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Big Island Students Participate in 25th Annual Deaf Santa Program

Santa Claus greeted more than 100 students from across the state during the 25th annual Deaf Santa program at Pearlridge Elementary. Participants were able to communicate their holiday wishes with Santa without an interpreter.

​More than 100 students from across the state are hoping their holiday wishes come true after meeting with Santa. Today’s occasion brought children who are hearing impaired to Pearlridge Shopping Center for the 25th Annual Deaf Santa Program.

This year was extra special for six students who traveled from Kea’au Elementary.

“This is an opportunity for the students to come and be with peers who have similar backgrounds and situations,” said Kea’au Elementary Principal Ron Jarvis. “We come from an area of the island with high poverty rates and some of the students don’t have the opportunity to travel, so they were excited from the moment we got to the airport.”

Other schools participating in the event included Waimalu Elementary, Pōmaika’i Elementary, Lehua Elementary and the Hawai’i School for the Deaf and the Blind. Students were treated to train rides on the Pearlridge Express, a meet and greet with Santa as well as live entertainment featuring the students.

The program was created for students from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade that are deaf, deaf and blind or hard-of-hearing. The Deaf Santa program is made possible through the support of ASL, Deaf Education & Interpreter Education at Kapiolani Community College; Hawai’i State Department of Education’s Office of Curriculum, Instruction and Student Support Exceptional Needs Branch; Pearlridge Center; Cookie Corner; Pizza Hut; Razor Concepts; Sprint Relay Hawaii; Expressions Photography; Ground Transport; and Roberts Hawaii.

Hawaii Department of Health Clears Marine Agrifuture to Resume Sales of Ogo and Sea Asparagus

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) has lifted its Cease and Desist Order against Marine Agrifuture LLC (Olakai Farm). This morning, the company was notified it may resume the sale and distribution of Kahuku Ogo, Robusta Ogo and Sea Asparagus food products harvested at the Kahuku farm.

marine-agrifutureLaboratory test results from samples taken on Nov. 29 indicated that Marine Agrifuture’s processing areas and products were negative for Salmonella. The wells, all inlets to production ponds, and the growing and rinse tanks were also free from Salmonella and levels of indicator organisms (Enterococci and Clostridium perfringens) that would signal possible environmental contamination.

“Based on lab test results and visual confirmation by health inspectors of the thorough cleaning and improvements made to several critical components of the farm’s physical infrastructure, the department is satisfied that all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the safety of Marine Agrifuture’a food products,” said Peter Oshiro, Food Safety Program manager. “The department will continue to work with the farm on measures to prevent any future contamination of products.”

The department has recommended the farm continue to sample and test their wells, inlets to the production areas and growing ponds, and rinse/grow tanks to insure corrective measures remain effective and sufficient. The farm is urged to share test results with DOH for compliance assistance and consultation. All components of Marine Agrifuture’s farm, piping, wells, source/rinse water, production areas, equipment and food products are subject to further periodic and unannounced testing by health inspectors. In addition, the farm is not allowed to grow or harvest any products from streams, or other areas not approved by DOH.

The Department of Health’s Sanitation Branch is a statewide program responsible for the inspection of food establishments, issuance of permits and enforcement of food safety regulations. The Branch does not conduct routine inspections or issue permits for Raw Agricultural Commodities such as fresh fruit, vegetables, and other food crops grown on farms. Educational classes on food protection and safety are provided to the public, food industry and other agencies through the branch’s Food Handlers Education Program.

VIDEO: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Urges President to Immediately Halt Dakota Access Pipeline

In a speech on the House floor Thursday, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard called on President Obama to immediately halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and announced plans to join thousands of veterans from across the country to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota this weekend.

tulsi-dakota“Growing up in Hawaii, I learned the value of caring for our home, caring for our planet, and the basic principle that we are all connected in a great chain of cause and effect.

“The Dakota Access Pipeline is a threat to this great balance of life. Despite strong opposition from the Standing Rock Sioux and serious concerns raised by the EPA, the Department of Interior, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and other Federal agencies, the Army Corps of Engineers approved permits to construct the Dakota Access Pipeline without adequately consulting the tribes, and without fully evaluating the potential impacts to neighboring tribal lands, sacred sites, and their water supply. Just one spill near the tribe’s reservation could release thousands of barrels of crude oil, contaminating the tribe’s drinking water.

“The impact of the Dakota Access Pipeline is clear. Energy Transfer Partners, the company constructing the Dakota Pipeline, has a history of serious pipeline explosions, which have caused injury, death, and significant property damage in the past decade. The future operator of the planned pipeline, Sunoco Logistics, has had over 200 environmentally damaging oil spills in the last 6 years alone—more than any of its competitors.

“Protecting our water is not a partisan political issue—it is an issue that is important to all people and all living beings everywhere. Water is life. We cannot survive without it. Once we allow an aquifer to be polluted, there is very little that can be done about it. This is why it is essential that we prevent water resources from being polluted in the first place.

“Our Founding Fathers took great inspiration from Native American forms of governance, and the democratic principles that they were founded on. Their unique form of governance was built on an agreement called the Great Law of Peace, which states that before beginning their deliberations, the council shall be obliged, and I quote, “to express their gratitude to their cousins and greet them, and they shall make an address and offer thanks to the earth where men dwell, to the streams of water, the pools, the springs and the lakes, to the maize and the fruits, to the medicinal herbs and trees, to the forest trees for their usefulness, and to the Great Creator who dwells in the heavens above, who gives all the things useful to men, and who is the source and the ruler of health and life.”

