Tropical Storm Darby Update: Tropical Storm Strength Through the Weekend

High clouds have been streaming toward the northeast which indicates the cyclone is beginning to feel an approaching upper level trough. One of the later passes through Darby by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron’s WC-130J helped confirm the center position of the system toward the end of the morning mission though the aircraft had to fly lower to find it. Based on the morning recon mission and the maintenance of deep convection, the initial intensity has been held at 50 kt. Note that this is higher than the subjective Dvorak estimates of 45 kt from PHFO and SAB, and 30 kt from JTWC. The next aircraft mission into Darby is scheduled for this evening.

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Click to enlarge

Darby is estimated to be moving at 280/11 kt to the south of a ridge. This ridge is forecast to weaken due to a low pressure system digging southward to the north of cyclone. This weakness is expected to decrease Darby’s forward motion over the next day, and increase the amount of vertical shear affecting the system this weekend.

The trusted dynamical models have remained largely consistent today, bringing Darby over the Big Island on Saturday. Thus, the current forecast has been nudged southward closer to the dynamical consensus with a landfall on the Big Island, followed by a path over Maui County and near Oahu. The latter part of this path assumes that Darby survives its impact on the Big Island which is not a certainty.

ProbabilityThe intensity forecast rationale remains the same since the last package. The main factors affecting the intensity forecast include marginal sea surface temperatures, the amount and timing of vertical wind shear, and the effects of any potential interactions with the Hawaiian Islands.

Sea surface temperatures will remain marginal near 26.5C over the next couple of days but vertical shear is expected to increase as the previously mentioned upper level trough digs farther south. This shear increase is not expected to become strong until later this weekend.

The forecast calls for only slow weakening with Darby maintaining tropical storm strength through the weekend. This is consistent with the previous package but slightly lower than the intensity consensus. Interactions with the Big Island may cause significant disruptions to Darby so the intensity forecast confidence is not high at this time.

Tropical Storm Darby Update – Direct Impact Possible on Big Island and Maui

The first Air Force Reserve 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron mission into Darby found maximum SFMR winds of just over 50 knots but the initial passes had difficulty determining the location of the low level center. Based on the recon data thus far, the tropical storm force radius was expanded slightly in the northern semicircle and Darby has been held at 50 kt for this advisory package.

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Click to enlarge

Darby is estimated to be moving at 270/10 kt to the south of a ridge. This ridge is forecast to weaken due to a low pressure system digging southward to the north of Darby. This is expected to decrease the forward motion over the next day, and increase the amount of vertical shear on the tropical cyclone this weekend. The trusted objective aids are consistent with this scenario but have shifted southward slightly with some solutions indicating landfall over the Big Island. As a result, the current forecast has been shifted southward a bit and is between the dynamical consensus and the previous forecast. Given current guidance trends, a direct impact on the Big Island and Maui is a distinct possibility this weekend.

Flash Flood Watch Issued for Big Island and Maui

All eyes are on Tropical Storm Darby, and the forecast details are highly dependent on its eventual track and intensity as it approaches the islands. Unfortunately, a track more on left side of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC) forecast cone would result in a much greater threat of damaging winds and intense rainfall, and possibly to a much larger part of the state.

Darby Satellite 721At this point, we cannot rule that out and we encourage people to get prepared for that very significant possibility. Tropical cyclone related headlines appear likely to be issued today.

Stay tuned to the latest from CPHC because adjustments are likely to the forecast as we go along. The peripheral moisture from Darby will start to bring some showers to windward Big Island tonight and increase on Friday. More significant bands of heavy showers and squalls associated with Darby are likely to start Friday night, then increase in intensity and frequency as the tropical storm gets closer.

Thus, we have issued a Flash Flood Watch that includes Maui and the Big Island for now. It is very possible we may have to expand the watch to include more areas if the CPHC track continues to shift westward. Until Darby gets close, we will see good conditions for getting ready, with typical trade wind weather with passing mainly windward and mauka showers, especially mornings and nights. After Darby passes, moist, humid southeast flow will continue during the first half of next week.

Based on the latest data from Wavewatch III, we have upgraded the High Surf Advisory to a High Surf Warning for the E facing shores of Maui and the Big Island starting at 6 am Friday. Wavewatch III shows longer period swell reaching 13 feet/13 seconds, so we went with surf heights of 12-20 feet for now.

