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Chinese Navy Ships to Visit Hawaii

The U.S. Navy announced today that a People’s Liberation Army-Navy [PLA(N)] ship is expected to visit Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Oct. 12-16.

Zheng He (Type 679, Hull 81)

Zheng He (Type 679, Hull 81)

Zheng He (Type 679, Hull 81), a midshipmen training ship, is expected to arrive at 8 a.m. This routine port visit will give Chinese sailors an opportunity to interact with their U.S. counterparts

Foreign Navy ships come to Pearl Harbor-Hickam regularly for scheduled port visits.  Ships from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force have visited the base twice in recent months.

As part of a planned series of military-to-military exchanges between the two nations, Zheng He will be hosted by USS Chosin (CG 65). Chinese and U.S. naval officers will conduct dialogues to build confidence and mutual understanding.

Senior Captain Yan Zhengming, Superintendent of the Dalian Naval Academy; Senior Captain Xu Ping, Deputy Political Commissar of Dalian Naval Academy; and Senior Captain You Dade, Chief of Training Division of Dalian Naval Academy will be met by Captain Eric Weilenman, Chief of Staff, Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific.

American and Chinese sailors plan to engage in deckplate level events and sporting events – including soccer, tug-of-war and basketball games – between our sailors. Receptions aboard the Zheng He and USS Chosin are also planned.  Capt. Ye Kaihua is commanding officer of Zheng He; Capt. Kevin Brand commands USS Chosin.

The last port visit by PLA(N) ships to Pearl Harbor-Hickam was in September 2013.

The U.S. Navy is committed to continued engagement to improve mutual understanding, build trust, enhance transparency, and reduce the risk of misperceptions and miscalculations. Military-to-military engagement is an important tool to build trust, encourage multilateral cooperation, enhance transparency, and mitigate risk.

Many Atolls May be Uninhabitable Within Decades Due to Climate Change

A new study shows that the combined effect of storm-induced wave-driven flooding and sea level rise on island atolls may be more severe and happen sooner than previous estimates of inundation predicted by passive “bathtub” modeling for low-lying atoll islands, and especially at higher sea levels forecasted for the future due to climate change.

Photograph showing the impact of a large wave at the south shore of Laysan Island, with endangered Laysan teal in the foreground. Location: Laysan Islands (Northwestern Hawaiian Islands). Location: Laysan Islands , HI, USA Date Taken: 2012 Photographer: Michele Reynolds Photographer Email: mreynolds@usgs.gov Photographer Organization: USGS

Photograph showing the impact of a large wave at the south shore of Laysan Island, with endangered Laysan teal in the foreground.
Location: Laysan Islands (Northwestern Hawaiian Islands).
Location: Laysan Islands , HI, USA
Date Taken: 2012
Photographer: Michele Reynolds
Photographer Email: mreynolds@usgs.gov
Photographer Organization: USGS

More than half a million people live on atolls throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and although the modeling was based on the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, the results from the study apply to almost all atolls.

U.S. Geological Survey scientists and their colleagues at the Deltares Institute in the Netherlands, and the Hawaii Cooperative Studies Unit at University of Hawaii, Hilo report that numerical modeling reveals waves will synergistically interact with sea level rise, causing twice as much land forecast to be flooded for a given future sea level than currently predicted by models that do not take wave-driven water levels into account.

Observations show global sea level is rising due to climate change, with the highest rates in the tropical Pacific Ocean where many of the world’s low-lying atolls are located. Sea level rise is particularly critical for low-lying coral reef-lined atoll islands; these islands have limited land and water available for human habitation, limited food sources and ecosystems that are vulnerable to inundation from sea level rise. Sea level rise will result in larger waves and higher wave-driven water levels along atoll islands’ shorelines than at present.

“Many atoll islands will be flooded annually, contaminating the limited freshwater resources with saltwater, and likely forcing inhabitants to abandon their islands in decades, not centuries, as previously thought,” said USGS geologist and lead author of the study, Curt Storlazzi.

The study explored the combined effect of storm-induced wave-driven flooding and sea level rise on atoll islands within the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, including Laysan and Midway Islands, which are home to many threatened and endangered endemic species. The same modeling approach is applicable to most populated atolls around the world.

The study, “Many Atolls May Be Uninhabitable Within Decades Due to Climate Change,” was recently published in Nature’s Scientific Reports journal, and is available online.

Hawaii Lawmakers Meet With President Obama During National Summit

State Senators Will Espero (Senate Dist. 19 – ‘Ewa Beach, ‘Ewa by Gentry, Iroquois Point, portion of ‘Ewa Villages) and Jill Tokuda (Senate Dist. 24 – Kane‘ohe, Kane‘ohe MCAB, Kailua, He‘eia, ‘Ahuimanu), along with State Representative Chris Lee (House Dist. 51 – Kailua, Waimanalo) were among more than 50 Democratic lawmakers from around the country at the White House on Wednesday to meet with President Barack Obama.  The President encouraged them to push for domestic policy change at the state level because “you can act when Washington won’t.”
Lawmakers whitehouse

The Hawaii lawmakers were in Washington, D.C. to participate in discussions on how the states can address issues including raising the minimum wage, paid family leave and sick days for workers, expanding pre-Kindergarten education, college affordability, and reforming licensing laws to allow more people to get jobs.