“This recognition of our debt to the Creator and our responsibility to be responsible members of this great web of life was there from the beginning of Western democracy.

“Freedom is not a buzzword. The freedom of our Founding Fathers was not the freedom to bulldoze wherever you like.

“Our freedom is a freedom of mind, a freedom of heart, freedom to worship as we see fit, freedom from tyranny and freedom from terror. That’s the freedom this country was founded on, the freedom cultivated by America’s Native people, and the freedom the Standing Rock Sioux are now exercising.

“This weekend I’m joining thousands of veterans from across the country at Standing Rock to stand in solidarity with our Native American brothers and sisters. Together we call on President Obama to immediately halt the construction of this pipeline, respect the sacred lands of the Standing Rock Sioux, and respect their right to clean water. The truth is, whether it’s the threat to essential water sources in this region, the lead contaminated water in Flint, Michigan, or the threat posed to a major Hawaiʻi aquifer by the Red Hill fuel leak, each example underscores the vital importance of protecting our water resources.

“We can’t undo history, but we must learn lessons from the past and carry them forward—to encourage cooperation among free people, to protect the sacred, to care for the Earth and for our children, and our children’s children. What’s at stake is our shared heritage of freedom and democracy and our shared future on this Great Turtle Island, our great United States of America.”

Background: In September, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and 18 House Democrats wrote to President Barack Obama calling on the United States Army Corps of Engineers to fulfill their responsibility of holding meaningful consultation and collaboration with the Standing Rock Sioux over the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Full text of the letter is available here.

Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death Summit Brings Together Latest Science & Policy

Lead scientists in the fight against Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death on Hawaii’i Island joined Governor David Ige and other top policy makers for the first-ever Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death Summit, today at the Hawaii’i State Capital Auditorium. Speakers provided situation reports on the disease and presented the recently completed, strategic response plan which will guide the statewide response to this dire threat to Hawaii’s most iconic tree species.

rapid-ohia-deathThe fungal disease has devastated more than 50,000 acres of native ʻōhiʻa, one of Hawaii’i’s most prized and culturally important forest trees. Understanding the disease and how to prevent or slow further spread is a top priority of the Executive Branch.  Gov. Ige, who provided the welcome and opening remarks said, “Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death” has prompted the mobilization of several state and federal agencies and is a top priority for leading researchers who are learning more about this disease as they work to stop it from spreading.”

The Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death Summit, was open to the public, and included a presentation on the biocultural importance of ʻōhiʻa by Dr. Samuel M. ‘Ohukani‘ōhi‘a Gon III, of The Nature Conservancy of Hawaiʻi. Dr. Gon explained that the primary cultural underpinnings of ʻōhiʻa support the notion that it is perhaps the most significantly cultural tree in Hawaii’i. He traced the cultural importance of the species as a physical manifestation of the Hawaiian deity Ku and as a tree used for weapons, tools, building, hula dancing sticks, lei, food for birds and medicines for people. It is considered the most important tree for the protection of Hawaii’i’s forest watersheds.

A panel of state and federal experts discussed and updated the latest research and management actions. Dr. Lisa Keith of the U.S. Department of Agricultural Research Service explained, “The identification of the ceratocystis fungus used to take two-four weeks to confirm in the lab.  We can now test very small samples of a tree’s DNA and determine within 24 hours if this fungus is killing it.” “Unfortunately” she continued, “there is no silver bullet (for a treatment) and the science is important for informing management decisions.”

Dr. Flint Hughes with the U.S. Forest Service Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry painted a grim picture for the future of native ʻōhiʻa forests if the disease continues unchecked.  He said, “We currently have 52, one-quarter acre monitoring plots on Hawaii’i island. These are in places where the fungus has killed trees and our data shows that 11% of the ʻōhiʻa, on average, in these plots, will die each year.  If there are 100 ʻōhiʻa in each plot, this means in about a decade all of the trees there will be dead.” In some areas the mortality has been 100%.

Dr. Gordon Bennett of the UH Mānoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources is one of the researchers collaboratively investigating the linkage between non-native beetles and the spread of Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death. He explained that these wood boring beetles are attracted to unhealthy trees and set up homes (galleries) in them.  Currently he and other researchers are looking at pest control and management strategies based on science.  Bennett said, “We’re just starting in this area.  It’s a new challenge.”

Dr. Greg Asner of Stanford University’s  Carnegie Airborne Observatory detailed the use of laser guided imaging spectroscopy to produce 3D imaging that shows the size and precise location of trees to within six inches. He explained, “We’re trying to use this technology to look ahead in time. This technology even allows us to measure 15 different chemicals in tree foliage, which is like going to a doctor for a blood test.” Data from the 3D aerial surveys conducted in January of this year is currently being analyzed and results are expected to be available around the first of the year.

Rob Hauff, a forester with the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife, wrapped up the morning session by revealing the newly developed Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death Strategic Response Plan, which is guided by the bicultural significance of ʻōhiʻa. Hauff explained, “The goal of this plan is to provide a roadmap that conveys what the situation is and where we need to go to manage this.”  To implement the plan, it calls for funding of a little more than $10 million over the next three years for research, response, recommendations, outreach, and management strategies.