Also raised the east- shore heights in the remaining advisory areas, to 8 to 12 feet. Adjustments may be needed to any of these details based on what Darby eventually does. Currently the High Surf Advisory for the other islands only goes through 6 am Saturday, but it may need to be expanded or extended as we get a better handle on what Darby will do. Winds and seas directly associated with Darby are likely to start increasing over the southeast offshore waters starting tonight, then spreading westward toward the state on Friday.

Winds and seas will begin increasing over the Big Island southeast waters on Friday, and continue spreading through the coastal waters zones near the Big Island and Maui after that. Although the Small Craft Advisory currently only goes through 6 pm Friday, we will likely be replacing that with tropical cyclone headlines today.

Tropical Storm WATCH Issued for Hawaii and Maui Counties

A Tropical Storm Watch has been issued for Hawaii County and Maui County.

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Click to enlarge

A Tropical Storm watch is in effect for:

  • Hawaii County
  • Maui County, including the islands of Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe

A Tropical Storm watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area within 48 hours.

Hawaii Legislature Overrides Governor’s Veto of SB 2077

The State House and Senate today voted to override Gov. David Ige’s veto of SB 2077 to preserve the management transfer of three state run Maui hospitals to Kaiser Permanente.

The bill, now a state law, authorizes severance benefits or early retirement incentives for employees who would be directly affected by the impending privatization of state hospital operations on Maui and Lanai.

Last year state lawmakers authorized the privatization of Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital & Clinic and Lanai Community Hospital, and the state reached an agreement in January, 2016 to have Kaiser Permanente operate all three.

Lawmakers were concerned that if they did not override the veto, the transfer would be in jeopardy along with the health and safety of Maui residents and visitors.

The hospital transfer would be the largest privatization of public facilities in state history, and Gov. Ige has predicted it will save the state $260 million in hospital subsidies over the next decade.

Veto Votes

The House with 43 votes… voted to override the Governors veto of SB2077. It is now law. Photo via Senator Kahele Facebook page.

U.S. Senate Passes Hirono Resolution Honoring 100th Anniversary of Hawaii’s National Parks

The United States Senate passed a resolution authored by Senator Mazie K. Hirono honoring the 100th anniversaries of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii Island and Haleakala National Park on Maui. Senator Hirono’s resolution recognizes August 1 as “Hawaii Volcanoes and Haleakala National Parks Day.”

Volcano at night

“For the last century, residents of Hawaii, the United States, and the world have visited Haleakala National Park and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and gained a greater appreciation for the natural environment, the history of Hawaii, and Native Hawaiian culture,” said Senator Hirono. “I thank my colleagues for joining me in this effort, and encourage as many people as possible from across the nation to come to Hawaii to visit these national treasures.”

Senator Hirono’s resolution recognizes the economic, scientific, and cultural value of Hawaii’s national parks. In 2015, visitors to Haleakala National Park spent over $76 million in surrounding communities, supporting nearly 1,000 jobs. Visitors to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park spent over $151 million in areas around the park, and supported nearly 2,000 local jobs.

Hawaii House and Senate Meet in Special Session to Amend Maui Hospital Workers Bill

The House and Senate met today in special session following Gov. David Ige’s veto of SB2077.

Click to see bill

Click to see bill

The bill provides state benefits to workers facing position abolishment, reduction-in-forces or workforce restructuring as the state moves forward with an agreement to have Kaiser Permanente assume control of operations at Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital and Lanai Community Hospital.

Legislative leaders said they will not move to override the governor’s veto, but will work with him to fashion a bill that will protect the health, safety and welfare of Maui residents and ensure a smooth transition from public to private management of Maui hospitals.

The legislature will be in recess until Monday morning when it will reconvene at 11 a.m. to take up amendments to the bill. The recess will also give time for the governor to negotiate a settlement with the UPW in its lawsuit objecting to the transition.

A final vote on the amended bill is expected on Wednesday, July 20.

Live Snake Captured on Maui Coffee Farm

A live snake was captured by a worker on a Maui coffee farm on Friday afternoon, July 1, 2016. The snake was reported to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture on Maui and a plant quarantine inspector picked up the snake, which was later identified as a non-venomous ball python.

