Passing of Native Hawaiian Pearl Harbor Survivor ‘Uncle Herb’

“Uncle Herb” Weatherwax, one of a handful of remaining local Hawaii Pearl Harbor military survivors, passed away Monday, Dec. 12.

Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) The Honorable Dr. Donald C. Winter speaks with a World War II Pearl Harbor veteran Herb Weatherwax during a gala commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Great White Fleet. While in Hawaii, SECVNAV also visited Sailors participating in the Rim of the Pacific exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kevin S. O’Brien/Released)

According to his daughter Carrie Weatherwax, “Papa was ready and it was a strong yet peaceful death.  As with this “Greatest Generation,” Papa left this earth with dignity and grace.”

Herb Weatherwax was a frequent volunteer at the National Park Service’s Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and often attended military observances, including those hosted by Navy Region Hawaii. He attended the most recent National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Commemoration Ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on Dec. 7.

According to his family it was his final wish.

In October, Weatherwax and fellow local Pearl Harbor survivor Al Rodrigues were featured in the filming at JBPHH of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s “Rock the Troops,” which airs tonight on Spike TV.

Raised on the outskirts of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii, Weatherwax’s first job was with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps, building roads around Mauna Kea. He also worked for Hawaiian Electric as an apprentice electrician for 30 cents an hour. It was a trade that would help him in the Army and later as a veteran.

Weatherwax was drafted into the Army in June 1941 and was stationed at Schofield Barracks in Wahiawa. He was on a weekend pass in Honolulu on December 7, 1941 and heard the thunderous attack in Pearl Harbor. He was recalled to his duty station during the attack and ordered to prepare against an invasion of the islands.

“As the bus was passing above Pearl Harbor I saw the whole thing. The attack was still going on and there was confusion everywhere. The USS Arizona was enveloped in flames; the USS Oklahoma was on its side. Those who managed to escape from being trapped inside those ships were up on the hull, but the ocean was on fire from the spilled oil and fuel. Those men couldn’t even go into the water. There was smoke all over and a lot of commotion.”

In “Counting My Blessings: The Autobiography of a Native Hawaiian Pearl Harbor Survivor,” “Uncle Herb” Weatherwax tells his story of humble beginnings to life in the military during World War II, then success as a business owner.

The invasion never came, but war was declared the next day. President Roosevelt called it “a day of infamy.”

“Counting My Blessings” tracks Weatherwax’s journey during the war from the Pacific to the Atlantic, landing in Europe and facing Germany’s Siegfried Line where “the sound of strafing was like 1,000 stampeding horses.” He said his 272nd Regiment advanced into Germany and freed dying prisoners in labor camps.

In August 1945 Weatherwax was preparing to redeploy to the Pacific Theater when word came that Japan had surrendered. In the years that followed he reflected on the death and destruction he witnessed and, he said, “the lasting effects of combat experience.”

After the war, the Army veteran worked at Kwajalein and Subic Bay in the Philippines in harbor dredging and runway construction jobs before starting businesses back in Hawaii and running unsuccessfully for political office. He volunteered at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center for many years, helping promote education and understanding.

“It is up to Survivors to perpetuate the history until we are gone,” Uncle Herb said. “I am always learning from others and thought that someone might pick up one or two little things from what I have gone through.”

His family is planning a celebration of life service to be held in June.

Hawaii to Receive $3.1 Million to Fight Invasive Species

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard announced today that Hawaiʻi will receive $3.1 million to fight invasive species like the coconut rhinoceros beetle, coffee berry borer, Rapid Ohia Death, and fruit flies. The funding, allocated from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in accordance with Section 10007 of the 2014 Farm Bill, is part of 513 projects supported nationwide that aim to prevent the introduction or spread of plant pests and diseases that threaten U.S. agriculture and the environment, as well as ensure the availability of a healthy supply of clean plant stock.

