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Ige Appoints Interim Director of Department of Human Resources Development

Hawaii Governor Ige appointed Ryker Wada to serve as interim director of the Department of Human Resources Development effective Jan. 1, 2018 following the Dec. 31st retirement of Director James Nishimoto, who devoted over 40 years of his career to public service.

Ryker Wada

Wada has served as deputy director of the department since Dec. 2016. Prior to this he was the Certificated Personnel Regional Officer for the Windward District of the Department of Education (DOE) where he was responsible for human resources and labor relations.

Before joining DOE he served as the Managing Attorney for the Honolulu Office of the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii. Wada earned a B.A. from the University of Washington and a J.D. from the University of California Hastings College of the Law.

HDOT Celebrates New Improvement Projects at Hilo Harbor

The Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT), Harbors Division, celebrated the blessing of Hilo Harbor’s newly completed Pier 4 cargo wharf project, the Pier 1 cargo yard and passenger terminal improvements. The projects are designed to increase operational space and increase cargo handling efficiencies. The improvements to the passenger terminal will create a more pleasant and comfortable environment for cruise passengers.

Kahu Danny Akaka Jr. performs a blessing of the Pier 4 cargo wharf project, Pier 1 cargo yard and passenger terminal improvements at Hilo Harbor.

“These projects are more than brick and mortar improvements, they’re about providing opportunities for our people and meeting the needs of our communities,” said Gov. David Ige. “We are ensuring the viability of our commercial harbor system and encouraging a healthy job market that includes work opportunities in transportation, maritime related trades, hospitality and tourism, not to mention the local consultants and contractors the state has employed to complete the job.”

The Pier 1 Shed Modifications, Phase II project consisted of several improvements that upgraded the operational efficiency at Pier 1 by removing approximately 40 percent of the Pier 1 shed structure. This will allow vessel operators improved utilization of the pier, increasing cargo yard capacity and improving the cruise passenger experience. In addition, there is new asphalt concrete pavement, fire protection and lighting in the new cargo yard.

Other improvements to the Pier 1 shed create a more pleasant and comfortable environment to enhance the cruise passenger experience in Hilo. They include renovated restrooms, a new security room, a new fire alarm system and additional fire sprinklers throughout the shed. Work also included lead paint and asbestos abatement and disposal.

“Our shed modifications at Pier 1 enable better utilization of pier side facilities, helping to improve efficiencies in our cargo yard while improvements inside the passenger terminal will make our visitors’ experience more comfortable,” explained Interim Director of Transportation, Jade Butay. “In addition, the new improvements at our Pier 4 cargo terminal will alleviate some of the logistical challenges and improve our interisland cargo operations in the Port of Hilo. I want to congratulate our Harbors team as well as our partners – the Hawaii Harbors Users Group (HHUG), our consultant and contractors on a job well done.”

Development of the Pier 4 cargo terminal was separated into several phases including: dredging, container yard development, and Kumau Street improvements. In addition to the newly constructed Pier 4 wharf structure, safety and efficiency improvements were made by separating cargo and passenger operations at Hilo Harbor. An additional berth space was also created to accommodate the growing general maritime and cruise industries. Finally, a new interisland pier replaces the aging Pier 2, which is unable to accommodate the new container handling equipment and vessels.

“This is a momentous occasion not only for the Department of Transportation Harbors Division but for our cargo operations in Hilo as well,” stated Glenn Hong, President, Young Brothers, Ltd. “We’ve worked closely with the department to design this modern interisland cargo terminal at Pier 4 that will meet Hawaii Island’s needs into the future, allowing us to return to a two ramp operation so we can continue to serve this retail market and especially the mom-n-pop businesses that are the heart of our local economy. I want to extend my appreciation to Gov. Ige and his administration, Interim Director Jade Butay, Harbors Deputy Darrell Young and his Harbors team for their collaboration and hard work in making these facility improvements a reality. Mahalo Nui!”

The Pier 4 terminal project adds much needed cargo capacity to the Port of Hilo. Constructed in the early 1920s, Pier 2 cargo activities are restricted, limiting operations and full utilization of the terminal space. Delivery of interisland cargo on Pier 2’s narrow apron requires use of the area between Piers 1 and 3, creating a comingling of both cargo and cruise ship operations that compromises the safety of passengers and pedestrians and affects cargo operating efficiency.

Partners In Development Foundation Receives FLEX Grant Award From Hawai‘i Community Foundation

Partners In Development Foundation (PIDF) has received a grant award for unrestricted support from the Hawai‘i Community Foundation (HCF) in the amount of $49,000.

This was made possible through their FLEX Grants program, which is made up of a partnership of many funds to support operating of high performing nonprofits. This particular award was comprised of the following funds:

  • Annie Sinclair Knudsen Memorial Fund – Restricted to support programs/projects benefiting Kauaʻi.
  • Marisla Fund – Funds restricted to support programs/projects benefiting Kauaʻi.
  • Reverend Takie Okumura Family Fund – To support programs that support healthy development of Hawaiʻi’s young children (birth to 5 years old) and youth (ages 6-20 years old).
  • Richard Smart Fund – Funds restricted to support programs/projects benefiting Waimea.
  • Tai Up Yang Fund
  • Henry A. Zuberano Early Education Fund

Funds received will benefit PIDF’s Tūtū and Me Traveling Preschool, Hui Hoʻomalu Foster Care program, Ke Kama Pono Safehouse for adjudicated youth, Nā Pono No Nā ʻOhana Family education program on the islands of Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i and Oʻahu, as well as PIDF operations statewide.

FREE Wi-Fi Now Available at Honolulu Airport

The Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) Airports Division is pleased to deliver free Wi-Fi at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) just in time for the holidays. A soft launch began December 14, 2017 and within minutes travelers discovered the free Wi-Fi and immediately connected to the new service. The Wi-Fi is available through Boingo Wireless (Nasdaq: WIFI) which operates wireless networks in major airports, stadiums, campuses, military bases and commercial properties throughout the country and world.

“Free Wi-Fi is a highly requested service and my administration is thrilled to make it happen,” said Governor David Y. Ige. “Thousands of people have connected in just the first week of the new service, further enhancing the passenger experience.”

“Boingo is proud to work alongside HDOT to unlock fast, free connectivity for travelers,” said David Hagan, CEO, Boingo. “We look forward to connecting the millions of passengers that fly through Hawaii’s airports each year and satisfy their mobile demands.”