Following the summit, the Hawaii delegation clearly understood the burden and opportunity for change that befalls legislators.

“The meetings with the White House staff were productive and informative. Hawai’i families are counting on us to make good policy and improve the quality of life where they live. I look forward to working with the President to pass legislation which supports working men and women and families in our state,” said Sen. Espero.

Sen. Tokuda said the meeting “was a good opportunity to connect with senior White House officials and lawmakers from other states to discuss how we can move forward on important issues like paid leave, early childhood education and criminal justice reform. These discussions were timely as we head towards our legislative session and prepare priorities and bills that will be introduced in concert with local and national efforts.”

Rep. Lee said, “Issues like paid family leave and medical leave aren’t red or blue issues. They will benefit everyone and are overwhelmingly supported by people around the country, but Congress has been unable to take action. Families in our community are hurting. I have friends just starting families who are being forced to choose between caring for their newborns or keeping their jobs. That isn’t right. The United States is the last developed nation in the world without meaningful paid family leave. If Congress won’t act to fix that, then it’s up to us at the state level.”

Hawaii Wins $53.1 Million Settlement Against Online Travel Companies

The State of Hawaii has recovered $53.1 million in general excise taxes, penalties and interest from online travel companies (the “companies”) including Travelocity.Com, LLP, Expedia, Inc., Orbitz, LLC, and Priceline.Com, LLP from tax litigation that began in 2011.

Attorney General Clip

Attorney General Doug Chin said “Online travel companies derive substantial profits from the sale of hotel rooms, rental cars a nd other services in Hawaii. The importance of the Hawaii Supreme Court ruling is the precedent it establishes. People or companies who provide goods and services through the Internet that are used or consumed in Hawaii are subject to Hawaii taxation, despite being domiciled in other states.”

The Tax Appeal Court previously ruled that the companies owed general excise taxes but not the State’s transient accommodations tax that is assessed on operators of transient accommodations, like hotels. The State and the companies appealed to the Hawaii Supreme Court from these rulings.

On March 17, 2015, the Hawaii Supreme Court upheld the Tax Appeal Court’s ruling that the companies are subject to Hawaii’s general excise tax, but concluded that they are taxable only on their net receipts from the sale of hotel rooms in Hawaii, not their gross receipts. The Court ruled that the companies receive the benefit of an income splitting provision that applies to travel agents in chapter 237, Hawaii Revised Statutes.

The Court rejected the companies’ argument that they were not doing business in Hawaii. The Court stated in its opinion, “the [companies] are not passive sellers of services to Hawai‘i consumers. The [companies] actively solicit customers for Hawai‘i hotel rooms and actively solicit hotels to contractually provide the right to sell on their website the right of occupancy of hotel rooms.”

The Court remanded the case to the Tax Appeal Courtto re-determine the amount of general excise taxes, penalties and interest the companies owe to the State of Hawaii. On September 22, 2015, the Tax Appeal Court entered final stipulated judgments setting forth the amounts owed by the companies and the amounts that the State needed to refund from the State’s litigated claims fund.

Litigation against the companies for their other State tax obligations for their other business activities in Hawaii during the period 2000 through 2013 is continuing.

HVO Elevating Advisory Alert for Mauna Loa

HVO seismic stations continue to record elevated rates of shallow, small-magnitude earthquakes beneath Mauna Loa’s summit, upper Southwest Rift Zone, and west flank. For at least the past year, the rate of shallow earthquakes has varied but overall has remained above the long-term average. During this same time period, HVO has measured ground deformation consistent with recharge of the volcano’s shallow magma storage system. Together, these observations indicate the volcano is no longer at a background level of activity. Accordingly, HVO is elevating the Mauna Loa alert level to ADVISORY and the aviation color code to YELLOW.

This increase in alert level does not mean that an eruption is imminent or that progression to an eruption is certain.

Shallow earthquakes are occurring in locations similar to those that preceded Mauna Loa’s two most recent eruptions in 1975 and 1984; however, the energy release of the recent earthquakes remains comparatively low. The current rate and pattern of ground deformation is similar to that measured during inflation of Mauna Loa in 2005, an episode of unrest that did not end in an eruption.

It is possible that, as in 2005, the present heightened activity will continue for many months, or even years, without progressing to an eruption. It is also possible that the current unrest is a precursor to an eruption, as was the case prior to eruptions in 1975 and 1984. At this early stage of unrest, we cannot determine which of these possibilities is more likely.