In Hawaiʻi, invasive species like the coffee berry borer, fruit fly, and macadamia felted coccid have cost our farmers millions, and put hundreds of farms, thousands of local workers, and our agriculture industry at great risk,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “We need to provide more support to our farmers who contribute so much to our community and our economy.  This funding will provide Hawaiʻi with critical resources to combat these invasive pests.”

“The University of Hawaiʻi is very pleased to hear that a new project has been funded through USDA-APHIS on the management of the coffee berry borer in Hawaiʻi and Puerto Rico,” said Ray Carruthers, Specialist at the University of Hawaiʻi College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. “The main thrust of this effect will be to coordinate control efforts with on-going Federal, State and local projects on CBB management, along with the additional development of new insect biological control technologies. We feel that developing, testing and the eventual use of insect parasitoids will be a key for long-term sustainable management of the CBB in both Hawaiʻi and Puerto Rico.”

Background: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard introduced the Areawide Integrated Pest Management (AIPM) Act (H.R.3893) and the Macadamia Tree Health Initiative (H.R.6249) in the 114th Congress to fight invasive species in Hawaiʻi and across the United States, and to fund critical research for invasive species like the macadamia felted coccid. In August, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard conducted an agriculture tour on Hawaiʻi Island where she met with local agriculture professionals and researchers about invasive species in Hawaiʻi.

Today’s announcement includes the following funding for projects in Hawaiʻi:

  • $87,771 for emerging diseases, viral spillover, and the risk to agricultural pollinators (Academia)
  • $265,811 for the USDA Compendium of Fruit Fly Host Information (CoFFHI) (Academia)
  • $27,600 for the National Survey of Honey Bee Pests and Diseases in Hawaiʻi (State Government)
  • $148,000 for the Palm Commodity Survey (Academia)
  • $165,500 for Hawaiʻi Pre-Clearance X-ray Support (APHIS)
  • $260,000 for Genomic approaches to fruit fly exclusion and pathway analysis (year 3) (Academia)
  • $303,000 for Genomic approaches to fruit fly exclusion and pathway analysis (year 3) (Non-APHIS-Federal)
  • $42,090 for Little Fire Ant Education for Nursery Supply Stores (Academia)
  • $40,995 for Integrated and Sustainable Approach to Manage New Invasive Pests of Ficus Trees in Hawaiʻi’s Urban Landscapes – Year 2 (Academia)
  • $41,000 for Activators and Attractants for Giant African Snail (Academia)
  • $120,000 for Response to Rapid Ohia Death, a disease threatening forests (State Government)
  • $125,000 for Systems approach for the management of coffee berry borer in Hawaiʻi and Puerto Rico with emphasis on biological control (Academia)
  • $100,000 for Systems approach for the management of coffee berry borer in Hawaiʻi and Puerto Rico with emphasis on biological control (State Government)
  • $115,000 for Systems approach for the management of coffee berry borer in Hawaiʻi and Puerto Rico with emphasis on biological control (Non-APHIS-Federal)
  • $975,000 for Response to Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle in Hawaiʻi (Academia)
  • $250,000 for Response to Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle in Hawaiʻi (State Government)

Hawaiian Electric Companies Gathering Information on Land Available for Renewable Energy Development

To help accelerate and inform efforts to achieve 100 percent renewable energy, the Hawaiian Electric Companies today launched an effort to gather information about land that may be made available for future renewable energy projects that will benefit all electric customers.

Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric, and the Hawaii Electric Light Company are issuing a Request for Information (RFI) which asks interested landowners to provide information about properties on Oahu, Hawaii island, Maui, Molokai, and Lanai available for utility-scale renewable energy projects, such as solar and wind farms, or for growing biofuel feedstock.

“Land is one of the most important resources to consider in the development of renewable energy projects. By proactively identifying potential sites, we are hoping to make the process of developing renewable energy projects faster and more efficient for both land owners and prospective developers,” said Shelee Kimura, Hawaiian Electric vice president of strategic planning and business development.