The Wi-Fi coverage area at HNL includes the Overseas Terminal and Central Concourse on the first and second levels between ticket lobbies 4-8, gates 12-25 and baggage claims E-H. Boingo is working on wireless infrastructure improvements that will add Wi-Fi coverage to the Diamond Head Concourse, Ewa Concourse and Interisland Terminal in the coming months, with airport-wide service anticipated for early spring 2018.

Customers can receive unlimited fast, free Wi-Fi sponsored by advertisers, or can opt for even faster speeds by purchasing a one-day or monthly Boingo subscription. Additional information can be found by visiting the following FAQ website by clicking here.

In addition to Wi-Fi, Boingo is building a Distributed Antenna System (DAS) network at HNL, a wireless solution that is designed to boost cellular connectivity for passengers.

HDOT and Boingo will bring Wi-Fi and DAS networks to additional airports in Hawaii including, Kahului Airport (OGG), Hilo International Airport (ITO), Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole (KOA) and Lihue Airport (LIH) beginning in 2018.

Boingo offers 24/7 customer service by calling 800-880-4117 or emailing support@boingo.com.

Hawaii Supplemental Budget Proposal Builds on Progress Made in Education, Housing, Homelessness, Sustainability, Capital Improvements

Gov. Ige unveiled his Supplemental Budget proposal today, asking the State Legislature to continue supporting programs that tackle many of the challenges our communities face.

“Last year’s biennium budget invested in programs that have helped us address our state’s biggest problems. Evidence shows that we’ve made progress in many of our high priority areas, while being smart about managing taxpayer dollars,” said Gov. Ige.

Housing production is up. Homelessness is down nearly nine percent across the state. Our classrooms are cooler. Hawai‘i is a recognized national and international leader in sustainability and clean energy. And Moody’s Analytics reports that Hawai‘i is one of only 16 states with enough cash reserves to weather the “stress test” of another recession.

SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET OVERVIEW

Operating:
FY 19 amendments total $85.5 million – an increase of .6 percent over FY 19 Operating appropriations in the biennium budget (all revenue sources).

Capital Improvements:
FY 19 amendments total $1.497 billion, an increase of 215 percent over FY 19 CIP appropriations in the biennium budget (all revenue sources).

The state’s improved G.O. bond ratings and lower interest rates make it a favorable time to invest in the state’s infrastructure. These capital projects have broad economic impact, supporting about 14,000 jobs of which 5,520 will be in the construction industry.

BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS:

Education:
• $2.8 million for the Hawaii Keiki program that provides school-based health services
• $1 million for the Early College High School initiative
• $700,000 for the Hawai‘i Promise Scholarship Program
• $15 full-time positions and $1.2 million to support underserved regions and populations at UH Mānoa and the community colleges
Also,
• $150 million in capital improvement projects to improve public school facilities
• $120 million in total CIP for the University of Hawai‘i
The future begins with investing in education and improving school facilities to make a difference for generations of students.

Housing:
We are asking for a cash infusion of more than $100 million. This includes:
• $25 million CIP for the Dwelling Unit Revolving Fund, statewide
• $50 million CIP for the Rental Housing Revolving Fund, statewide
The Department of Hawaiian Homelands is helping in the effort to produce more housing.
• $10 million CIP for repairs and maintenance of existing infrastructure
• $15 million CIP for lot development
“Our efforts are paying off. Since I’ve been in office, 5,300 units have been completed, 40 percent of them affordable. There are another 1,400 under construction and 4,500 units in the planning stages. Let’s build on our momentum,” Ige said.

Homelessness:
• $15 million for Housing First, Rapid Re-Housing, housing subsidies, homeless outreach services, and other homeless initiatives (this includes $5 million for property storage and trash/debris removal)
• $800,000 for homeless outreach and counseling services for chronically homeless persons experiencing severe substance use disorders
To maintain safety in public areas:
• Asking for 8 FTE (full time equivalent) permanent positions and $419,302 for deputy sheriffs positions to support homeless and illegal camping operations
• $300,000 for staff time and equipment to support homelessness policy reinforcement statewide for the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR)
“For the first time in eight years, there are fewer homeless people across the state – a decline of nearly nine percent. We hope the State Legislature continues to support our efforts to put more families in homes and drastically reduce our homeless population,” Ige said.

Sustainable Hawai‘i:
• $5 million for cash infusion for the Agricultural Loan Revolving Fund
• $2.8 million for agricultural infrastructure improvements
• $8.3 million for watershed protection
• $7 million for land acquisition for forest reserve expansion on O‘ahu and Maui
• $8.7 million for state parks infrastructure and improvements
“We are asking for this funding to continue support of the initiatives announced at last year’s IUCN World Conservation Congress – protecting our natural resources, doubling local food production, and growing our economy,” said Ige.
Other highlights:
• $4.5 million for Kupuna Care and Caregivers programs
• $536,819 in operating funds for Maui and Kauai County lifeguard protection at beaches under the jurisdiction of DLNR
• $69 million in revenue bonds for Kona International Airport permanent federal inspection station
• $16.5 million CIP for the Tax System Modernization project
“We see progress on complex issues, and this budget aligns our values and programs with those actions we know will make a difference. My administration remains focused on doing things the right way to achieve the best outcomes for the State of Hawai‘i,” Gov. Ige said.

STUDY: 94% of the Rats in Hilo Are Infected With Rat Lungworm Disease

A University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo research group supported by Hawai‘i Island legislators is urging more control measures be taken to lower the risks of the spread of rat lungworm (RLW) disease.

UH Hilo Rat Lungworm Lab

Findings of a study headed by the Rat Lungworm Working Group at the UH Hilo Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy (DKICP) are described in a paper entitled “High prevalence of Angiostrongylus cantonensis (rat lungworm) on eastern Hawai‘i Island: a closer look at life cycle traits and patterns of infection in wild rats” published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Our study showed almost 94 percent of the rats in the Hilo area are infected with RLW,” said Susan Jarvi, director of the working group who has been researching the progress of the disease for more than six years.

More than 30 other countries report data on RLW, including Australia, Brazil, Thailand and China. Jarvi suggests that due to the lack of diagnostic tools and difficulty in diagnosis, the disease may be underreported. Her group has been adding to the scientific evidence that gives legislators in Hawai‘i the proof they need to become more involved.

“Hawai‘i is able to take the lead globally on assessing the effects of this debilitating disease thanks to this scientific evidence from UH Hilo,” said Senator Kai Kahele, who represents Hawai‘i Senate District 1, which includes Hilo. “The first step in conquering a threat is in knowing the enemy. We can get ahead of the terrifying risks, but these results certainly show the urgency for more research.”

RLW disease is a parasitic infection that reproduces in rats and is transferred to slugs and snails, which can, if ingested intentionally or not, infect people. While symptoms can be mild and flu-like, there have been cases that have resulted in long-term disability and even death.