Today’s presenters were a few of the front-line researchers, forest managers and policy makers, who’ve been working since late 2014 to try and identify the cause of the disease and how it spreads.  Their findings prompted a strict state Dept. of Agriculture quarantine which restricts movement of all ʻōhiʻa wood, soil, and Metrosideros species plants and plant parts from Hawaii island to the other islands. The state also has publicized and distributed protocols to inform the general public and forest users about steps they can take to further prevent the spread of this disease (see www.rapidohiadeath.org).

Hauff and Christy Martin of the Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species (CGAPS) organized the Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death Summit.  Martin said, “This is the first time we’ve had all the principal players in the fight against this disease in one place, to provide background to decision-makers and the public.  People are eager to understand what’s happening to ʻōhiʻa, and what more they can do.”

Gabbard-Stewart Bill to Expand Veterans’ Healthcare Passes House

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard released the statement below after the House unanimously passed the Veterans TRICARE Choice Act (H.R.5458). The congresswoman introduced the legislation with Rep. Chris Stewart (UT-02) in 2015. The bill expands veterans’ healthcare options by allowing veterans to temporarily pause their TRICARE benefits to participate in an employer’s Health Savings Account (HSA) program if they so choose. Under current federal law, it is illegal for a TRICARE-eligible veteran to participate in an HSA program.

gabbard-health-bill“As a soldier and a veteran, I have seen firsthand the tremendous sacrifice our veterans and their families make in service to our country. That service should never limit their access to quality healthcare, and the ability to make decisions about their own health,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “The Veterans TRICARE Choice Act gives our veterans the ability to choose the best healthcare options for themselves and their families.”

“Our veterans deserve our most profound gratitude,” said Rep. Chris Stewart. “Nothing about their military service should prevent them from accessing the same benefits as their non-veteran co-workers. The very least we can do is ensure they receive the benefits we’ve promised them, and that the process goes as smoothly as possible.  We still have a lot of work to do on that front, but the passage of this bill is a great step in the right direction.”

Background: Health Savings Accounts have proven to be an effective way to pay for medical costs and proactively save for future medical expenses. Employees invest and save tax-free money in HSAs, which are then used to pay for qualified medical expenses. These have become increasingly popular healthcare plans in the private sector.

Under current federal law, it is illegal for a TRICARE-eligible veterans to participate in an HSA program. The Veterans TRICARE Choice Act simply gives veterans the choice to voluntarily pause their TRICARE benefits in order to participate in an HSA program.

The Veterans TRICARE Choice Act is supported by the Association of the United States Navy (AUSN) and the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS).

House Passes Gabbard-Cook Bill Encouraging Employers to Hire More Veterans

The HIRE Vets Act (H.R.3286), introduced by Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Paul Cook (CA-08), unanimously passed the House today. This bipartisan bill would promote private sector recruiting, hiring, and retaining of men and women who served honorably in the U.S. military through a voluntary and effective program. Specifically, it would create a medallion program recognizing the meaningful, verifiable efforts undertaken by employers – both large and small – to hire and retain veterans. This bill will now move to the Senate.

gabbard-vet-bill-passRoughly 500 veterans return to civilian life every single day, joining the more than 2.9 million veterans that have returned home since 9/11. While we’ve taken some important steps to encourage employers to hire more veterans, more than 400,000 veterans across the country are still unemployed today,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “Through their service, veterans develop unique skills, experiences, and leadership training that make them especially valuable to employers. The HIRE Vets Act incentivizes employers to hire veterans, and recognizes employers that provide a supportive work environment to retain veteran employees.”

Background: The bipartisan HIRE Vets Act would promote private sector recruiting, hiring, and retaining of men and women who served honorably in the U.S. military through a voluntary and efficient program. Specifically, it would create an awards program recognizing the meaningful, verifiable efforts undertaken by employers – both large and small – to hire and retain veterans. Cook and Gabbard designed the program to be self-funded.

Through the U.S. Department of Labor, the HIRE Vets Act would allow businesses to display “HIRE Vets Medallions” on products and marketing materials. These medallions would be awarded as part of a four-tiered system – Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum – associated with specific hiring and retention goals each year.

The program also establishes similar tiered awards for small and mid-sized businesses with less than 500 employees. To ensure proper oversight, the Secretary of Labor would be required to provide Congress with annual reports on the success of the program with regard to veteran employment and retention results.

CDC Recommends Nasal Spray Flu Vaccine Should Not Be Used – Hawaii Stop Flu at School Program

The state’s annual school-located vaccination program, Stop Flu at School, will be offering free flu vaccine to elementary and middle school children at public, private, and charter schools statewide. Vaccination clinics will be held in January and February 2017.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended the nasal spray flu vaccine should not be used during the 2016–2017 flu season because of data suggesting lower effectiveness of this vaccine. Therefore, only the flu shot will be offered through the Stop Flu at School program.

flu-shotInformation packets and vaccination consent forms are currently being distributed to parents through participating schools and are also available online. A fillable, electronic version of the consent form can be found at https://vaxonlinereg.doh.hawaii.gov. To sign up for the free vaccinations available to their children, parents or guardians should complete and sign the consent forms, and return them to schools by the deadline, Friday, Dec. 16, 2016. Translated consent forms will be available online at http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/flu-hawaii/sfas-parents/.

“Since Stop Flu at School clinics will not take place until January and February, we are encouraging parents of children, especially those with health conditions that place them at higher risk for serious complications from the flu (e.g., asthma or diabetes), to speak to their child’s physician about receiving the flu vaccine earlier,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park. “The school-located clinics are another option for children to be vaccinated.”