Ball Python Found on Maui Coffee Farm

Ball Python Found on Maui Coffee Farm

The snake measured about three to four feet long and was euthanized on Maui due to its condition. It is not known how the snake got to the farm, which is located in Kaanapali.

Ball pythons are non-venomous and are common in the pet trade on the mainland. They are native to Western and West-Central Africa and are related to boas, which are also constrictors that subdue its prey by coiling around and suffocating it. Its diet usually consists of small mammals and birds. Ball pythons may grow up to six-feet long.

Snakes have no natural predators in Hawaii and pose a serious threat to Hawaii’s environment. Many species also prey on birds and their eggs, increasing the threat to endangered native birds. Large snakes can also be a danger to the public and small pets.

Individuals who see or know of illegal animals in Hawaii are encouraged to contact the State’s toll-free PEST HOTLINE at 643-PEST (7378).

Illegal Dirt Bike Racing Results in 46 Citations – 10 Impounds

46 criminal citations were written and 10 off-road motorcycles were impounded as evidence after officers from the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) observed illegal dirt biking in Maui’s Kula Forest Reserve on Sunday, July 3, 2016.

DLNR

Officers cited one juvenile and nine adults and they each face multiple charges including prohibited motorized vehicle operation in a non-designated area; prohibited operation of non-four wheel drive vehicle; and several counts of vehicle and transportation prohibitions for unlicensed, untaxed and no plates. The dirt bikers allegedly accessed the forest reserve by trespassing through private property.

Acting DOCARE Enforcement Chief Jason Redulla said, “Our Maui officers have been receiving on-going complaints from hikers, hunters, and mountain bikers about illegal motorcycle riding on trails designated for foot or mountain bike traffic only.  Hikers report having to jump off the trail due to a motorcyclist operating illegally.  Areas of cultural significance are being damaged and natural resources are being negatively impacted.” The Kula Forest Service on the slopes of Mt. Haleakala contains designated hunting areas, numerous recreational hiking and mountain bike trails, as well as Polipoli State Park.

Redulla commented, “Some social media postings are painting DOCARE’s actions in a negative light and the dirt bikers as victims.  Our officers are sworn to uphold the laws, rules and regulations, designed to protect public safety and the natural and cultural resources of Hawaii.  To suggest, their actions, based on public complaints, is somehow wrong, is quite simply, not accurate.” 

Flags to Fly at Half-Staff in honor of Former Mayor and House Speaker Elmer Cravalho

As a mark of respect for the late former Maui County Mayor Elmer Cravalho, Gov. David Ige has ordered that the flags of the United States and State of Hawai‘i shall be flown at half-staff at all state offices and agencies, as well as the Hawai‘i National Guard, from sunrise to sunset on Wednesday, July 6, 2016.

half flag

“Former Speaker Cravalho was a trailblazer who helped shaped the Democratic Party and the island of Maui. He will be remembered for his many years in public service, especially his work to support the underprivileged on the Valley Isle,” said Gov. David Ige.

Cravalho began his political career in 1955 when he was elected to the Territorial House of Representatives. It was Cravalho who relayed the message from then Territorial Delegate John Burns in Washington, D.C., to a cramped House of Representatives at I’olani Palace that the U.S. Congress had approved statehood for Hawai‘i. Cravalho served as speaker of the Territorial and State House from 1959-1967.

He was elected as Maui’s first mayor in 1969 under a new charter provision that established the current political system, and served until 1979 when he suddenly left office after reelection to a second term. As mayor, Cravalho is credited with promoting the development of South Maui.

Born in Paia, Maui, Cravalho was one of seven children.

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.

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

Zika Virus Case Suspected on Maui

The Maui County District Health Office and the County of Maui jointly announced today a suspected case of Zika virus brought to the island by a resident who became ill while traveling in Latin America and upon return to Maui in February.

While initial lab tests were not conclusive, results did warrant further testing and pointed to a high probability of Zika, which carries other, more serious impacts than Dengue Fever.

Both Dengue Fever and Zika are spread when a sick person gets bit by a mosquito, which later bites another person. Evidence suggests that Zika can also be transmitted through sexual contact if a man has been infected. The best way to prevent both Dengue and Zika is to take mosquito control measures, and to avoid getting bitten. Some who carry Zika do not show symptoms, and in others, illness may last from several days to over a week. There is currently no cure for either virus.