“UH Hilo continues to support Dr. Jarvi’s efforts to safeguard public health through her research on the system of this disease,” noted UH Hilo Interim Chancellor Marcia Sakai. “We are exploring alternatives with state agencies that will continue to fund this important research, which reflects our commitment to help maintain the health of the community.”

Researchers in this study examined a total of 545 wild rats from multiple sites in the South Hilo District of east Hawai‘i Island. Through evaluation of multiple stages and locations of development of the infection with A. cantonensis, they were able to determine prevalence, and examine patterns of infection. The purpose was to determine how these data can be used to improve risk assessment and guide research development to better prevent and control human infection.

“Defeating this threat to our islands is essential to perpetuating our way of life,” said Representative Chris Todd, who represents Hilo in the Hawai‘i State House of Representatives. “I believe in the research being done at UH Hilo; their work will help us ensure a healthy future for our keiki – we, as a legislature, need to do more to support their mission.”

DKICP and the Hawai‘i Community Foundation – Medical Research supported research in this study. Authors were from DKICP: Jarvi, Stefano Quarta, Steven Jacquier, Kathleen Howe, Deniz Bicakci, Crystal Dasalla, Noelle Lovesy, Kirsten Snook and Robert McHugh; and Chris N. Niebuhr from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal Plant Health Inspection Service’s National Wildlife Research Center, Hawai‘i Field Station in Hilo.

“The clear and present danger of this difficult-to-eradicate disease warrants increased measures to control its spread in both snails, slugs and rodents,” Jarvi said. “Only by deliberate management can we hope to protect human and animal populations.”

DOH Launches First Statewide Media Campaign on Rat Lungworm Disease Prevention

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) recently launched a statewide broadcast media campaign to educate residents and visitors about rat lungworm disease, a potentially devastating illness that can have debilitating effects on an infected person’s brain and spinal cord. Through a partnership with the Hawaii Association of Broadcasters, the campaign aims to increase awareness and prevention of rat lungworm disease through a series of television and radio public education announcements, which are now on air.

Earlier this year, the 2017 Hawaii State Legislature appropriated one million dollars to DOH over the next two years to deliver enhanced response and outreach activities to control the spread of rat lungworm disease. As part of this effort, public education announcements are now running on 40 radio stations and seven television stations to build awareness and inform the public-atlarge about rat lungworm disease and how to prevent it.

“The risk of rat lungworm disease is present on all islands and there are basic steps we can take each day to reduce this risk and help prevent infection,” said Keith Kawaoka, deputy director of environmental health. “Knowledge is the best defense we can provide people with to collectively protect our communities from rat lungworm disease in Hawaii.”

Additionally, visitors to local movie theatres on Hawaii Island, Maui and Oahu can expect to see rat lungworm disease prevention announcements prior to movie showings in December and January. Shopping centers and malls across the state have also posted large-scale announcements reminding patrons to always wash produce before eating and to control rat, slug, and snail populations around their homes and gardens.

Community education was highlighted as a high priority by the Governor’s Rat Lungworm Disease Task Force, a group of local experts from medical, scientific, environmental, and public health fields gathered to actively work on developing guidelines for schools, farms, food
establishments, physicians and other groups on best practices to prevent, control, and manage rat lungworm disease.

Public education has been a collaborative multi-agency effort, involving many partners such as the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA), the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, and John A. Burns School of Medicine, for example. Several informative pieces were created and have been used during informational meetings hosted in all counties by the department throughout the year as well as shared with partners for further distribution into the community.

To date, in 2017, Hawaii has experienced 18 confirmed cases of rat lungworm disease. The most recent case was a Hawaii Island adult resident in Hilo. It is believed the individual accidently ingested an infected slug while drinking from a garden watering hose in late November. The public is urged to take the following precautions to prevent rat lungworm disease:

  • Wash all produce thoroughly under clean and potable running water before eating, especially when eating raw fruits and vegetables;
  • Cook food completely by boiling for 3-5 minutes or heating to 165°F for 15 seconds;
  • Store food and drinks in sealed containers, especially when outdoors;
  • Control and eliminate rats, slugs and snails around the home and garden;
  • Inspect water catchment tanks regularly and always keep them covered;
  • Watch children carefully while playing on the ground and keep them away from areas with slugs and snails;
  • Do not drink from the garden watering hose since slugs and snails that may be inside could be dislodged and swallowed.

DOH will continue its outreach and education efforts centered on rat lungworm disease prevention, especially with the rainy season well upon the state. For more information about rat lungworm disease and DOH’s education campaign, visit: http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/disease_listing/rat-lungworm-angiostrongyliasis/.

Hawaii Current and Upcoming Highway Projects

Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) Deputy Director for Highways, Ed Sniffen, provided an update today, Dec. 14, 2017, on high visibility current and upcoming highways projects statewide.

Hawaii County

  • Keaau-Pahoa Road – 4-lane restriping and Shower Drive Intersection Improvements
    • Work to add a traffic signal at the intersection of Keaau-Pahoa Road (Highway 130) and Shower Drive and the restriping project, which will remove a restricted shoulder lane and add an unrestricted travel lane through restriping from Keaau Town to Shower Drive, will be substantially completed by the beginning of 2018. An update will be sent out at the close of the project to remind Hawaii Island drivers of the changes to the area as well as the reduction of the speed limit to 45 mph (from 55 mph) on Highway 130 between MP 2.3 and 3.7 and between MP 7.4 to 9.9.
  • Queen Kaahumanu Widening, Phase 2
    • The Queen Kaahumanu Highway Widening Project, Phase 2 to widen the existing two-lane highway to a four-lane divided highway from Kealakehe Parkway to Keahole Airport Access Road is expected to be substantially complete by August 2018. Remaining work on the project includes milling and resurfacing of north bound lanes, pavement extension of the north bound lanes, paving of south bound lanes south of Kealakehe Parkway, construction of swales and median barrier in the south segment, side road transitions, and installation of signage, pavement markings, and landscaping.
  • Queen Kaahumanu Highway Intersection Improvements at Kawaihae Road
    • Bid in December 2017, work expected to begin April 2018
    • Project will widen the intersection to provide a right-turn lane for northbound Queen Kaahumanu Highway traffic, a right-turn lane for east bound Kawaihae Road traffic, an acceleration lane on Kawaihae Road and lengthening the left-turn lane for west bound Kawaihae Road traffic.
  • Hawaii Island rumble strip projects – HDOT to install rumble strips where possible to provide tactile and audible warning for motorists straying from their lane. Planned rumble strip projects for Hawaii Island are:
    • Kohala Mountain Road Safety Improvements, MP 7.2 to MP 9.2
      • Advertised November 2017
      • Est. Cost $1-5 Million
      • Project will add milled rumble strips to centerline and shoulders, high friction surface treatment, pavement markings, signage, and curve ahead signs and beacons
    • Mamalahoa Highway Safety Improvements, MP 3.9 to MP 6.9
      • Will advertise December 2017
      • Est. Cost $1-5 Million
      • Project will install milled rumble strips in the centerline and shoulders, pavement markings, and signage, and will upgrade guardrails
    • Queen Kaahumanu Highway Rumble Strip Improvements, Mahaiula to Kawaihae
      • Construction to begin January 2018, estimated completion May 2018
      • Work includes installation of centerline rumble strips, new pavement markings and striping to enhance lane visibility and will be conducted in five phases to minimize impact to motorists