HVO continues to monitor the volcano closely and will report any significant changes

Public Invited to Watch Presidential Debates at UH Hilo

The public is invited to watch the 2016 Presidential debates at the University of Hawaii-Hilo’s Wentworth Bldg. off Lanikaula St.
uhh-017The next Republican debate is scheduled for 2 p.m. this Wednesday, Sept. 16…come view it from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and stick around for the discussion.  There is no admission charge but parking fees may be in effect.
The first Democratic Party Presidential debate is planned for Tuesday, Oct. 13 yet but the time of that event has not been announced. Public viewing on the UHH campus is planned for the Democratic debate as well. Call 965-8945 for more information.

Hawaii League of Women Voters to Participate in National Voter Registration Day Activities

The League of Women Voters of Hawai’i County will be participating in National Voter Registration Day, a nationwide, non-partisan effort to register thousands of voters this fall on Tuesday, Sept. 22.

Voter Registration Day

The League encourages all U.S. citizens to register to vote, as this is the key for citizens to participate in the political process.  Those who wish to register to vote, receive a permanent absentee ballot, or update their address may pick up a mail-in Wikiwiki Voter Registration & Permanent Absentee Form from League volunteers at the following locations.

Waimea:  Sat. Sept. 19th  Waimea Homestead Market  9:30- Noon
Waikoloa: Tues, Sept. 22  Waikoloa Village Market 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Kona:  Tues. Sept. 22.   KTA on Palani Rd.   2 p.m. to  6 p.m.

Voters may also register to vote in person on Sept. 22 or any other working day at the Elections Offices :  Hilo Elections Office:25 Aupuni St., Suite 1502, Hilo 808-961-8277 or Kailua-Kona Elections Office, West Hawaii Civic Center, 74-5044 Ane Keohok_lole Highway, Building B, 2nd Floor  808-323-4400

On-line registration is also available at https://olvr.hawaii.gov/ for those who have a Hawai’i Driver’s License or Hawai’I State I.D.

The deadline to register to vote in the 2016 Primary Elections is Thursday, July 14, 2016.  The 2016 General Election voter registration deadline is Monday, October 10, 2016.

Macadamia Nuts From the Big Island Being Recalled

Mahina Mele Farms is recalling the following products after FDA testing found Salmonella in macadamia nuts.

Mahina Mele Mac Nuts

Salmonella, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

To date, no illnesses have been reported in connection with these products. In the interest of public health and safety, we are recalling all products processed from this batch of macadamia nuts.

The following products are involved in the recall. They were distributed to retail stores from May 26-29, 2015 primarily on the East Coast and in Hawaii.

Izzie Macs! Macadamia Nuts 689076792677 016 6oz (salted)
Izzie Macs! Macadamia Nuts 689076793575 016 6oz (unsalted)
Izzie Macs! Macadamia Nuts 689076792776 016 16oz (unsalted)
Izzie Macs! Macadamia Nuts 689076792974 016 16oz (salted)
Bulk Macadamia nuts (salted and unsalted; wholes and pieces) 016 5lb bag
Baby Bruddah’s Mac Nut Buttah 753182242019 016 12oz
Baby Bruddah’s Chocolate Mac Nut Buttah 735182242040 016 12oz

Customers who have purchased the above products should not consume them and should return them to the store where they were purchased for a full refund or replacement. Mahina Mele Farm will reimburse the wholesaler for any returned product.

These products were shipped May 26-29th, 2015 and are from LOT #016.

If you have any questions, call Jason or Kollette Stith at 808 328 8987.

This recall is being made with the knowledge of the Food and Drug Administration.

Dalai Lama and Nainoa Thompson Discuss Education and Universal Human Values

Nainoa Thompson, pwo (master) navigator and president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, today joined a panel discussion with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in celebration of His Holiness’s 80th birthday. The topic of discussion for the panel of inspiring leaders was The Significance of Education in Advancing Universal Human Values.

Dalai Lama and Nainoa

“I was honored and humbled to be invited to speak with His Holiness, one of my heroes and a true inspiration for our work aboard Hokulea as we travel around the world,” said Thompson. “We came together to celebrate his legacy of peace, kindness and universal compassion, and the true gift for his 80th birthday was the lesson he has offered all of us.”

Thompson acknowledged His Holiness as one of Earth’s greatest navigators and offered a gift of traditional Hawaiian oli (chant) by apprentice navigator Lehua Kamalu.  Thompson then presented him with a maile lei he had carried from the Hawaiian islands.

The event was the final session of His Holiness’s three-day Global Compassion Summit at University of California, Irvine’s Bren Center on Tuesday, July 7 and took place at 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time. Thompson was one of 15 distinguished panelists to participate in the conversation.

The Dalai Lama blessed the Hokulea at Kualoa Park last year.  Photo courtesy of Pillars of Peace

The Dalai Lama blessed the Hokulea at Kualoa Park last year. Photo courtesy of Pillars of Peace

Thompson’s visit to the Global Compassion Summit marked a truly global moment for the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Worldwide Voyage today. Legendary voyaging canoe Hokulea is scheduled to arrive at Darwin, Australia, while sister canoe Hikianalia today returns home to Honolulu after a fruitful trip to the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument with NOAA researchers and crew from The Nature Conservancy.

The Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage is taking the iconic sailing vessels Hokulea and her sister canoe Hikianalia across Hawaii and the Earth’s oceans to grow a global movement toward a more sustainable world.

The Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage, sponsored by Hawaiian Airlines, began in Hawaiʻi in 2013 and will cover over 60,000 nautical miles, 100 ports, and 27 nations, including 12 of UNESCO’s Marine World Heritage sites, through June 2017. The voyage seeks to engage all of Island Earth – practicing how to live sustainably while sharing Polynesian culture, learning from the past and from each other, creating global relationships, and discovering the wonders of the precious place we call home.

UH Hilo Wins National Health Occupations Students of America Competition

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo turned in a championship performance at the 2015 HOSA National Leadership Conference held recently in Anaheim, California.

UH Hilo MonikerUH Hilo sent two Public Service Announcement (PSA) teams to the conference who were tasked with developing a 30-second PSA on Concussion: Prevention and Recognition followed by a four-minute oral presentation that provides a synopsis of the PSA, explains the creative process of the project, and how it may affect the target audience.

Team B: Chapter President Lark Jason Canico, Shane Naeole, and Taumata Tue Vaea (serving as an alternate from UH Manoa) took 1st place. Team A: Ridge Cabaccang, Kelly Gani, and Sheldon Cabudol earned Top 10 honors.

“I’m overwhelmed with joy and still in denial that we captured Gold facing such tough competition that included fellow UH Hilo members and other Texas Technical Institutes,” Canico said. “To finish first after coming in second last year makes it extra special.”

This year’s conference was the largest ever with over 8,550 members in attendance. Hawai’i brought a total of 223 members, ranked second in the nation for most medals won in every competitive event, and won the Most Enthusiastic state award.

“A trip to Anaheim usually includes a visit to Disneyland,” said faculty advisor Dr. Cecilia Mukai. “But I was more than happy to trade that visit for the chance to see both our teams finish in the Top Ten, with one capturing Gold.”

Established in 1976 as Health Occupations Students of America, HOSA-Future Health Professionals is now an international organization with the addition of Puerto Rico, Italy, Canada and Mexico, who competed at this year’s leadership conference. The organization totals more than 175,000 members and 2.4 million alumni.

HOSA was established in Hawai’i in 2005 and has grown to more than 1,300 members. UH Hilo’s membership is open to all majors/grade levels and Hawai’i Community College students.

For more information, email hosa.uhhilo@gmail.com.

Hawaii State Judiciary Launches New Environmental Court

On July 1st, Hawaii will take the historic step of establishing the second statewide Environmental Court in the United States.  Hawaii’s new Environmental Court will have broad jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases affecting the environment.

JudiciaryAccording to Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald, “The goal of the Environmental Court is to ensure the fair, consistent, and effective resolution of cases involving the environment.  We are excited to be part of this new initiative.”

In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the creation of environmental courts and tribunals around the world.  To date, 350 environmental courts of some kind are operating in 41 countries.  The Vermont State Legislature founded America’s first environmental court in 1990.  No other statewide environmental courts were formed in the United States until former Governor Neil Abercrombie signed into law Act 218, Session Laws of Hawaii 2014.

Pursuant to Act 218, Chief Justice Recktenwald appointed Associate Justice Michael D. Wilson to serve as Chair of the Environmental Court Working Group, an assembly of court personnel from across the state, to manage the implementation of the new specialty court.  The Working Group has been preparing for the July 1, 2015 launch, starting with a report to the 2015 Legislature describing plans to implement the Hawaii Environmental Court.  Since then, environmental court judges for the district and circuit courts have been assigned, Circuit Court Rules were amended, case management systems were updated, and adjustments were made to some court schedules to accommodate environmental court calendars.

“With the Environmental Court, Hawaii will be better positioned to safeguard one of the most treasured environments in the world,” said Justice Wilson.  “By organizing the technical and legal environmental issues under the Environmental Court, the State Legislature’s intention of promoting and protecting Hawaii’s natural environment will be realized through informed, efficient and consistent application of Hawaii’s environmental laws.”

Thirty Meter Telescope to Resume Building Wednesday Morning

Statement from Henry Yang, Chair of the TMT International Observatory Board:

TMT laser

“After more than two months of consultation, education, and dialogue with many stakeholders, we humbly announce that the TMT International Observatory Board has decided to move ahead to restart the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the morning of Wednesday, June 24. Our period of inactivity has made us a better organization in the long run. We are now comfortable that we can be better stewards and better neighbors during our temporary and limited use of this precious land, which will allow us to explore the heavens and broaden the boundaries of science in the interest of humanity.

“We look forward to a positive relationship with all Hawaiians, while we understand that the majority of Hawaii’s people are supporting the TMT project. We deeply respect and are mindful of those who have concerns, and yet, we hope they will permit us to proceed with this important task while reserving their right to peaceful protest.