“Because the lab results thus far point to the high probability of Zika, we are taking this very seriously,” said Dr. Lorrin Pang, Maui County District Health Officer. “We need the public’s help in preventing the spread of whichever virus caused the illness so that we don’t get locally transmitted cases. The best way to do this is to eliminate mosquito breeding sites and make sure people avoid getting mosquito bites.”

Additionally, Department of Health and County of Maui staff and volunteers will be conducting site visits in various areas along the North Shore of Maui this weekend to assess problem areas for mosquito breeding and inform residents of the need to take precautions against mosquito-borne viruses.

“If you receive a flyer or letter from the Department of Health, please be sure to read the information carefully, as this public health issue affects us all,” said Mayor Alan Arakawa. “This is the time for our community to step up efforts to ‘fight the bite,’ by seeing a doctor if you have even mild symptoms, especially if you have traveled to parts of the world where there are outbreaks of these viruses.”

The public is advised that anyone who has traveled outside the country and has mild to severe symptoms such as fever, joint pain, rash or pink eye to see their physician. All residents and visitors should avoid getting mosquito bites by using repellent and wearing light-colored clothing with long sleeves, pants, shoes and socks when outdoors. Residents should fix broken window and door screens at home, and get rid of standing water in the yard. Old tires, buckets, toys and plants, especially bromeliads, can become breeding sites for mosquitos. A mixture of soapy water (1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap to 16 ounces of water in a spray bottle) can be sprayed on backyard plants to control mosquito larvae.

For more tips on how to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne viruses, visit www.mauiready.org.

Hawaii Department of Health Cites Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company for Burn Permit Violations

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) Clean Air Branch has issued a Notice and Finding of Violation and Order against Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company (HC&S).

PrintHC&S operates a sugar cane refinery and plantation at Puunene on Maui, and was cited for agricultural burning permit violations that occurred in May, June and July of 2015.

The violations were self-reported and after a review of the reports a penalty of $8,300 was issued by DOH and paid by HC&S. Copies of the Notice of Violation are posted at http://health.hawaii.gov/cab/.

The DOH Clean Air Branch monitors air quality and regulates businesses that release pollutants into the air. The Branch reviews and approves air permits, evaluates and enforces state and federal air standards, conducts inspections, and investigates reported incidents related to outdoor air quality. Through the air permit process, the Branch ensures companies comply with state and federal emission standards to minimize air pollution impacts on the public.

BREAKING NEWS – Dengue Fever Case Reported on Maui

The Hawaii State Department of Health sent out a memo on January 29th to Maui residents notifying them that a Dengue Fever case has been confirmed on the Island of Maui.
Dengue Fever Case in MauiAs of today on the Big Island of Hawaii… we currently have 244 confirmed cases of Dengue Fever with no end in site.

Coast Guard Responds to Report of Flares Off Maui – Rescues Mariner

The Coast Guard rescued a mariner aboard a disabled 18-foot recreational vessel following a report of four red flares off Maui Thursday night.

Cadets and crew aboard Coast Guard Cutter Eagle fire pencil flares off the fantail of the ship as part of a pyrotechnics training session Saturday, July 4, 2009. In recognition of the national holiday, everyone aboard also participated in the Square-Rigger Olympics, pyrotechnics training, and karaoke on the ship's waist later that night. (U.S. Coast Guard photo/Petty Officer 2nd Class Etta Smith)

Cadets and crew aboard Coast Guard Cutter Eagle fire pencil flares off the fantail of the ship as part of a pyrotechnics training session Saturday, July 4, 2009. In recognition of the national holiday, everyone aboard also participated in the Square-Rigger Olympics, pyrotechnics training, and karaoke on the ship’s waist later that night. (U.S. Coast Guard photo/Petty Officer 2nd Class Etta Smith)

A Station Maui 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crew located the mariner during a search 5 miles west of Kihei and towed the vessel back to Maui.

Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Honolulu received a report of three red flares off Kihei around 9:23 p.m. A fourth flare was sighted by Maui Fire Department personnel from the shoreline shortly after.

The watchstanders launched an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Air Station Barbers Point and the RBM crew from Maui to respond. The RBM crew sighted the mariner and confirmed he launched the flares before towing him back to Kihei.