The Stop Flu at School program is a partnership between the Departments of Health and Education, and is made possible by the support of school administrators, health care providers, pediatric associations, health insurers, and federal partners. For more information about Stop Flu at School, visit http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/flu-hawaii/stop-flu-at-school/ or call Aloha United Way’s information and referral service at 2-1-1.

Coast Guard Medevacs Ailing Crewman From Container Ship Off Oahu

The Coast Guard medevaced a 31-year-old crewman from the 902-foot container ship Kachidoki Bridge 35 miles off Oahu, Sunday.  The man, reportedly suffering from severe abdominal pain, was safely delivered to Queens Medical Center for further care.
Kachidochi Bridge

Kachidoki Bridge

“Our hoist capable helicopters and well trained crews make it possible to get mariners like this man to a higher level of medical care as quickly as possible,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Les Elliott, operations unit controller with Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu. “The safety and well being of mariners at seas is one of our top priorities.”
Watchstanders at the Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu originally received the request for a medevac from the crew of the vessel at 8:30 p.m. Friday. The vessel was 983 miles north of Oahu at the time. A Coast Guard flight surgeon was consulted and did not recommend an immediate medevac but did recommend the vessel make best course and speed toward Oahu and to keep the crewman comfortable as they closed the distance to Oahu.
An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point launched at 10 a.m. Sunday and rendezvoused with the vessel to transport the man. They successfully lowered the Coast Guard rescue swimmer to assess the man and prepare him for transport. During that time the helicopter suffered a malfunction and the crew was forced to conduct an emergency landing at Dillingham Airfield on the North Shore of Oahu where it will be assessed and any necessary repairs will be made. A second Dolphin and crew were launched from the air station and successfully completed the medevac.
Weather conditions at the time of the medevac were reportedly east winds at 29 mph gusting to 31 mph, with seas to 11 feet and showers. A small craft advisory is in effect through Monday afternoon.The Portuguese-flagged container vessel was en route to Los Angeles.

Hawaii Department of Health Holds Statewide Public Hearings for Changes to Food Safety Code

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) will hold public hearings on Hawaii Island, Maui, Oahu, and Kauai from Dec. 5-9, 2016 (see exact scheduling details below) to introduce amendments to the Hawaii Administrative Rules (HAR) Title 11, Chapter 50, Food Safety Code, which outlines standards for all food establishments statewide.

food-safety-cardsIn February 2014, the state passed new food safety rules that significantly changed the food service inspection process by introducing the highly visible “stop-light” placarding system that displays the results of each inspection. The new state rules also adopted the 2009 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Model Food Code as its basis, increased the frequency of permit requirements based on health risk, and increased permit fees to create an online database of inspection records for the public.

“The department is continuing to raise the state’s food safety standards by further updating regulations to increase the focus on prevention and reduce the risk of residents and visitors contracting foodborne illness,” said Peter Oshiro, head of the DOH Food Safety program. “Updating state requirements and fees and aligning our state with federal standards are essential for creating a world class food safety program in Hawaii.”

The proposed amendments include establishing a new food safety education requirement for persons-in-charge at all food establishments. The new rule will require at least one employee on every work shift be certified at the formal Food Handlers Training level. This will ensure a standard baseline of food safety knowledge for all establishment owners and managers. Studies have shown that food establishments with properly trained persons-in-charge have a lower occurrence of critical food safety violations that are directly linked to food illnesses.

The department is also proposing the adoption of the 2013 FDA Model Food Code. This will provide Hawaii with the most current nationally recognized food code based on the latest scientific knowledge on food safety. Updating the state’s food code will also align Hawaii with national standards and provide consistent requirements for food facilities that operate across multiple states.

Additional proposed changes to the state’s food safety rules include:

  • Removing the 20 days of sale limit for homemade foods (cottage foods) that are not considered a potential public health risk;
  • Removing the restriction on the number of days a Special Event Temporary Food Establishment permit may be valid;
  • Establishing a new fee structure for Temporary Food Establishment Permits ($100 for a 20-day permit plus $5 for each additional day over 20 to a maximum of one year);
  • Streamlining regulations for mobile food establishments (e.g. food trucks) by incorporating the requirements into existing rules for their base operations or “brick and mortar” establishments;
  • Revising the fee structure for mobile units with no increase to the total amount currently paid by a mobile operator;
  • Allowing placarding during all inspections;
  • Allowing the state to refuse permit renewal for non-payment of fines or stipulated agreements more than 30 days overdue; and
  • Requiring state approval for the sale of “Wild Harvested Mushrooms.”

The draft rules are available for review at http://health.hawaii.gov/opppd/proposed-changes-to-department-of-health-administrative-rules-title-11/. Written public comments are recommended and may be submitted at the public hearings or to the Sanitation Branch at 99-945 Halawa Valley St., Aiea, Hawaii 96701 prior to the close of business on Friday, Dec. 16, 2016.

Public hearings on the proposed rules will be held on the dates, at the times, and places noted below:

Island of Oahu

Monday, Dec. 5 (2 – 5 p.m.)

Environmental Health Services Division

Food Safety Education Room

99-945 Halawa Valley St., Aiea

Island of Maui

Tuesday, Dec. 6 (2 – 5 p.m.)

UH-Maui College Community Services Building

310 Kaahumanu Ave., Bldg. #205, Kahului

Island of Hawaii – Hilo

Wednesday, Dec. 7 (2 – 5 p.m.)