“As done at any construction site, we plan to first investigate and assess any possible oil leakage and ensure we can provide proper maintenance of machines and equipment so they operate safely and correctly – in order to protect Maunakea and preserve the sensitive environment. We will then begin to repair and install fencing in the interest of public safety.

“As we proceed, TMT is open and willing to allow cultural practitioners in the area of the construction site to continue customary and traditional practices. Allowing this practice to continue to occur will require further dialogue and mutual agreement to work out the details in order to establish a cooperative and harmonious environment for all parties.

“In an effort to be sensitive to and observant of the Native Hawaiian host culture, we will deepen our knowledge of the cultural, ecological, and spiritual aspects of the mountain and continue to learn how to better respect and appreciate Maunakea’s important cultural areas.

“On behalf of TMT, I want to express our sincere appreciation to the people in Hawaii for their understanding and support.”

EPA Honors Hawaii Volcanoes National Park as Federal Green Challenge Winner

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park with the EPA’s Federal Green Challenge Regional Overall Achievement award as part of its efforts to encourage federal departments to reduce their environmental footprints through sustainable practices.

A park ranger recycles cardboard

A park ranger recycles cardboard

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, located on Hawai‘i Island is one of the most biologically diverse landscapes in the world. Located nearly 2,500 miles from the nearest continental land mass, the park stretches from the summit of Mauna Loa at 13,677 feet down to sea level. It encompasses two of the world’s most active volcanoes, and attracts more than 1.6 million visitors a year.

“We applaud National Park Service staff for leading the way towards zero waste, and educating the millions of visitors to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “This unique landscape deserves protection, and that starts with the commitment by the federal employees who work there.”

“We are extremely honored to receive this level of recognition for our climate-friendly efforts,” said Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando. “Our staff is dedicated to implementing environmentally responsible practices, and we encourage our visitors and park partners to do the same,” she said.

The park had top regional achievements in the Federal Green Challenge Waste and Purchasing target areas, increasing recycling by 167 percent to achieve an overall recycling rate of 76 percent, while decreasing copy paper purchases by 89 percent. In addition, 95 percent of its cleaning products met Environmental Preferable Purchasing criteria.

Not only does Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park walk their talk behind the scenes, but park employees reach out to the community and visitors throughout the year through programs, exhibits and presentations on the values and importance of being climate friendly and sustainable.

The park actively works to reduce their environmental footprint in all six Federal Green Challenge target areas: energy, water, waste, electronics, purchasing and transportation.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is home to Hawaii’s largest public rainwater catchment system that stores 5.3 million gallons of water. The water is treated, filtered with cartridge and sand filters, and disinfected to supply water to 56 areas throughout the park. Water bottle refilling stations, posters, and sale of refillable stainless steel water bottles educate the public to “Step Away from the Plastic.”

In addition, the park’s Visitor Emergency Operations Center, which opened in 2011, earned a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification by the U.S. Green Building Council – and is currently the only federal building in Hawai‘i to receive LEED Platinum certification. The 4,896-square-foot building is powered by photovoltaic panels and is constructed from mostly recycled or reused materials.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has made more great strides in conserving energy. Park rangers ride electrically powered “Eco Bikes” to their programs along the Kīlauea summit, saving fossil fuels and parking spaces. The Kīlauea Visitor Center features special yellow LED lighting to conserve energy and keep night skies dark. Solar panels generate renewable energy, and electric and alternative fuel vehicles further reduce energy and transportation-related emissions.

The Federal Green Challenge is a national effort challenging federal agencies to lead by example in reducing the Federal Government’s environmental impacts. In 2014, more than 400 participating facilities, representing nearly 1.3 million federal employees, “walked the talk” in various target areas and reduced their environmental footprint, which in many cases also resulted in significant cost savings. In EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region, $3,486,990 was saved through reductions in energy, purchasing, transportation and waste.

Hawaiian Electric Industries Shareholders Approve Merger with NextEra Energy

Hawaiian Electric Industries, Inc. (NYSE: HE) (HEI) today announced that HEI shareholders have approved the merger agreement with NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE:NEE) announced Dec. 3, 2014.

Helco new Logo 2“We’re extremely pleased that our shareholders, many of whom are Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light customers, have shown their strong support for this historic partnership by approving the proposed merger,” said Jeff Watanabe, HEI’s chairman of the board. “The approval marks another significant milestone in our efforts to accelerate Hawaii’s clean energy transformation by bringing the expertise and resources of NextEra Energy to our state to achieve even higher levels of renewables and lower energy costs for our customers.”

Of the shares voted, approximately 90 percent were in favor of the merger. Achieving this level of shareholder support is a significant accomplishment because, while publicly held companies commonly may proceed with a merger with the affirmative vote of a majority of their outstanding shares, HEI is required under Hawaii law to obtain supermajority approval from 75 percent of its outstanding shares. Hawaii is the only state with such a high approval requirement for a merger.

