Senator Schatz Urges President Obama, FEMA for Major Disaster Declaration for Hawaii

U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) wrote letters to President Barack Obama and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate today supporting the State of Hawai‘i’s request for a major disaster declaration due to damages caused by Tropical Storm Iselle from August 7-9, 2014.

Senator Brian Schatz  in Puna.

Senator Brian Schatz in Puna.

“Tropical Storm Iselle caused strong winds, heavy rain, flooding, high surf, storm surge, and lightning, which resulted in damages reported across all four counties in the State of Hawai‘i,” Senator Schatz wrote. “Hawai‘i County has a majority of the damages where it experienced loss of power and a lack of access to water. Hawai‘i County also has widespread debris that made it difficult for residents to access emergency services. Furthermore, preliminary damage assessments estimate that the total loss and damage to the island of Hawai‘i in agriculture and commodities is $66 million. With all available state and local level resources being used, federal assistance is needed to support our communities’ recovery.”

Senator Schatz also expressed his support for the State’s request for Individual Assistance for Hawai‘i County, statewide Hazard Mitigation, and Small Business Administration loan assistance programs to help with the recovery.

Since Tropical Storm Iselle made landfall, Senator Schatz’s office has been in close contact with the White House to discuss the impact of the storm and how the federal government can help residents and communities rebuild. Last week, Senator Schatz traveled to Puna and met with Hawai‘i County Mayor Billy Kenoi’s cabinet, HELCO, State Senator Russell Ruderman, Director of Civil Defense Darryl Oliveira, representatives from the Big Island Invasive Species Council, and the U.S. Forest Service, to begin the process of developing a hazard mitigation plan for albizia trees, which damaged infrastructure and caused widespread debris on Hawai‘i Island.

The full text of the letter to President Obama follows:

August 25, 2014

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I write in support of Governor Neil Abercrombie’s request for a major disaster declaration for the State of Hawai‘i due to damages caused by Tropical Storm Iselle from August 7-9, 2014.

On August 7, 2014, Hurricane Iselle approached the Hawaiian Islands and made landfall on August 8, 2014, which then became a tropical storm. The Governor declared a statewide state of emergency on August 6, 2014 and signed a supplemental proclamation on August 14, 2014, which extended the state of emergency until October 17, 2014. Tropical Storm Iselle caused strong winds, heavy rain, flooding, high surf, storm surge, and lightning, which resulted in damages reported across all four counties in the State of Hawai‘i. Hawai‘i County has a majority of the damages where it experienced loss of power and a lack of access to water. Hawai‘i County also has widespread debris that made it difficult for residents to access emergency services. Furthermore, preliminary damage assessments estimate that the total loss and damage to the island of Hawai‘i in agriculture and commodities is $66 million. With all available state and local level resources being used, federal assistance is needed to support our communities’ recovery.

Pursuant to Section 401 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act, 42 U.S.C. § 5121-5207), and implemented by 44 CFR § 206.36, I ask that you swiftly approve Governor Abercrombie’s request that the State of Hawai‘i receive a major disaster declaration. Specifically, I support the Governor’s request for Individual Assistance for Hawai‘i County. I also support his request for Hazard Mitigation statewide and Small Business Administration loan assistance programs.

Thank you for your consideration of this request. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or need additional information.

Regards,

BRIAN SCHATZ
United States Senator

Leaders Begin Process of Developing Hazard Mitigation Plan for Albizia on the Big Island

Today, Senator Schatz met with Mayor Kenoi’s cabinet, HELCO, State Senator Ruderman, Director of Civil Defense Darryl Oliveira, representatives from the Big Island Invasive Species Council and the U.S. Forest Service, to begin the process of developing a hazard mitigation plan for albizia on the Big Island.

Senator Brian Schatz is back in Puna today.  Earlier he could be spotted handing out supplies to Hurricane Iselle victims at the Nanawale Longhouse.

Senator Brian Schatz is back in Puna today. Earlier he could be spotted handing out supplies to Hurricane Iselle victims at the Nanawale Longhouse.

Agreement was reached by all parties that all levels of government share responsibility for dealing with the hazard that these trees pose, and that the federal, state, and county government would provide financial and other resources towards this mitigation plan. HELCO also agreed, subject to approval by the PUC, to participate in the hazard mitigation program.