Environmental Health Building Conference Room

1582 Kamehameha Ave., Hilo

Island of Hawaii – Kona

Thursday, Dec. 8 (2 – 5 p.m.)

West Hawaii Civic Center, Bldg. G

74-5044 Ane Keohokalole Highway, Kailua-Kona

Island of Kauai

Friday, Dec. 9 (2 – 5 p.m.)

Lihue Health Center Conference Room

3040 Umi St., Lihue

Web-Based System to Track Inventory and Sales at Hawaii Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

The Hawaii State Department of Health has contracted with BioTech Medical Software Inc., dba BioTrackTHC for a web-based system that will provide the department 24/7 access to real-time data of medical marijuana inventory, sales, and other information required of dispensary licensees statewide. The negotiated cost of the contract is $239,000 for the first year and $160,000 for each successive year during the five-year agreement. BioTrackTHC was selected through the State of Hawaii Request for Proposals process.

biotrack-logo“This is another major step forward to implement the medical marijuana dispensary program to ensure access for registered patients and their caregivers,” said Keith Ridley, chief of the Office of Health Care Assurance. “After researching various options, we determined a web-based software system would be the most effective and user-friendly way for licensees and state employees to collect and report seed-to-sale tracking information.”

Ridley’s office, which performs all state licensing activities on healthcare facilities, agencies and organizations in Hawaii, is tasked with implementing Act 241, which was signed into law by Gov. David Ige in July 2015.

Detailed Inventory and Sales Information

The seed-to-sale tracking system will be used to collect detailed inventory and sales information such as:

  • The total amount of marijuana at each dispensary production center, in the form of seeds or plants, including all plants that are derived from cuttings or cloning, until the marijuana products are sold or destroyed
  • The total amount of marijuana product inventory at a retail dispensing location
  • The total amount of marijuana products purchased by a qualifying patient and primary caregiver from all retail dispensing locations in any 15-day period
  • The amount of waste produced during the cultivation, harvest, and manufacturing processes.

“BioTrackTHC is an experienced company that has successfully developed and implemented a seed-to-sale tracking system in other states,” said Ridley. “We expect their experience and expertise will help to implement an effective system for Hawaii and we are glad to have them as partners in our effort to ensure patient safety, product safety, and public safety. However, we also realize it will take several weeks of training and then testing to get the system operating smoothly.”

Background

Eight medical marijuana dispensary licenses were issued earlier this year under Act 241 Hawaii Revised Statutes Chapter 329D. Three licenses were issued for the City and County of Honolulu, two dispensary licenses each for the County of Hawaii and the County of Maui, and one dispensary license for the County of Kauai. Each dispensary licensee will be allowed to operate up to two production centers and two retail sites for a total of 16 production centers and 16 retail dispensary locations statewide. Each production center can grow up to 3,000 marijuana plants.

For more information on the Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program go to http://health.hawaii.gov/medicalmarijuanadispensary/

“Chip Away at Cancer” Golf Tournament

Friends of Elton Goo, former Food & Beverage manager at the Marriott are rallying and having an amazing golf fundraiser to help him fight recently-diagnosed, stage IV lung cancer.

chip-away

The tournament takes place on December 4 at 11 a.m. at Hapuna Golf Course, with food booths, DJ and prizes — followed by a four-course Whiskey Dinner at Arnie’s Restaurant (priced separately).

Rapid Ohia Death Kills Forest Giant and Confirms Spread to Hamakua

Twin Tests Verify Fungal Disease Killed Centuries Old Tree

From the road, in the Laupahoehoe Section of the Hilo Forest Reserve, Steve Bergfeld of the Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources spots the enormous, towering, ōhiʻa tree; its thick branches now completely without leaves.  The Hawai’i Island Branch Manager for the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife wants to get a close-up look at the tree, after a technician first spotted it and took samples a week ago.  Two laboratory tests have confirmed that this very old tree was killed by the fast-moving fungal infection known as Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death.

ohia-death2Across Hawai’i Island, the disease is killing trees and devastating tens of thousands of acres of native forest. First reported in the Puna District in 2010, the latest aerial surveys show that the fungus has impacted nearly 50,000 acres of forest here.

Named for the rapidity in which it kills infected trees, the loss of the 100-130 foot tall ōhiʻa in the Laupahoehoe forest, and perhaps others around it, shows the disease has spread to the island’s eastern side, along the Hamakua Coast.  Bergfeld observed, “It’s devastating to look at the forest and the damage Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death is doing to our ecosystem and our watersheds. That tree is a giant in the forest. It also supports a lot of other plant life and bird life. It was an important part of our ecosystem. These trees have been here for hundreds of years and to see them go down to a disease like this is really heartbreaking.”

ohia-death1ʻŌhiʻa trees are culturally significant and their flowers are prized for lei making. Foresters consider ōhiʻa the most important species for protecting the state’s forested watersheds for its dense canopy, where virtually all domestic water supplies originate.

That’s why a strong collaboration between state and federal government agencies and conservation organizations is actively researching the cause of the disease, potential treatments, and the establishment of quarantines and protocols to prevent further spread.

ohia-death3The identification of this diseased tree is the latest example of this cooperative effort.  The tree was spotted by a technician from the U.S. Forest Service’s Institute of Pacific Island Forestry, who collected the wood samples for lab testing.  Verification of Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death, as the trees cause of death, was done by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center in Hilo.