The merger will bring together two industry leaders in clean and renewable energy. Hawaiian Electric has put Hawaii on the leading edge of clean energy nationally, successfully integrating rooftop solar with 12 percent of its residential customers and helping meet 21 percent of customer electricity needs from renewable energy resources. NextEra Energy has developed, built and operates one of the nation’s most modern grid networks and is the world’s largest producer of renewable energy from the wind and sun. NextEra Energy supports and will help accelerate Hawaiian Electric’s plans to lower electric bills, triple distributed solar – including rooftop solar – and achieve a 65 percent renewable portfolio standard (RPS) by 2030. This week Gov. David Ige signed a bill into law that set a goal of 70 percent RPS by 2040 and 100 percent RPS by 2045 for the state—goals which Hawaiian Electric and NextEra Energy have each stated they fully support.

“We’re confident that this merger will help us more quickly achieve the affordable clean energy future we all want for Hawaii,” said Connie Lau, HEI’s president and chief executive officer and chairman of the boards of Hawaiian Electric and American Savings Bank. “We’re proud to support a measure recently passed by the legislature and signed by our governor making Hawaii the first state in the nation to adopt a 100 percent renewable energy portfolio standard. Partnering with NextEra Energy will strengthen and accelerate our ability to reach our state’s ambitious goals.”

The merger with NextEra Energy is expected to provide Hawaiian Electric with the added resources and access to expertise to accelerate Hawaii’s clean energy transformation, while delivering substantial customer benefits, including lower costs. Subject to approval by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC), the companies have committed to approximately $60 million in customer savings over four years and to not request an increase in the general base electricity rate for at least four years post-transaction close. Following completion of the transaction, Hawaiian Electric will continue to operate under its current name, be locally managed, and remain headquartered in Honolulu. HEI is one of Hawaii’s most charitable companies and NextEra Energy will continue HEI’s overall current level of corporate giving in Hawaii.

While the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved the proposed merger, the transaction remains subject to other regulatory approvals including approval by the PUC, other customary closing conditions and the spinoff of American Savings Bank, a subsidiary of HEI and one of Hawaii’s largest full-service financial institutions. Following the spinoff, American Savings Bank will remain based in Hawaii as an independent public company, and continue to provide a full range of financial products and services, including business and consumer banking, insurance and investments, corporate banking and commercial real estate lending.

“The spinoff of American Savings Bank as a condition to completing the merger enables shareholders to continue to own American Savings Bank and to participate in the bank’s upside potential as an independent public company,” said Connie Lau. “Our ability to spin off American Savings Bank reflects the strength of the bank’s business, its strong market position and its talented team of employees.”

Big Island Senator Urges Action on Federal Highway Fund Extension

The recently appointed Chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Energy is expressing grave concern over the looming expiration date on federal transportation funding.

Sen. Lorraine Inouye

Sen. Lorraine Inouye

Senator Lorraine Inouye (Dist. 4 – N. Kona, Kohala, N. Hilo, Hāmākua) addressed Hawai‘i’s Congressional delegation in a letter urging action on federal funding authorization to avoid a lapse in funding that would severely impact state projects and to support the passage of a bill that will create a more sustainable funding stream for individual transportation projects on a long-term basis.

“Hawai‘i relies greatly on federal funds, as do other states, and our State’s transportation projects depend on long-term commitments from federal funding,” said Sen. Inouye. “It is imperative for Congress to continue to fund projects that have already started while looking for additional long-term solutions that continue to support Hawai‘i’s needs.”

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved HR 2353, the Highway Transportation Funding Act of 2015.  The bill extends funding for the Highway Trust Fund until July 31 through a series of “reconciliation of funds” measures amending the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014. The bill now goes on to the Senate.

Congress has until May 31 to take action on authorizing federal funding for state highway, bridge, and transit projects.  Without action prior to this date, federal aid funds for state projects would be halted. 

Hawaii Ranks Fourth for Senior Health According to Annual America’s Health Rankings Senior Report

Hawaii ranked fourth for senior health this year, according to the third edition of United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings Senior Report: A Call to Action for Individuals and Their Communities.

2015 Senior Report

Nationwide, the report shows positive trends for senior health, especially for those measures that look at whether seniors are getting the right care in a setting of their choice. Seniors are experiencing lower hospital readmission rates and preventable hospitalization rates compared to last year, while hospice care use and the number of home healthcare workers have increased.

“United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings Senior Report is a vital tool for understanding where we, as a state, are making strides in senior health and where key challenges for Hawaii’s seniors remain,” said Ron Fujimoto, D.O., chief medical officer, UnitedHealthcare’s Community Plan for Hawaii. “With America’s senior population poised to double by 2050, we must continue to invest in programs and solutions that address our seniors’ health needs and help them live the best lives they possibly can.”

Hawaii’s Overall Health

The America’s Health Rankings Senior Report finds that Hawaii has its share of strengths and challenges.