Maui County

  • Lahaina Bypass Phase 1B-2
    • This bypass phase from the vicinity of Olowalu landfill to Hokiokio is expected to be opened to traffic in March 2018 at which time HDOT will redirect traffic from the existing Honoapiilani Highway. Those that would like to bypass Lahaina town will have a more efficient route that takes them away from slow moving beach and town traffic. Moving the main route to west Maui Mauka in this area also protects the corridor from coastal erosion and inundation and allows for future capacity if funding develops.
  • Honoapiilani Highway Improvements, Kapunakea to Keawe
    • At Keawe Street, to prioritize the bypass movements, the intersection will be adjusted to allow for a free right turn movement off of the bypass to continue north to Kaanapali. To accommodate this movement, the double through movements going northbound from Kapunakea through Keawe will be reduced to a single through movement. In addition, the Makai side of the road will be widened to allow for a double left for southbound traffic from Kaanapali to enter the bypass.
    • These adjustments were based on the traffic studies performed for the original and follow up environmental documents, and by the updated traffic studies. In general, we anticipate 70 percent of the traffic through the area will utilize the bypass from Olowalu to Keawe Street. Keawe Street is considered an interim connector as the bypass plans include an extension toward Kaanapali. At this time, the highways program does not include sufficient funding to program the next phase of the bypass.

City and County of Honolulu

  • Kalanianaole Highway Resurfacing – Interstate H-1 to West Hind Drive
    • Resurfacing of Kalanianaole Highway from where the route meets the H-1 Freeway to its intersection with West Hind Drive is expected to begin in April 2018. Joining of the bike lane in the vicinity of Kalani High School will take place as part of this project. Conceptual drawings including the proposed locations of staging areas for this project are available.
  • Likelike Highway Resurfacing
    • The Likelike Highway Resurfacing, School Street to Emmeline Place is expected to be substantially complete by March 2018. Remaining work includes guardrail installation, curb and gutter work, catch basin installation, traffic signal work, paving, and installation of striping, landscaping, and signage. Night work for this project will be complete prior to the beginning of night closures for the Pali Highway Street Lighting and Resurfacing – Kamehameha to Waokanaka.
  • Pali Highway Street Lighting and Resurfacing – Kamehameha to Waokanaka
    • This project, the first of the planned Pali Highway improvements, will repair or replace street lights from Vineyard Boulevard to Kamehameha Highway and will repave Pali Highway from Waokanaka Street to Kamehameha Highway—including the parallel Waokanaka Street and the Pali Highway/Waokanaka Street intersection—and is estimated to be completed in Winter 2019. More information, including the project schedule and a 24/7 hotline number, can be found at palihighway.org
  • H-1 Additional Eastbound Lane from Waiawa to Halawa
    • HDOT is undergoing the procurement process for this design-build project to rehabilitate the concrete pavement from the vicinity of the Waimalu Viaduct to Halawa and anticipates award of the project to Design-Build Team in January 2018 with notice to proceed following in April 2018. The rehabilitation of the asphalt concrete in this area will widen the current 10-foot shoulder with a 24-foot wide eastbound shoulder that could be used for unrestricted vehicular traffic.
  • H-201/H-1 Additional Westbound Lane: Halawa Interchange to Aiea Pedestrian Overpass
    • Work on the project to repave the H-201 west bound Halawa offramp to the H-1 west bound at the Aiea Pedestrian Overpass began in August following the completion of the Kahekili Highway resurfacing from Hui Iwa Street to Haiku Road and is expected to be completed at the end of the year. This project also creates a third west bound lane to the H-1 through grading, reconstruction of the shoulders, and relocation of guardrails.
  • Kipapa Stream Bridge (Roosevelt) Rehabilitation
    • The partnership project with the Federal Highway Administration – Central Federal Lands Highway Division to rehabilitate the Kipapa Stream Bridge, a 484-foot long bridge built in 1933, is estimated to be completed at the end of May 2018. To complete the bridge rehabilitation, which includes the widening of the bridge to provide a 7-foot mixed use shoulder, requires four more full weekend closures of Kamehameha Highway between Ka Uka Boulevard and Lanikuhana Avenue between January and April. Notification of the closures will go out as they are scheduled.
  • Farrington Highway Safety improvements/Nanakuli contraflow
    • Crews are working day and night to complete the Farrington Highway Intersection Improvements (turning lane) project by the end of the year. The Nanakuli Contraflow will run to the end of this project, which will improve traffic flow on Farrington Highway through the addition of a fifth turning lane at Nanakuli Avenue and Haleakala Avenue. If operational funds are available past the completion of the project, HDOT will consider extending the operation of the Nanakuli Contraflow with modifications to ensure the return of two eastbound lanes in the area.
    • HDOT has been working with the community on safety improvements to coincide with resurfacing projects on Farrington Highway. The ongoing and upcoming Farrington Highway resurfacing projects are:
    • FARRINGTON HIGHWAY RESURFACING, VICINITY OF KILI DRIVE TO SATELLITE TRACKING STATION ROAD
      • Estimated Completion Date: Spring 2017
    • FARRINGTON HIGHWAY RESURFACING, KAHE POWER PLANT TO HAKIMO ROAD, IB & OB
      • Scheduled Advertise Date: 12/2017
    • FARRINGTON HIGHWAY RESURFACING, HAKIMO ROAD TO KILI DRIVE, IB & OB
      • Scheduled Advertise Date: 04/2018

Kauai County

  • Kuhio Highway Resurfacing Kapule Highway to North Leho Drive, Phase 1
    • Project will reconstruct in areas, cold plane, and resurface pavement as well as install channelizing curb and delineators. Project was advertised earlier this month.
  • Kuhio Highway Short Term Improvements
    • This project, currently planned to advertise in June 2018, would widen the south bound 0.64 mile stretch of Kuhio Highway between the Temporary Kapaa Bypass Road and Kuamoo Road from three to four lanes and would extend the existing right-turn storage lane along Kuamoo Road Mauka from its intersection with Kuhio Highway. The widening of this stretch of highway is expected to improve access to Wailua and Kapaa.