An entomologist from the University of Hawai’i’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Extension Service also collected samples for research that suggests beetles are a primary cause for the spread of the fungus.

ohia-deathBergfeld explains the next steps involving experts from the Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death working group. “We’ll put everyone’s heads together and see what the best management strategy will be for this particular tree.  I assume, more than likely, we’ll fell the tree to get it out of the forest and cover it with tarps to keep insects from putting out frass (the powdery refuse or fragile perforated wood produced by the activity of boring insects), into the air,” he said.

Experts are very concerned that with the confirmation of Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death in this tree, the disease has spread to a previously unaffected area farther up the Hamakua Coast: a forest already impacted by a 2013-2014 outbreak of the Koa looper, a native insect that defoliates entire koa trees during rare, unexplained outbreaks.
Governor David Ige, lead scientists, and policy makers engaged in the fight against Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death, will gather for the first-ever summit on the disease at the State Capitol on

Wednesday, November 30, 2016.  The event is open to the public and is scheduled from

9 a.m. – 3 p.m. in the Capitol Auditorium.  More information on this to follow.

Big Island’s Rep. Clift Tsuji Passes Away

Hawaii Rep. Clift Tsuji, 75, passed away at the Queen’s Medical Center on Oahu today.

clift-tsujiTsuji represented House District 2 including Keaukaha, parts of Hilo, Pana‘ewa and Waiākea.

The family has requested privacy at this time. Services are pending.

Tsuji was born on Jan. 20, 1941 and raised in the Big Island’s plantation town of Papaikou. He is a 1959 graduate of Hilo High School and completed his post-secondary degrees at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the University of Washington, Pacific Coast Banking School.

Rep. Clift Tsuji was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2004 and was chairman of the Agriculture Committee. Among his many awards he was named the Hawaii Farm Bureau’s Legislator of the Year Award in 2015.

Tsuji served in the U.S. Army Reserve, 442nd Infantry, Company B, Hilo, from 1959-1965.

He was also active with the Hilo Medical Center Foundation, Hawaii Island Japanese Community Association, Pacific Tsunami Museum, Hiroshima Kenjin Kai, Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce, and the Kumamoto Kenjin Kai.

Hawaii Department of Health Issues Cease and Desist Order to Marine Agrifuture LLC

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) Sanitation Branch has ordered Marine Agrifuture LLC (also known as Olakai Hawaii) to immediately cease and desist selling or distributing their products, Kahuku Ogo, Robusta Ogo, and Sea Asparagus. The farm is located in Kahuku on Oahu.

marine-agrifutureReports of Salmonella infections on Oahu were linked to consumption of ogo (or limu) and subsequently led to the investigation of Marine Agriculture LLC on Nov. 2 and 7.  During the investigation, testing was conducted on environmental, processing area, and ogo samples. Laboratory tests identified Salmonella bacteria in the packing and processing tanks and in the farm environment.

“Distributors and retailers have been notified to remove the affected products from sale or distribution immediately,” said Peter Oshiro, chief of the DOH Sanitation Branch.  We advise the public to discard any suspect product they may have.”

Marine Agrifuture is a major distributor of ogo and sea asparagus in Hawaii and its products may have been shipped to all islands as well as the mainland (California and Washington state). The department is still confirming all locations and states the product may have been shipped to.

Marine Agrifuture will be allowed to resume their sale of Kahuku Ogo, Robusta Ogo, and Sea Asparagus once the farm demonstrates to DOH that the risk of contamination from pathogenic bacteria has been mitigated at the source and that sanitation practices have been implemented to preclude contamination during the processing of the food product. DOH will continue to work with the farm and will require retesting of areas and products to assure food safety.

Nordstrom Ala Moana Picks Up Sam Choy Hawaiian Kitchen and Tiki Shark

Located in Hawaii’s biggest and most high profile mall, Nordstrom Ala Moana has picked up Sam Choy’s Hawaiian Kitchen and artist Brad “Tiki Shark” Parkers souvenir line just in time for the 2016 Holiday Season.

sam-choy-and-brad-parker-at-nordstroms

Celebrity Chef Sam Choy and Brad “Tiki Shark” Parker getting into the holiday spirit.

“We are so excited to feature such a colorful and high quality line in our At-Home section” quoted Deja Young At-home Dept Manager “hope to see you for Chef Sam Choy’s and artist Brad Parker’s personal appearance next month” she added.

sam-choy-nordstrom-display“Wow these towels are soft and absorbent…turned out better than I expected”, “I am so excited to be a part of such a wonderful store” commented the world famous celebrity chef.

“These are embroidered designs specially manufactured for Nordstrom and other limited venues” commented Abbas Hassan – Senior Vice President of Tiki Shark Art Inc. who is also the celebrity chefs and renowned artists agent.  “We had a lot of inquiries about Brad’s art being available in Honolulu and we are so happy to be able to fill that demand thru Nordstrom’s” he quoted.

sam-in-nordstromsA public signing and personal appearance is scheduled at the 186,000 square foot store on December 4 – 2 PM to 6 PM.  General public is encouraged to arrive early to avoid the rush.

sam-in-front-of-nordstromsChef Sam Choy’s products can also be purchased on line at www.chefsamchoy.com

Brad “Tiki Shark” Parker and his artworks are currently featured in Hawaiian Airlines Hana Hou Magazine. His company Tiki Shark Art Inc was name the 10th Fastest Growing Companies in the State of Hawaii by Pacific Business News.

