University of Hawaii’s research into protecting our fresh water sources for future generations,” said Senator Mazie K. Hirono, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power. “Ike Wai and other projects that build an innovative, sustainable future are essential to understanding and finding solutions for our island state’s unique needs, and also underscore the importance of significant federal investments in research in these critical areas, something that I strongly support.”

“Pollution, fracking, unsustainable farming practices, and over development have put serious pressure on our clean water supply across the globe. It is essential that we protect and maintain access to fresh and clean water in Hawaiʻi due our isolated location in the Pacific,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02). “There is still much unknown about how water flows through the unique landscapes and volcanic foundations of our islands. This grant from the National Science Foundation will help us to better understand how to use our precious natural resources to ensure a continuous and high quality water supply.”

Ike Wai Valley

The Ike Wai project, awarded under the NSF’s Research Infrastructure Improvements Program, will greatly improve understanding of where the water that provides for the needs of Hawaii’s cities, farms, and industries comes from and how to ensure a continued, high quality supply. This supply is under increasing pressures from population growth, economic development, and climate change. The funding provided by the NSF will encourage collaboration with federal, state, and local agencies and community groups concerned with water management.

Hirono, Ige, Public Health, and Emergency Response Experts Raise Awareness, Call for Funding To Fight Zika

Senator Mazie K. Hirono, Governor David Ige, Hawaii Director of Health Dr. Virginia Pressler, State Administrator of Emergency Management Vern Miyagi, Healthcare Association of Hawaii emergency responders, and Dr. Elliot Parks, CEO of Hawaii Biotech today called for increased public awareness and additional federal resources to prepare for and fight the Zika virus in Hawaii and across the country. Senator Hirono and Governor Ige also got a firsthand look at Hawaii Biotech’s work to develop a Zika vaccine.

Senator Hirono and Governor Ige get a firsthand look at Hawaii Biotech’s work in developing a Zika virus vaccine.

Senator Hirono and Governor Ige get a firsthand look at Hawaii Biotech’s work in developing a Zika virus vaccine.

“As Hawaii continues to recover from the recent dengue fever outbreak, we must act before the Zika virus poses a major threat to Hawaii families,” said Senator Hirono. “Bringing together Governor Ige and Zika experts today underscored that we must ensure first responders, state and county governments, and pioneering scientists like Dr. Parks have the necessary resources to face Zika head on. Stopping a widespread U.S. Zika outbreak requires a comprehensive approach and that’s why I’ll continue to push for action on the President’s emergency funding request to fund vector control, education programs, and vaccine development in Hawaii.”

“We all have a stake in preventing the Zika virus and other mosquito borne illnesses from taking hold in Hawaii. We must continue our collaboration and coordinated statewide fight against these illnesses, and with much needed support from the federal government, we will work to reduce the risks here in Hawaii and across the country,” said Governor David Ige.

“Although Zika is not currently circulating in Hawaii and there have been no locally-acquired cases, the mosquitoes that can transmit Zika – the same species that transmit dengue fever and chikungunya – are found in Hawaii, so the virus could be brought into our state by an infected traveler if precautions are not taken,” said Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler, Hawaii State Department of Health. “All of the cases identified here have been travel-related and infected while outside of Hawaii, and the risk of imported cases increases as we head into warmer summer months and peak travel season. It is crucial for infected individuals to avoid mosquito exposure for three weeks upon their return home. The Department of Health aggressively investigates all reported cases of Zika to reduce the possibility of the disease spreading in our state.”

“We thank Senator Hirono for highlighting the dangerous potential for a Zika outbreak in Hawaii. The recent fight against Dengue has prepared us for Zika however we must continue our efforts to eliminate the mosquito vector. County, state, and Federal agencies can provide support and guidance, but success can only come as the result of a strong and sustained community effort to eliminate the mosquito vector and its breeding grounds,” said State Administrator of Emergency Management Vern Miyagi.

“It’s important for Hawaii to prepare now in order to prevent or minimize a Zika outbreak,” said Chris Crabtree, Interim Director of Emergency Services, Healthcare Association of Hawaii Emergency Services. “HAH Emergency Services has been supporting the efforts of the state and community partners during the dengue outbreak, and is prepared to do the same for future outbreaks of any infectious disease including Zika. Active preparation can prevent or reduce the health impact of disease outbreaks and increase the safety of our residents and visitors. We support any increase in aid to fight Zika.”

“We strongly support Senator Hirono’s call for the Federal government’s leadership in the battle against the Zika virus. Hawaii Biotech is working diligently to rapidly develop a safe and effective vaccine to protect all of us from this dangerous virus,” said Dr. Elliot Parks, CEO of Hawaii Biotech, Inc.

For nearly three months, Congressional Republicans have failed to respond to the President’s emergency funding request, even though the virus continues to spread from South America. In Hawaii, there are nine confirmed cases of Zika since 2015, which includes a case of an infected infant born with microcephaly, a serious birth defect directly linked to Zika. On Friday, the first U.S. death caused by Zika was reported in Puerto Rico.

Senator Hirono is an original cosponsor of federal legislation that would fund the President’s emergency request to provide resources for education and outreach programs, shore up Hawaii health care workers’ response to Zika, increase Hawaii vector control programs, and support the work of companies like Hawaii Biotech, which is racing to develop a Zika vaccine.