Highways project status can be found at any time on the Highways Program Status Map, which was featured at the news conference. This ESRI-powered map highlights current and upcoming construction projects on state highways as well as data on traffic volumes, traffic fatalities, and road conditions.

Data on the state’s 782 bridges will be added to the Highways Program Status Map at the end of the year with construction lane closure information to follow shortly. HDOT also plans to introduce a crowd sourcing app in Spring 2018 that will allow community members to report road issues such as potholes and street lighting outages.

Possible Cause of Pilot Whale Stranding Detailed

During a House of Representatives informational briefing today to discuss research conducted and findings regarding the stranding of 17 pilot whales on Kauai in October, state and federal agencies told lawmakers they are looking into rat poison and sonar as potential causes of the deaths of five whales.

Rep. Chris Lee (Kailua, Waimanalo), chair of the Energy & Environmental Protection committee and Rep. Kaniela Ing (Kihei, Wailea, Makena), chair of the Committee on Ocean, Marine Resources & Hawaiian Affairs, held the briefing after hearing public and cultural concerns about the stranding of the whales.

“It’s important that we look into these type of stranding to see what effects human pesticides, debris and noise have on the wildlife in our oceans,” said Rep. Lee. “And to see what can be done to prevent this type of thing in the future.”

David Schofield, the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Coordinator for NOAA Fisheries, Pacific Islands Region Office, said there has been an increase in strandings over time due to stress from pollutants in the oceans.

“What we use on the land ends up in the sea,” Schofield said.

Rep. Ing asked about the possible cause of this stranding.

“When marine mammals strand themselves it’s usually a signal that something in our environment is out of sync,” said Ing. “Hearing from experts provides valuable information as we decided how to address this issue and prevent further harm. We are confident that NOAA and the other agencies will work on finding a solution and also do so by respecting the native Hawaiian community’s rights to malama and repatriate the mammals after they have completed their work.”

Kristi West, a Research Scientist and an Affiliate Faculty member at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, said possible causes include sickness, social bonds, bio toxins, marine debris, tidal changes and noise that effect the animal’s inner ear such as sonar.

West, who directs necropsy and cause of death investigations when whales and dolphins strand throughout Hawaii, said tissue samples and the stomach content of the animals will be analyzed to help determine the cause of death for these animals.

West’s area of expertise is focused on understanding causes of mortality and what factors threaten the survival of the 20 different species of dolphins and whales found in Hawaiian waters.

Kauai Representative Dee Morikawa (Niihau, Lehua, Koloa, Waimea), who witnessed the stranding, asked if there could be any link between the pilot whale beaching and the recent dropping of rat poison on nearby Lehua Island.

“I want to make sure we have an agency we can trust looking into this and getting the correct information out,” Morikawa said. “I’m so suspicious there will be a cover up. It’s too coincidental that so soon after the rat poison is dropped, we have this stranding. These whales eat the squid that may have eaten the poison dropped in the ocean. That is what I suspect happened.”

West said she is also anxious to determine a cause of death, but it will take about six weeks to get test results back from the laboratories. The results will be shared with lawmakers, she said.

Rep. James Kunane Tokioka (Wailua Homelands, Hanamaulu, Lihue, Puhi, Old Koloa Town, Omao) asked if the squid and other food eaten by the whales will also be tested for poison. West said now that she is aware of the possibility of the rat poison be passed on by ingesting the squid, it will also be tested.

Tokioka asked if there was any evidence that the whales had been harmed from acoustic trauma from sonar.

Schofield said there is no evidence so far and that the U.S. Navy reported no training taking place using sonar within five miles and 24 hours of the stranding.

West said there is a population of about 19,500 pilot whales in the waters within 200 miles of the Hawaiian Islands and on average, one pilot whale dies from stranding a year.

In this case, 17 pilot whales were beached, five died and the rest returned to the open ocean

TODAY at 4:00 – Hawaii Representative to Participate in Protest Against Trump

State Representative Kaniela Saito Ing will join “Resistance” groups at 4 p.m. Nov. 3 at the Hawaii State Capitol to send a clear message to President Donald Trump who is visiting Oahu before embarking on a trip to Asia.

Rep. Kaniela Ing

Ing will hold a sign that reads “Aloha means goodbye.”

“Aloha is a Hawaiian value rooted in the idea of love for one another, that we are all connected. I deeply support this concept,” said Rep. Ing. “But in order for Hawaii to remain a welcoming place of tolerance and aloha, we need to draw the line at leaders who incite fear and hate for personal gain. Trump rose to power by telling whole groups of people – ¬like immigrants, women, and transgendered individuals – that they are not welcome in our society.

“Hawaii is the most diverse state in the nation, and just a few days ago Trump literally said, ‘Diversity sounds like a good thing, but it is not a good thing.’ That statement alone undermines the values that make Hawaii, Hawaii. So yes, aloha means ‘hello,’ but it also means ‘goodbye.’ ”

Ing explained that Trump’s policy is personal to him and many others in Hawaii.

“My grandfather was a Japanese-American WW II veteran who fought overseas for our country, despite facing discrimination back home,” Ing said. “This administration evidently supports the idea of internment camps, in 2017, people.

“I’m afraid of turning on the news around my toddler son because I fear this president will teach him it’s OK to sexually assault women. We cannot afford to normalize any of this behavior.”

Ing will also be marching and speaking at the “The Nightmare Must Go!” protest at Ala Moana Beach Park starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 4.

Governor Ige Celebrates Re-dedication of the Princess Victoria Kamāmalu Building

Gov. David Ige, cabinet members, state employees and representatives from the royal societies celebrated today the re-dedication of the Princess Victoria Kamāmalu Building on the 179th anniversary of the princess’ birth.

“I made it a priority to move our public servants back into this state-owned facility to improve efficiency, enhance collaboration and increase cost savings. I’m pleased that the state will see a lease cost savings of $2.2 million going forward” said Gov. Ige.

Employees of the departments of health and human services occupy the building. For the first time in decades, three of the four Department of Human Services’ division administrative offices are housed in one central location. Additionally, the attached agency, the Office of Youth Services (OYS) also moved to the Princess Victoria Kamāmalu Building.