Temporary Residential Tire Amnesty Collection Program Now in Effect

County of Hawaii’s continues “Fight the Bite!” campaign efforts at the onset of wet season

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration recently reported that this year’s wet season probabilities are favoring near to above average rainfall through next spring.  Because rain water can collect in spare tires and create mosquito breeding environments, the County of Hawaii is encouraging tire clean up in our communities. The County of Hawaii Department of Environmental Management is now accepting tires at full-service transfer stations (those that are open seven days of the week) for the month of November only.  For more information on the Wet Season Outlook, click on the following link: NOAA Media Advisory.

mosquito-biteThis temporary tire amnesty program is an addition to ongoing, proactive mosquito control efforts managed by the recently staffed County Vector Control team that sprays and conducts surveys at County facilities on a regular basis.

For this new program, Hawaii Island households may bring in up to four (4) passenger vehicle, motorcycle or ATV tires to any of the County of Hawai‘i Solid Waste Division’s Recycling & Transfer Stations which are open on a seven (7) day per week basis, during normal operating hours, see below.

Transfer Station Location Hours of Collection                   
Hāwī Daily 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Hilo Daily 6:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Honoka‘a Daily 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Kea‘au Daily 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Kealakehe Daily 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Keauhou Daily 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Pāhoa Daily 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Waimea Daily 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Wai‘ōhinu Daily 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

For directions to the locations listed above please click on the following link: Map and Directions to County of Hawaii Solid Waste Facilities

Customers should locate the Solid Waste Facility Attendant (SWFA) on duty (they will have a fluorescent safety vest on) and advise the SWFA that they have acceptable tires for recycling, the SWFA will instruct the customer where to properly place the tires.  Tires dropped off before or after normal operating hours will be considered illegal dumping.

In order to fairly serve the public and ensure that one customer doesn’t overload the site and unnecessarily prevent other customers from participating in the temporary collection, there is a 4 (acceptable) tire limit per day per vehicle. Tires should be empty of any liquids, dirt or any other foreign material before bringing them in for disposal.

Tires from businesses, commercial haulers, non-profits or farms; including industrial tires (e.g. backhoe, tractor, forklift & etc.) will not be accepted.  Businesses, commercial haulers, non-profits or farms can contact Hawai‘i County Civil Defense for options to dispose of their tires.

This Fight the Bite Temporary Residential Tire Amnesty Collection Program may be extended if conditions warrant.

For more information on ways you can “Fight the Bite” go to the State of Hawai‘i Department of Health information website: fightthebitehawaii.com

Coordinated State Efforts Aim to Increase Employment for People with Disabilities

State of Hawai‘i departments are coming together to increase opportunities and support for the employment of people with disabilities. The agreement was announced during a ceremony today that also celebrated National Disability Employment Awareness Month and the success of employees, employers, and training programs that have brought down barriers to employment for people with disabilities.

service-auditoriumThe Departments of Labor and Industrial Relations, Human Services, Education, and Health, along with the University of Hawai‘i Center for Disability Studies are working together to develop and sustain a coordinated approach to develop and expand business and employer networks. These networks will provide greater job search, job referrals, vocational training, and work-based learning opportunities to individuals with disabilities.

service-dog“This agreement is among the first of its kind. It brings together various stakeholders in state government to support individuals with disabilities and their opportunities to work in our communities,” said Department of Human Services Director Pankaj Bhanot.

The Cooperative Agreement positions the State of Hawai‘i to maximize resources and shift policies to serve a more diverse audience and improve workforce outcomes. The agreement also calls on departments to identify and leverage resources to provide training and build capacity of employers. It will simultaneously work to expand work opportunities for people with disabilities by identifying career pathways, coordinating assistive technology programs and services where appropriate, and streamlining services.

service-auditorium2“The Department of Health is proud of the collaborative partnerships reflected in the Cooperative Agreement,” said Director of Health Dr. Virginia Pressler. “It promotes a shared value of stakeholders to provide opportunities to advance the employment and workforce development for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

The announcement of this agreement was marked by the ceremony which featured employers, employees, and state government agencies partnering to increase opportunities and reduce barriers to employment. The event also honored Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland for her service to this community in her years as a legislator.

School Children Help Release Rescued Shearwaters

School children from Island School helped release five fledgling ‘A‘o (Newell’s Shearwaters) and one Leach’s Storm-petrel yesterday as part of the annual E Hoopomaikai ‘ia na Manu ‘A‘o (A Cultural Release of the Native Newell’s Shearwater) event.  The event was organized by the Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project (KESRP) and the Save Our Shearwaters (SOS) project.

 Island School teacher Rebecca Snowden and Tracy Anderson of SOS release a Newell's Shearwater


Island School teacher Rebecca Snowden and Tracy Anderson of SOS release a Newell’s Shearwater

Every year, young shearwaters are attracted to artificial lights on the island of Kauai, where they are rescued by concerned members of the public and passed over to the Save Our Shearwaters project.  There the birds are examined by trained staff, rehabilitated as necessary and then released to continue their journey out to sea.

Mike McFarlin, a KESRP staff member who helped organize the event, explained. “We do this once a year with the Save Our Shearwaters project – giving local school children the opportunity to take part in the release of these endangered seabirds.  Each bird is also offered a pule (Hawaiian prayer) by Kupuna Sabra Kauka just before it is released, which makes the event even more special and serves to highlight the importance of this species in Hawaiian culture.”

sheerwater

Kupuna Sabra Kauka releases a Leach’s Storm-petrel

The ‘A‘o is one of two threatened seabirds found only on the Hawaiian Islands.  Kaua‘i holds an estimated 90% of the World population of this species, making it a vital refuge for the species.  The ‘A‘o breed mainly in remote and mountainous parts of the island, and populations have declined dramatically in recent years.  The decline is due to a number of issues, which include predation by introduced predators (such as feral cats, rats and pigs), collisions with man-made structures and fall-out of fledglings due to artificial lights.