The next steps are to assemble all key stakeholders, and develop a hazard mitigation plan with a budget, and determine cost sharing. The target timeframe is to assemble the key stakeholders, and develop a preliminary hazard mitigation plan as soon as possible.

“Albizia wreaked havoc on power infrastructure and damaged private property, and we have to work together to minimize the likelihood that this happens again. I’m thankful for Mayor Kenoi’s leadership and assistance in helping to put together the resources necessary to mitigate this problem.”

New Auwahi Wind Project Dedicated To Maui’s Energy Independence

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, Hawaii Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui and Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa today joined officials from Sempra U.S. Gas & Power, BP Wind Energy and community leaders for the dedication of the new Auwahi Wind facility on Ulupalakua Ranch.

Sen. Brian Schatz Tweeted this picture earlier today.

Sen. Brian Schatz Tweeted this picture earlier today.

The eight wind turbines are situated along the slopes of the Haleakala volcano and generate enough electricity to power 10,000 local homes.

More than 200 guests attended Friday’s dedication ceremony, which included traditional Hawaiian chants and prayers.

Sen. Schatz said the Auwahi wind farm contributes significantly to Hawaii’s clean energy goals.  He said the project is consistent with the State of Hawaii’s values of cooperation, contributing to a solution nationally on climate change and maintaining the ranching lifestyle on Ulupalakua Ranch.

“Auwahi Wind Farm is critically important,” he said.  “This is about keeping Maui Maui and setting an example not just for the state, but the rest of the nation.”

Tsutsui, who was born and raised on Maui, said the state and the island welcomed the Auwahi Wind farm as it brought much-needed jobs. More than 180 jobs were created during the project construction. Four full-time employees operate the wind farm today.

“We’re always talking about sustainability and being independent,” Tsutsui said. “This goes hand in hand with a lot of our initiatives. It’s definitely a step in the right direction and we look much forward to other projects.”

“We are very pleased that Auwahi Wind was completed on time, on budget and, most importantly, with an impeccable safety record,” said Kevin C. Sagara, vice president of renewables and corporate development for Sempra U.S. Gas & Power. “This project will provide clean, sustainable power to Maui residents for generations and will bring Hawaii another step closer to meeting its goal to derive 40 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2030.”

The 21-megawatt (MW) Auwahi Wind facility represents BP and Sempra’s first alternative energy venture in Hawaii.

“Today is a celebration for the community of Maui in harnessing wind power as part of a diverse and adequate energy supply,” said John Graham, president & CEO of BP Wind Energy.  “On behalf of the owners of Auwahi Wind, I would like to thank the local community, the Ulupalakua Ranch, and neighbors without whom this project would not be the success it is.”

Maui Electric Co. President Sharon Suzuki said the project provides a valuable energy alternative for the island.

“The addition of the Auwahi Wind project brings Maui’s total installed capacity of wind generation to 72 MW, a great accomplishment for such a small island and one that will help further our efforts to break our dependence on foreign oil,” she said.

An important component of the project is an 11-MW/4.4-megawatt-hour grid battery system.  At its peak, this system is capable of 11 MW sustained for approximately 25 minutes.  The battery system’s energy helps regulate and sustain power to Maui Electric Co.’s grid during light wind conditions.

“We are especially pleased with the work Sempra and BP have accomplished in using a state-of-the-art battery system to help compensate for the fluctuations of variable wind,” Suzuki said.  “This high level of wind penetration on Maui would not be possible without such innovative measures.”

Sumner Erdman, president of the Ulupalakua Ranch, said the ranch has benefited from its partnership with Sempra U.S. Gas & Power and BP.

“Now, we can preserve much of our ranch land and its grazing areas in open space and continue to raise cattle,” he said. “Auwahi Wind will go a long way toward preserving the ranching lifestyle at Ulupalakua and on Maui.”

Ulupalakua Ranch is one of the largest cattle ranches on Maui. The Erdmans are environmentalists and have been its owners since 1963.

Construction of Auwahi Wind began in March 2012. More information on Auwahi Wind is available at www.SempraUSGP.com/Auwahi.