Hawaii’s Strengths

  • Low prevalence of obesity
  • Low geriatrician shortfall
  • Low hip fracture rate

Hawaii’s Challenges

  • High prevalence of underweight seniors
  • High prevalence of activity-limiting arthritis pain
  • High percentage of hospital deaths

50-State Snapshot: Vermont is the Healthiest State for Seniors

According to the report, Vermont is the healthiest state for seniors, rising from fourth place last year. New Hampshire ranks second, improving one spot from last year. Minnesota fell to third after being ranked first for two years in a row, while Hawaii (4) and Utah (5) round out the top five states. Louisiana ranks 50th as the least healthy state for older adults, followed by Mississippi (49), Kentucky (48), Arkansas (47) and Oklahoma (46).

To see the Rankings in full, visit: www.americashealthrankings.org/senior

The report shows that seniors are improving in key care trends, particularly in metrics that examine whether seniors are getting the right care in the setting of their choice, pointing to a health system that may be working better for seniors.

Key findings include:

  • Preventable hospitalizations dropped 8.6 percent, from 64.9 percent of discharges for Medicare beneficiaries last year to 59.3 percent of discharges in 2015. The decrease marks an 11 percent decline in preventable hospitalizations since the 2013 edition.
  • More seniors are spending their last days in the setting they prefer. Hospice care – which can be delivered in a home setting – increased from 47.5 percent to 50.6 percent of decedents aged 65 and older, while hospital deaths decreased from 25 percent to 22.8 percent of decedents. Hospice care rose 38 percent since the report’s inception in 2013.
  • The number of home healthcare workers increased 9.3 percent compared to last year, which may indicate that home care is an increasingly accessible option for today’s seniors.
  • More seniors received the flu vaccine compared to last year, rising from 60.1 percent of seniors in 2014 to 62.8 percent this year. Seniors are particularly susceptible to flu and flu-related complications, making it vital that they receive the vaccine each year.
  • Seniors are reporting feeling better. The findings showed a 4.8 percent increase in self-reported high health status to 41.8 percent this year, contributing to a 9 percent increase over the past two years.

“It is heartening to see seniors’ health is improving, but our societal challenge remains finding ways to encourage more seniors to be more active,” said Rhonda Randall, D.O., senior adviser to United Health Foundation, and chief medical officer and executive vice president, UnitedHealthcare Retiree Solutions. “Strong community support is an essential part of promoting positive health among seniors. We must work together – across states, communities and our own families – to encourage all seniors to find ways to be as active as they’re able to be.”

After showing promising improvements in last year’s edition, physical inactivity rates increased in 2015; one-third of seniors (33.1 percent) did not get any physical activity or exercise outside of work, marking a 15.3 percent increase from the previous year (28.7 percent). Other worrisome trends for senior health include:

  • 37.6 percent of seniors have four or more chronic conditions;
  • 26.7 percent of seniors are obese;
  • 8.7 percent of seniors smoke; and
  • 16.1 percent of seniors have had all of their teeth removed due to tooth decay or gum disease.

In addition, despite promising gains in end-of-life care metrics, community support spending per capita for seniors – support that helps older adults stay in their homes – has declined by 23.9 percent in the past two years.

“Progress in key metrics such as preventable hospitalizations and hospice care show that more seniors are aging comfortably and receiving preferred types of support – a trend that not only benefits our healthcare system but helps ensure seniors’ well-being at each step of the aging process,” said Reed Tuckson, M.D., senior medical adviser to United Health Foundation. “We are excited to be making progress toward strong, personalized care for all seniors and look forward to seeing continued momentum in this area.”

To see the state Rankings in full, visit: www.americashealthrankings.org/senior

Marine Corps Base Hawaii Commanding Officer Canned for Loss of Trust and Confidence

Maj. Gen. Charles L. Hudson, the commanding general of Marine Corps Installations Pacific, relieved Col. Eric W. Schaefer of his duties today as commanding officer of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, due to loss of trust and confidence in his ability to lead his command.

Col. Eric W. Schaefer

Col. Eric W. Schaefer

Col. Christopher B. Snyder, deputy commander, MCIPAC, has been assigned as the interim commanding officer of MCB Hawaii until Headquarters Marine Corps names a permanent replacement.

Schaefer assumed duties as the commanding officer at MCB Hawaii Aug 13, 2014. He has been reassigned to another position effective immediately.

The Marine Corps holds all Marines, especially commanders, responsible for their actions, and is committed to upholding high standards of honor, courage and commitment within the ranks.

DLNR Continues to Remove Possible Japan Tsunami Debris From Hawaii Beaches

The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) continues to respond to reports of possible Japan Tsunami Marine Debris items that arrive on island reefs and beaches.

beached boat

Today, a DLNR crew retrieved a reported 20’ skiff at Sandy Beach area, bearing Japanese characters and vessel registration numbers. It is the seventh boat reported since February this year, following six others that arrived on Hawaii shores. Three were on the Big Island, at Kohanaiki, Kawaihae and Kawa Bay. One was overturned on Maui near the Aston Mahana, and two on Oahu were reported, at Kahuku and Punaluu.