“Having three of our four divisions and one attached agency in one building will help us achieve our collective department goals. I believe that our move into Kamāmalu building is a win-win – it brings the department closer as an ‘ohana so we can serve Hawai‘i more efficiently and effectively,” said DHS Director Pankaj Bhanot.

“I’m delighted to have our staff work in this historic building which is conveniently located near the Capitol, providing better access to the public, said Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler. “Our Early Intervention Services, Disability and Communication Access Board, and State Council on Developmental Disabilities are excited to serve the public in their new location.”

Princess Victoria Kamāmalu Building Facts

  • The total cost to rehab the building was $27,203,900.
  • Lease cost savings to the state are approximately $2.2 million per year.
  • The contractor was Ralph Inouye Co. Ltd.
  • The project began in March 2015 and was accepted by the state on Feb. 28, 2017.
  • The building has nine floors, and there are offices in the basement.
  • Three divisions of the department of human services occupy floors 2-7:
    • Social Services Administrative Offices for Child Welfare Services and Adult Protective and Community Services
    • Benefit, Employment and Support Services for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program) and related aid to families, Child Care Program, and Homeless Program
    • Vocational Rehabilitation
    • Office of Youth Services (an attached agency)
  • The department of health occupies floors 8-9, and the Disability Communication Access Board is in the basement.

DLNR, Moanalua Gardens Foundation Repairing Kamananui Valley Road October 2017-2018

The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), O‘ahu Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) and the Moanalua Gardens Foundation (MGF), in conjunction with Community Planning & Engineering, Inc. (CPE) have begun road repairs to the Kamananui Valley Road in Moanalua Valley. Kamananui Valley Road and the popular Kulana‘ahane hiking trail will remain open during regular trail hours; however, some phases of the project will require periodic, full-valley closures.

DLNR Photo

Initial stages of construction began October 16, 2017. The project will end by October 31, 2018, and will repair and extend 11 major stream crossings. These repairs will improve safety for all valley users by redirecting water flow and mitigating erosion. Additional work will allow better access for service vehicles by leveling deeply rutted portions and removing large boulders.

The project, authorized during the Legislature Regular Sessions of 2013 and 2014, is a capital improvement project (CIP) which received a total of $1,650,000 in general obligation bond funds. Funding supported planning, design, and construction for the project and was approved by the Board of Land and Natural Resources. MGF entered a memorandum of understanding with DLNR to support portions of the project that take place in portions of Kamananui Valley located within the Moanalua portion of the Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve.

Safety notice

Public access will remain open for the duration of the project. However, users are advised to exercise caution when visiting Moanalua Valley. Construction will occur every weekday from 7:00 am to 3:30 pm. In this time, pedestrians will be asked to yield to all motorized traffic and heed warning signs that delineate high-risk areas. Families are also asked to closely supervise all children and family pets while on-trail. Noise, dust, and periodic delays may alter the expected user experience.

To ensure the best hiking experience, O‘ahu DOFAW encourages hikers to consider visiting the valley during non-construction hours or traveling to other State-sanctioned trails. Regular visitation to Kamananui Valley Road will resume after 3:30 pm on weekdays, till sunset, and during daylight hours on weekends. Full valley closures will be issued one month in advance by Oahu DOFAW.

Potential visitors to Moanalua Valley are encouraged to visit the Na Ala Hele, DOFAW Trail and Access website at:  hawaiitrails.hawaii.gov for up-to-date project information and alternate routes. Hunting permits for Moanalua Valley will be issued on a case-by-case basis. For more hunting information, please contact the DOFAW offices at (808) 587-0166 or via email at dlnr@hawaii.gov

Real Estate Commision to Hold “Condorama” Education Event

The Real Estate Commission, together with Community Association Institute Hawaiʻi Chapter (CAI) will hold a free “Condorama” event at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol Auditorium on Saturday, November 4, 2017.  The event runs from 9:00 am – 11:00 am and will feature three speakers recognized in the condominium community for their expertise in law, property management and insurance.

In collaboration with the Real Estate Commission, the Community Associations Institute of Hawaiʻi provided the speakers for this event and will assist with condominium education outreach for the public.

The event is open to the public and registration is available online at www.caihawaii.org. For more information the public can call the Real Estate Branch at 808-586‑2643.

AGENDA

8:30 a.m.  – 9:00 a.m.                        Registration

9:00 a.m. – 9:10 a.m.                         Welcome and Introductions

9:10 a.m. – 9:40 a.m.                         Do’s & Don’ts of Association Contracts. Lance Fujisaki, Esq. – Partner, Anderson Lahne & Fujisaki

9:40 a.m. – 10:10 a.m.                       Communication, Meets & Volunteerism. Kanani Kaopua – VP, Hawaiian Properties, Ltd.

10:10  a.m. – 10:40 a.m.                    Insurance – How Much is Enough. Sue Savio – President, Insurance Associates, Inc.

10:40 a.m. – 10:55 a.m.                     Questions & Answers

10:55 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.                     Evaluations & Adjournment

VIDEO: Tulsi Gabbard Calls on Congress to Protect Bristol Bay, Alaska

Tulsi Gabbard is calling for immediate action to put a stop to a dangerous move executed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Trump Administration. Unless the decision is overturned, thousands of jobs will be lost and an entire Alaskan watershed will be destroyed—killing the aquatic life within it and endangering the people who, for thousands of years, have depended on the fish and miles of streams, wetlands, and other habitats it supports.

Tulsi Gabbard, a lifelong environmentalist with a proven record of protecting our environment, explains the critical situation facing Bristol Bay, Alaska and calls on Congress to take action to protect it.

Nearly half of the world’s Sockeye Salmon comes from Bristol Bay, Alaska. Its watershed employs over 14,000 full-and part-time workers, generates $1.5 billion dollars in economic activity, and is home to 25 federally recognized tribal governments—many of whom have maintained a salmon-based culture and subsistence-based way of life for more than 4,000 years.

Yet the world’s most valuable salmon fishery is facing a direct threat by the very government agency given the job to protect it—the Environmental Protection Agency. Its newest administrator and Trump nominee, Scott Pruitt, recently held closed-door meetings with Canadian-owned mining company Pebble Limited Partnership about developing a copper and gold mine in Bristol Bay larger than Manhattan and nearly as deep as the Grand Canyon. Just over an hour after the meeting, Pruitt rescinded federal salmon protections in the area, opening the door for development and mining.