“This mariner did everything right with his flares and the case illustrates the importance of having proper emergency gear aboard your vessel,” said Charles Turner, of Coast Guard Sector Honolulu. “In addition to required flares and flotation we recommend mariners have multiple forms of communication with them including a handheld VHF-FM radio, charged cellular devices and a properly registered personal locator beacon if possible. It’s State law to have a VHF radio on your boat if you’re more than a mile offshore. Communications can be a challenge around the islands and not all devices may have consistent coverage. It’s also a good idea to leave word with friends or family about your voyage and when you intend to return so they can alert responders if you are overdue.”

Flares should never be used as fireworks as they may prompt a Coast Guard search. If you are conducting flare training please contact the Coast Guard to advise them of the location and time of the training to deconflict any search and rescue calls. Flares are especially useful at night and burn red or white. Mariners who choose to further mark their location and signal with chemical lights are asked to use red colored lights as the typical yellow and green and very hard for rescue crews to detect with night vision goggles.

Alexander & Baldwin Announces Transition of Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company to a Diversified Farm Model

Alexander & Baldwin, Inc. today announced that it is transitioning out of farming sugar and will instead pursue a diversified agricultural model for its 36,000-acre Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company (“HC&S”) plantation on Maui.

Alexander and BaldwinSugar operations will be phased out by the end of 2016, and the transition to a new model will occur over a multi-year period. No immediate layoffs will result from today’s announcement and approximately half of the 675 employees will be retained through the end of the sugar harvest, which is expected to be completed late in 2016. Beginning in March, employees will be laid off as their specific functions are completed. Under the new diversified model, the plantation is planned to be divided up into smaller farms with varied agricultural uses, potentially including energy crops, food crops, support for the local cattle industry, and the development of an agriculture park.

“A&B’s roots literally began with the planting of sugar cane on 570 acres in Makawao, Maui, 145 years ago,” said Stanley M. Kuriyama, A&B executive chairman. “Much of the state’s population would not be in Hawaii today, myself included, if our grandparents or great-grandparents had not had the opportunity to work on the sugar plantations. A&B has demonstrated incredible support for HC&S over these many years, keeping our operation running for 16 years after the last sugar company on Maui closed its doors. We have made every effort to avoid having to take this action. However, the roughly $30 million Agribusiness operating loss we expect to incur in 2015, and the forecast for continued significant losses, clearly are not sustainable, and we must now move forward with a new concept for our lands that allows us to keep them in productive agricultural use.”

“This is a sad day for A&B, and it is with great regret that we have reached this decision,” said Christopher J. Benjamin, A&B president and chief executive officer, who ran HC&S as its general manager from 2009 to 2011. “Having had the privilege of working alongside the employees of HC&S for two years, I know firsthand the professionalism and dedication with which they perform their jobs. The longevity of the plantation is a testament to their resourcefulness and hard work. This transition will certainly impact these employees and we will do everything we can to assist them. The cessation of sugar operations also will have a significant impact on the Maui community and we will do our best to minimize that impact. A&B remains committed to Maui and will continue to be a significant corporate supporter of Maui charities and organizations.”

Employee Transition & Support
A&B is committed to supporting its impacted employees. The Company will provide transition coordinators to assist HC&S employees in finding alternate employment opportunities. The coordinators will identify and coordinate available federal, state, county and private job assistance programs (including employment counseling, job training, financial counseling, job placement and education services).  A&B will offer all employees enhanced severance and benefit packages. Retirement benefits accrued by eligible employees, retirees, and past employees will not be affected by the transition out of sugar. Additionally, the Company will consider displaced employees for positions in its new operations as they become available.

“We are very focused on helping our employees during this time,” Benjamin said. “Many of our employees have dedicated their careers to HC&S and have followed in the footsteps of previous generations of family members that worked on the plantation. We are grateful for their years of service and we will support them through this transition period.”

Transition to Diversified Agriculture
“A&B is committed to looking for optimal productive agricultural uses for the HC&S lands,” said Benjamin. “Community engagement, resource stewardship, food sustainability and renewable energy are all being considered as we define the new business model for the plantation. These are leading us toward a more diversified mix of operations.”

The Company is evaluating several categories of potential replacement agricultural activities. These include energy crops, agroforestry, grass-finished livestock operations, diversified food crops, and orchard crops, among others.