Beached Boat at Sandy

Two large plastic bins were also reported this week, which bore identification marks that may be traceable to Japan. One was located at Kamilo Beach, Hawaii and removed by volunteers of the Hawaii Wildlife Fund. The other was located on Kauai at Larsen’s beach.

Tsunami container

Items with identification numbers, Japanese characters, are reported to NOAA which works with the Japan Consulate in Hawaii to confirm provenance with the Government of Japan. Items not claimed by the original owner may then be disposed of.

To report large or unusual marine debris items, especially those that may have attached marine organisms, please email dlnr.marine.debris@hawaii.gov and DisasterDebris@noaa.gov. Calls may also be made to DLNR at 587-0400.

NAVY Ship USS Chung-Hoon Denied Entry to Hilo Harbor

The US Navy Ship USS Chung-Hoon was spotted this morning off the Big Island of Hawaii this morning as it was expected to arrive in Hilo for the Merrie Monarch festivities.
Chung Hoon Refuel

Unfortunately the ship had to turn around once it got to the Big Island because the water in Hilo Harbor was not deep enough for the ship to port.

The NAVY has released the following statement:

In an abundance of caution and as advised by the embarked State Dept. of Transportation Harbor Pilot,  the Commanding Officer of USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93)  felt it was prudent to not proceed with entering Hilo Harbor this morning due to the shallow depth of the harbor.

Sharing the Navy with the people of Hilo is important. We certainly value the opportunity to showcase our Navy to the American people. Our partnership with the Hilo Council is an outstanding example where a community and the military join together to create an environment of mutual support and broad benefit and the Navy looks forward to continuing this partnership for many years to come, and we deeply regret the inconvenience this has caused to our friends and neighbors in Hilo.

Capt. Mark Manfredi, Chief of Staff, Navy Region Hawaii will still attend tonight’s Merrie Monarch Festivities and the U.S. Pacific Fleet Band will be flown over here to  march and perform in the Merrie Monarch Parade tomorrow morning.

Canada Announces $243-Million Contribution for Thirty Meter Telescope Project

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada will provide up to $243.5 million over 10 years for the Thirty Meter Telescope project.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced the Government of Canada’s intention to provide significant support for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), an international project that will build one of the world’s largest and most advanced astronomical observatories in Hawaii. The Prime Minister made the announcement following a tour of Vancouver’s Gordon MacMillan Southam Observatory. He was joined by James Moore, Minister of Industry.

TMT with the Laser Guide Star at Night (An artist concept of TMT at night, with the laser guide star system illuminated).

TMT with the Laser Guide Star at Night (An artist concept of TMT at night, with the laser guide star system illuminated).

The Government’s support would provide resources over 10 years to enable Canada’s participation in the construction and commissioning of the TMT, alongside participants from the Japan, China, India and the United States.

The majority of the Government’s support for the TMT will be spent in Canada, creating high-quality jobs related to the construction and assembly of key telescope components, including a precision-steel enclosure by Dynamic Structures Limited, based in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, and cutting-edge adaptive optics technologies, to be developed by the National Research Council in partnership with Canadian companies. As part of the project, dozens of Canadian businesses are expected to develop advanced capabilities and products transferable to future applications in the health, defence and telecommunications sectors – helping to create and maintain high-quality jobs in communities across Canada.

Canada’s contribution will also secure a viewing share for Canadian researchers at the TMT once it is operational in 2023-2024. This access will help to maintain Canadian scientific leadership in astronomy, paving the way to important scientific discoveries and helping to train highly-qualified personnel at post-secondary institutions across the country. Canada’s pursuit of new scientific discoveries will also help spark young Canadians’ interest in science disciplines for decades to come.

Quick Facts

Canada has world-leading expertise in astronomy and astrophysics, as noted by the Council of Canadian Academies in its 2012 State of Science and Technology. Canadian research publications in this field are highly impactful and Canadian expertise in astronomy is sought after internationally.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reports that Canada is first in the G-7 in terms of our support of research and development through our universities and colleges, relative to the size of our economy, since 1996.

Prime Minister Harper also recently announced a new $1.5 billion legacy investment to make Canadian research world-leading through the Canada First Research Excellence Fund. This new program is for world-leading research that will raise Canada’s standing globally.

Canada’s Space Policy Framework positions our domestic space industry at the forefront of cutting edge space activities; it strengthens strategic relationships with international partners in the interest of science and technology; and it advances Canada’s excellence in the key capability of space optics.

The TMT will employ advanced adaptive optics systems that will allow for the correction of atmospheric turbulence (what makes stars “twinkle”) and enable the clear observation of some of the faintest celestial objects and bodies.

The TMT’s enclosure, to be built in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, will incorporate a unique design to protect the telescope both from temperature and winds.

When completed, the telescope will stand in an observatory 22 18 stories tall, with a primary mirror extending 30 metres across, giving it approximately half the surface area of a National Hockey League rink.