Despite numerous studies and historical data over the years that cite the ecological and economic importance of protecting Bristol Bay from mining project development, Pruitt has made it clear that he has no qualms with brokering deals at the expense of the American people and the planet.
To quote his own agency’s 2014 assessment, such a mine “would result in complete loss of fish habitat due to elimination, dewatering, and fragmentation of streams, wetlands, and other aquatic resources,” and the loss of miles of streams, wetlands, and other habitats. In addition, the EPA calculated a 95% chance of spill, per pipeline, in 25 years, threatening “acute exposure to toxic water and chronic exposure to toxic sediment” to fish and invertebrates.

Along with the virtual destruction of these species and wetlands, this would poison the watershed and needlessly endanger the communities who have relied upon the Sockeye Salmon for sustenance for thousands of years. The cost of destroying thousands of jobs and decimating the environment and resources these communities rely on is too great to measure.

The economics of Bristol Bay are everything President Trump promised to protect: American workers supplying American families and businesses through American jobs.

Yet the president and his administration have demonstrated time and again that they are eager to put their friends and business partners’ interests and profit before the health and wellbeing of the American people.

Hawaiʻi and Alaska have long shared a special and unique relationship, working together across party lines for the wellbeing of our people. For decades, we’ve worked together to empower our native communities, promote our local economies, secure resources for our rural populations, and much more. Now, we must stand together again and urge our colleagues in Congress to join the fight to protect Bristol Bay and its irreplaceable resources before it is too late.

Hawaii Awarded $2.25 Million for Youth Disability Workforce Development

Hawaii Youth At Work! Program Expands to Year Around

The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) was awarded $2.25 million in federal funds to help prepare youth with disabilities to enter the workforce or post-secondary education. The funding enables Hawaii Youth At Work! summer participants to obtain paid work experience during the year, coupled with employment preparation activities.

“The summer program is a resounding success for the youth and it is usually their first paid job,” said DLIR Director Linda Chu Takayama. “We are proud to help expand these opportunities for youth with disabilities to contribute their skills and talents to Hawaii’s workforce.”

The program is a collaboration between the Department of Human Services (DHS) and DLIR. DHS’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), Benefit, Employment and Support Services Division, and Social Services Division counselors and staff work with DLIR workforce staff to place participants in temporary jobs with the State and Counties.

“Despite their ability to occupy a variety of jobs, people with disabilities only account for 20 percent of the workforce, have more than double the unemployment rate compared to the general population and continue to face barriers finding work,” stated DHS Director Pankaj Bhanot. “We’re thrilled to expand this program so these young people have greater opportunity to engage in the workforce and prepare for meaningful employment.”

In 2016, the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) provided 153 youth with disabilities paid work experience in State and County offices on the islands of Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Hawaii. Youth were paid $10.00 an hour and worked up to twenty hours per week during the summer months. SYEP 2017 expanded referrals to include youth participants from the DHS’s Benefit, Employment and Support Services Division and Social Services Division in addition to VR. 125 participants were placed in State and City offices on the islands of Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Hawaii.

The funding will strengthen collaborations with businesses and workforce partners to increase the number of youth with disabilities entering career pathways and accessing workforce services. The grant provides funding for services in the Counites of Hawaii and Maui as well as on Oahu. In addition to DHS, key partners include the University of Hawaii Center on Disability Studies, Department of Education, and American Job Centers.

DLIR previously received $2,923,674 in 2011 and $2,500,000 in 2015 in Disability Employment Initiative (DEI) funds to improve education, training, and employment outcomes of youth and adults with disabilities. DEI funds help refine and expand workforce strategies proven to be successful, and enhance inclusive service delivery through the public workforce system. Improvements include: increasing the accessibility of American Job Centers (AJC); training front-line AJC and partner staff; and increasing partnerships with businesses that are critical for assisting youth and adults with disabilities in securing meaningful employment.

Equal Opportunity Employer/Program
Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities.  TDD/TTY Dial 711 then ask for (808) 586-8866

Television Special Documents Lehua Island Restoration Project

The recent project aimed at eradicating invasive rats from the State of Hawai‘i’s Seabird Sanctuary on Lehua Island is the subject of a half-hour long TV documentary that chronicles the operation from beginning to end.

Lehua Island

Scheduled for broadcast on KFVE-TV (K5) on Saturday, Oct. 21st and Sunday, Oct. 22nd at 9:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. respectively, the program was produced by DLNR with support from the Lehua Island Restoration Steering Committee; the group of government agencies, non-profit and community organizations, and other supporters involved in the eradication of rats.

DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said, “We see this as an opportunity to show people exactly what happened during the trio of aerial applications of rodenticide in August and September, as well as to highlight the stunning beauty of Lehua Island, the incredible diversity of bird life possible on a rat-free island, and the tremendous amount of planning and thought that led up to the eradication project. Few people actually get to go to Lehua and I think viewers will be astounded that this little island off Kaua‘i’s west side is so rich in life – with the successful demise of rats there, soon to be a much richer place in all respects.”

Island Conservation (IC) is the world renowned organization contracted by the State to conduct the restoration project. Dr. Patty Baiao, Hawai‘i Program Manager for IC, explained, “This show is incredibly visual and is in alignment with our oft-stated goal of being completely transparent about the restoration project.  We understand and appreciate community concerns about dropping rodenticide on an island, but hope that when people see and hear from the dozens of really dedicated individuals closest to this project, they will come to the realization that this was done with extraordinary care, thought, pre-planning and execution.”

While no rats have been spotted by monitoring teams since after the first aerial application in August, Lehua Island will not be declared rat-free until a year after the last application. Rats are documented to be voracious predators of seabird eggs, chicks, and the seeds of native plants that seabirds rely on.

The television program includes interviews with project leaders and participants, with community members, cultural practitioners, and outside experts who all reinforce the science and cultural reasons for the removal of rats from Lehua.

from Hawaii DLNR on Vimeo.

Hawaiian Natural Honey Challenge and Hawaii Beekeeper Survey

8th Annual Hawaiian Natural Honey Challenge 2017A grand total of 97 entries have been received from the Big Island, O’ahu, Kaua’i, Maui and Moloka’i and will undergo formal judging on October 19th, 2017.

In addition to the official judging, the Big Island Beekeeper’s Association will be holding a People’s Choice tasting and judging on Friday, November 3rd, 2017 at the Mokupāpapa Discovery Center, second floor, 76 Kamehameha Ave, Hilo between 6:30pm and 8:00pm. This is a free public event, all are welcome!

Hawaii Beekeeper Survey  – The Hawaii Department of Agriculture is currently polling the state’s beekeeping community to learn of the industry’s interests and concerns. Beekeepers of any size operations are encouraged to take the survey which only takes a few minutes to complete and will help the program learn more about the needs of Hawaii’s beekeeping community.  To access the survey, click here: Apiary Program Survey 2017

 

Governor Ige to Travel to Philippines on Goodwill and Trade Mission

Gov. David Ige will embark on a goodwill and trade mission with the Filipino Chamber of Commerce from Oct. 14 through the 22.