HC&S has several test projects underway to further assess these opportunities, and the Company plans to expand the scope and scale of the trials during the coming year. Initial projects include:

  • Energy crops:  Building upon its extensive experience with crop-to-energy production, HC&S has initiated crop trials to evaluate potential sources of feedstock for anaerobic conversion to biogas. This on-farm testing currently is being expanded from plot to field-scale and HC&S has entered into a confidential memorandum of understanding with local and national partners to explore market opportunities for biogas. HC&S also is assessing the potential of cultivating purpose-grown oilseed crops for biodiesel production and has entered into preliminary, but confidential, discussions with other bioenergy industry players to explore additional crop-to-energy opportunities.
  • Support for the local cattle industry:  The Company is exploring the costs and benefits of irrigated pasture to support the production of grass-finished beef for the local market. HC&S has converted a test site of former sugar land to cultivated pasture and is working with Maui Cattle Company to conduct a grass-finishing pasture trial in 2016. High-quality grazing lands could enable Maui’s cattle ranchers to expand their herds and keep more cattle in Hawaii for finishing on grass.
  • Food crops/Agriculture park:  A&B plans to establish an agriculture park on former sugar lands in order to provide opportunities for farmers to access these agricultural lands and support the cultivation of food crops on Maui. HC&S employees will be given preference to lease lots from the company to start their own farming operations.

“Transitioning HC&S to a diversified agribusiness model underscores A&B’s commitment to the community and our intention to keep these lands in active agricultural use,” said Benjamin. “It will take time but, if successful, these efforts could support the goals of food and energy self-sufficiency for Hawaii, preserve productive agricultural lands, and establish new economic engines for Maui and the state.”

Tropical Storm Watch Issued for Hawaii and Maui Counties

A TROPICAL STORM WATCH HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR HAWAII COUNTY AND MAUI COUNTY.

Guillermo2

SUMMARY OF WATCHES AND WARNINGS IN EFFECT:

A TROPICAL STORM WATCH IS IN EFFECT FOR…

* HAWAII COUNTY

* MAUI COUNTY…INCLUDING THE ISLANDS OF MAUI…MOLOKAI…LANAI AND KAHOOLAWE

A TROPICAL STORM WATCH MEANS THAT TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE POSSIBLE WITHIN THE WATCH AREA…GENERALLY WITHIN 48 HOURS.

INTERESTS ELSEWHERE IN THE MAIN HAWAIIAN ISLANDS SHOULD MONITOR THE PROGRESS OF GUILLERMO. WATCHES MAY BE REQUIRED FOR ADDITIONAL ISLANDS LATER TONIGHT OR EARLY TUESDAY.

FOR STORM INFORMATION SPECIFIC FOR YOUR AREA…PLEASE MONITOR PRODUCTS ISSUED BY THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN HONOLULU.

Former Maui Mayoral Candidate Sentenced to 20 Years Prison for Securities Fraud

Nelson N. Waikiki, a former 2014 candidate for Maui mayor, was sentenced Friday by Maui circuit judge Rhonda I. L. Loo to 20 years in prison for securities fraud, the state attorney general’s office announced.

Nelson Waikiki

Nelson N. Waikiki

“Mr. Waikiki convinced several people to invest money in a water rights company on Maui,” said Deputy Attorney General Albert Cook. “Following an investigation by the State, it was determined that Mr. Waikiki did not have any such rights to the water, that he was not registered to sell securities in Hawaii, and that the securities he sold were not registered. In total, Mr. Waikiki’s schemes scammed up to 21 victims for more than $100,000.00.”

In addition to sentencing Waikiki to two consecutive 10-year prison terms for four counts of securities fraud, Judge Loo has ordered Waikiki to pay restitution to the victims.

DLNR Closes Maui Beach After Fatal Shark Attack

The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) has closed Makena State Park and ocean waters from Big Beach to La Perouse light house to swimmers, divers, and other ocean users.

Makena State Park Beach is closed after a fatal shark attack.

Makena State Park Beach is closed after a fatal shark attack.

This is in response to a fatal shark bite this morning in the Kanahena Cove area of Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve.  DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officers, Division of Aquatic Resources staff, and County lifeguards are on scene to investigate and warn the public. Shark warning signs are being posted. Further details about the incident are pending.

The area will be closed at least until noon tomorrow, at which time officials on the scene will assess the area for reopening.

Details about other recent shark incidents in Hawaii can be found at http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/sharks/shark-incidents/incidents-list/