Newly fledged birds are very vulnerable to lights and as they leave their burrows in the mountains for the first time and head out to sea.  On dark or stormy nights in particular they often become attracted to bright lights, which they circle until exhausted.  This often leads to them landing on the ground, where they are eaten by cats and dogs or run over by cars if they are not rescued.

Tracy Anderson, Coordinator for the Save Our Shearwaters project said, “This is always a busy time of year for us.  In recent years, we typically receive a hundred or more of these endangered seabirds, which – while a lot – is a far cry from the thousands received by the project twenty years ago.  This just goes to show how badly this species is doing, and highlights the importance of on-going conservation efforts to save the species.”

Kupuna Sabra Kauka releases a Newell's Shearwater

Kupuna Sabra Kauka releases a Newell’s Shearwater

Members of the public can help at this time of year by keeping an eye out for fallen birds.  If birds are found, they should be carefully collected and placed in one of the aid stations located at Kauai County fire stations and other locations around the island, where they can be collected by the Save Our Shearwaters project staff.  The fall-out season starts at the end of September and ends in mid-December.

KESRP is a State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife project, administered by the Pacific Co-operative Studies Unit of the University of Hawaii.  SOS is a DLNR project housed at the Kaua’i Humane Society and financially supported by the Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Recognized As Top Advocate For National Food Policy

Food Policy Action announced Rep. Tulsi Gabbard as a top advocate for improving the nation’s food system.

ep. Tulsi Gabbard has been a top advocate for a clear, transparent, uniform food labeling standard

ep. Tulsi Gabbard has been a top advocate for a clear, transparent, uniform food labeling standard

The congresswoman earned a perfect score on the recent release of the National Food Policy Scorecard for her leadership advancing good food policy in the 114th Congress.

“Fighting for sensible, transparent food policies and supporting local and domestic agriculture have been among my key priorities. This Congress, we’ve unfortunately seen numerous attempts to roll back progress on good food policy, like undermining common sense food labeling standards across the country, fast-tracking the destructive Trans-Pacific Partnership, and lifting restrictions on the use of harmful pesticides near our vital water resources,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “Food security is a critical issue for people in Hawaiʻi and across the U.S. and I will continue to work hard toward creating a more secure, safe, and healthy future for our people and our environment.”

“Tulsi Gabbard is a strong food champion who has been a steadfast advocate for measures to fix our food system, voting to protect clean water, transparency in food labeling, workers’ rights, and the long-term viability of our food supply. Her 100% score on the National Food Policy Scorecard showcases her leadership on food policy issues in Congress,” said Tom Colicchio, Food Policy Action co-founder, chef and food advocate.

Background:

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has been a strong advocate for food and production safety and transparency, and was among just 18% of House members that received a perfect score on this year’s Food Policy Action Scorecard. Food Policy Action recognized Rep. Tulsi Gabbard for:

  • Fighting against the DARK Act and “fast-track” Trade Promotion Authority (TPA)
  • Working to pass clear, easy-to-read food labeling standards
  • Protecting the Clean Water Act and upholding restrictions on pesticide use
  • Reauthorizing services for kūpuna under the Older Americans Reauthorization Act

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has introduced legislation to protect local agriculture and help local farmers fight back against invasive species, including the Macadamia Tree Health Initiative and the Areawide Integrated Pest Management Act. As an original cosponsor of H.R. 913, the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, she helped lead Congressional opposition to legislation like the DARK Act and S.764, legislation that pre-empts state and local laws that already require labeling of genetically modified foods and creates a food labeling system based solely on industry science and corporate influences. She has continued working to pass a clear, uniform national labeling standard that makes it easier for consumers to know what’s in their food.

 

Food Policy Action was established in 2012 through a collaboration of national food policy leaders in order to hold legislators accountable on votes that have an effect on food and farming. The National Food Policy Scorecard reflects the consensus of top food policy experts who select the key food policy votes each year. The scorecard considers lawmakers votes on a variety of issues relevant to food policy in the U.S., including domestic and international hunger, food safety, food access, farm subsidies, animal welfare, food and farm labor, nutrition, food additives, food transparency, local and regional food production, organic farming and the effects of food production on the environment.

West Hawaii Little Fire Ant Awareness Forum

WHAT: The Office of the Governor in West Hawai‘i presents:       

Little Fire Ant Awareness Forum

Little fire ants are one of the worst invasive species in the world and one of the most detrimental invasive species in Hawai‘i.

lfa-in-hawaiiThey threaten agriculture, native ecosystems, animals and people. This forum aims to support the community and provide residents with valuable information on how to prevent and control little fire ants.

WHO: Presentations from:

  • Hawai‘i Ant Lab
  • State of Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture
  • Big Island Invasive Species Committee
  • County of Hawai‘i – Department of Research and Development

WHEN: Thursday, October 27, 2016 – 6 to 8pm (Doors open at 5:30 pm)

WHERE:  Hawai‘i Community College-Pālamanui, 73-4225 Ane Keohokalole Highway, Room 127