The governor will be traveling with about 50 Hawai‘i business and community leaders who will tour several provinces, including Manila, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur and Cebu.

While in the Philippines, Gov. Ige will lead a variety of meetings with local government, business and community members, as well as participate in cultural events, tours, activities and ceremonies. Among the significant events — the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding and Cooperation between the State of Hawai‘i and the League of Provinces, establishing Sister State relationships with several provinces in the Philippines. The governor will also take part in a wreath laying ceremony at Rizal Park and visit the University of the Philippines.

First Lady Dawn Amano Ige will join the governor for various events and ceremonies. She will also visit Pitogo Elementary School and a Consuelo Foundation orphanage.

One staff member will be traveling with the governor and first lady.
The total cost of the trip is estimated at $8,900.

Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui will serve as acting governor until Gov. Ige returns to Hawai‘i on Oct. 22.

Progress Update on School Bus Driver Shortages on Maui and Kauai

Two consolidated bus routes on Maui were reinstated and more anticipated in coming weeks. Photo DOE

The Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) reports that progress is being made by school bus contractors to address the current shortage of Commercial Driver Licensed (CDL) drivers on Maui and Kauai qualified to operate school buses. Here are the latest updates:

  • Two previously consolidated bus routes on Maui have been restored to normal service times at Maui High School and Maui Waena Intermediate School.
    • Route GR14A makes a single morning and afternoon run from the Hale Kihei Housing and Makai Heights Subdivisions in Kihei to and from Maui High School.
    • Route GR18 A/B makes two morning and afternoon runs to and from Maui Waena Intermediate School. The first serves the Kahului area east of Puunene Avenue from Puukani Street to Kaahumanu Avenue, and north of West Kauai Street to Kaahumanu Avenue. The second run serves the Sands Hills, Puuone Tract, Kanaloa Houselots Subdivision and Paukukalo areas.
  • Kauai’s shortage of qualified school bus drivers continues to remain at seven. School bus routes have been consolidated to adjust to the staffing shortages and all schools are still being serviced. Driver candidates are currently in the licensing process and routes will be restored as they enter service.
  • Interested CDL drivers should contact the Student Transportation Services Branch at (808) 586-0170. Interested drivers without a CDL are also being sought. The CDL training and testing process is open and takes approximately three weeks to complete.

For school bus route questions or concerns, please call the Get On Board Hotline at (808) 586-0161 on Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Tragedy on Kauai: Multi-Agency Community Response to Pilot Whale Strandings on Kaua`i – Five Dead

UPDATE: Five whales have now tragically passed away.

Update: A third dead whale washed ashore this afternoon.

This morning NOAA Fisheries, the U.S Coast Guard, Kauai County Fire and Police Departments and the DLNR Divisions of Aquatic Resources (DAR) and Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) joined concerned community members and native Hawaiian cultural practitioners to respond to a beaching event and attending to two five Pilot whales that died on Kalapaki Beach on the north side of Nawiliwili Harbor.

Kaua‘i County provided heavy machinery to lift the deceased stranded whales off the beach and onto truck trailers provided by DOCARE. The whales were taken to an undisclosed location where autopsies are expected to continue into the night.

David Schofield, NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal Response Coordinator in Hawai‘i said, “We have no indication of a cause of death at this time.  Disease and old age are common causes of death for whales, but it’s too soon to know.  Post mortem exams occasionally reveal a likely cause, but more often they are inconclusive, and we must then wait for lab test results.  Working with the UH Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology, our stranding response partner, we will ensure the post mortem exam and lab tests are thorough and comprehensive.”

Gregg Howald, Director of Global and External Affairs for Island Conservation, the organization that led recent rat eradication efforts on Lehua Island, said, “As conservationists committed to preserving wildlife, we are deeply saddened by these mortalities. We know, with the highest degree of confidence that the Lehua Restoration Project and the rodenticides applied in that project have virtually no chance of contributing to the whales’ demise; The likelihood of any impact to pilot whales is so unlikely, it is bordering on the impossible. The good people of Hawaii have had the good fortune to observe natural wildlife in paradise for hundreds of years, and they can tell us that Pilot Whale beachings are quite common.”

Coast Guard Station Kaua‘i received initial notification of the stranding from an off duty Coast Guard member who was out surfing. Station personnel immediately called the local NOAA representative on Kaua‘i for direction and response. Coast Guard personnel were directed to monitor the whales and prevent anyone from touching them prior to the arrival of the NOAA staff within 15 minutes. Once on scene, NOAA personnel evaluated the animals and directed Coast Guard and Kaua‘i Fire Department personnel on the proper way to reintroduce the animals to the ocean. Once in the water Kaua‘i Fire Department personnel and volunteers aboard outrigger canoes escorted the whales out of the harbor.

“We appreciate the public’s concern for these animals and the strong partnership we have with NOAA and other agencies to address strandings,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Michael Winiarski, officer-in-charge Coast Guard Station Kaua‘i. “NOAA are the experts and the lead agency in these cases. They have the veterinarians, personnel and authority to properly handle marine mammal strandings. The public can best help stranded marine animals by contacting NOAA’s hotline at 888-256-9850. Serious injury can result when untrained people attempt to hold or move these animals.”

At Kalapaki Beach native Hawaiians offered pules for the whales that stranded and it’s expected additional pule will be offered prior to their burial. Kaua‘i Mayor Bernard Carvalho commented, “It was a very emotional scene this morning at Kalapaki, and it leaves us very heavy-hearted that we could not save all the whales. But at the same time, everyone on the beach pulled together with a sense of aloha to help the whales in a way that was respectful and professional. Mahalo to the state DLNR, the U.S. Coast Guard, NOAA, American Red Cross, Salvation Army, the Kaua‘i Marriott, and our responding personnel with the Kaua‘i Police Department, Kaua‘i Fire Department, Ocean Safety Bureau, and all the volunteers involved in the care, concern, and assistance of the whales.”

A Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Air Station Barbers Point also is conducting fly-overs of Kalapaki Bay to further assess the situation, and look for any other stranded marine mammals. NOAA, DLNR and county representatives will continue monitoring the beach and the harbor through at least tomorrow in the event other whales become stranded on the beach.

Pilot whales are considered among the most social of all whale species. On the East Coast and in New Zealand hundreds of them have been known to become stranded on beaches at one time. Scientists believe their very close social connections may account for behavior that suggests when one member of the family gets sick or in trouble all the others will stick with them.