To reach 100 percent renewable energy, Hawaii will need a broad mix of renewable energy resources. Continued growth of private rooftop solar energy systems and energy storage will offer customers more options. These resources will be complemented by additional large-scale projects, which will help ensure all customers receive the benefits renewable energy.

Interested parties should submit responses to the RFI by Jan. 27, 2017. For more information, go to www.hawaiianelectric.com/landRFI or email landrfi@hawaiianelectric.com.

Invasive Scavengers in Hawaii Alter Island Nutrient Cycle

Researchers from the University of Georgia have found that invasive species on Hawaii Island, or the Big Island of Hawaii, may be especially successful invaders because they are formidable scavengers of carcasses of other animals and after death, a nutrient resource for other invasive scavengers.

A mongoose basking in the sunlight at the “scrub” site in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Credit: Erin F. Abernethy

The team of researchers from UGA’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory is the first to study vertebrate and invertebrate scavenging of invasive species on an island.

The state of Hawaii has the highest number of endangered and threatened native species in the U.S., and this study, published recently in the journal Ecosphere, could inform efforts to manage invasive populations in Hawaii and similar island ecosystems threatened by invasive species.

“It is essential to know where nutrient resources flow in a highly invaded ecosystem,” said wildlife ecologist Olin E. Rhodes Jr., director of the SREL.

“We wanted to see what was eating the invasive species that have significant populations on the island,” said team leader Erin F. Abernethy, an alumna of SREL and UGA’s Odum School of Ecology, now at Oregon State University. “And, we wanted to identify the percentages of carcasses eaten by invasive vertebrates and invertebrates.”

What they found, said Abernethy, “indicates a positive feedback loop. The more non-native species invade an island, live and reproduce and die, the more nutrient resources they create for other invasive species through carcasses–synergistically refueling off of one another and further invading the ecosystem.”

The team set up 647 individual invasive carcasses of amphibians, reptiles, small mammals and birds on camera traps across three diverse landscapes on the island.

A small percentage of the carcasses were also fitted with transmitters to allow the researchers to see if they were consumed after being removed from the camera’s view.

The camera images revealed significant scavenging by invasive vertebrates. Although scavenging by vertebrates was only 10 percent higher than that of invertebrates, the researchers were surprised at their lack of discrimination about what they scavenged.

“We anticipated that vertebrates would quickly find and remove large carcasses, but we discovered that the vertebrates were skilled at acquiring all types of carcasses,” Abernethy said. “They were adept and highly efficient at finding the smallest of resources–locating carcasses of coqui frogs, a small frog native to Puerto Rico–and geckos that only weighed a few grams, before invasive invertebrates had the opportunity to get to them.”

Abernethy said that despite their small size, these animals represent a significant food resource. Previous research on the island indicates coqui frogs number 91,000 per 2.47 acres.

Invasive vertebrates removed 55 percent of the carcasses in this study. The mongoose and the rat proved to be the most formidable scavengers. They removed the most carcasses and were observed more frequently. The mongoose was the only species in the study to participate in cannibalism–feasting on mongoose carcasses.

The invasive invertebrate scavenger community, which included yellow jackets and fly larvae, removed 45 percent of the carcasses. This left no carcass resources for the native species on the island–the owl and hawk. Few in number on the island, these animals were not seen by the team during the study.

EPA Awards Funding to Replace Buses on Big Island

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded a total of $6,329,500 in Diesel Emission Reduction Act funds to public and private partners in California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii and American Samoa. EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator, Alexis Strauss made the announcement today at a meeting of the international Commission for Environmental Cooperation in Long Beach, California. The funds will be used to retrofit and replace old, polluting diesel vehicles and equipment, including school buses, trucks, agriculture and port equipment, and generators.

The Diesel Emission Reduction Act program is administered by the EPA’s West Coast Collaborative, a clean air partnership comprised of EPA’s Pacific Southwest and Pacific Northwest Regions, which leverages public and private funds to reduce emissions from the most polluting diesel sources in impacted communities.

“By promoting clean diesel technologies, we can improve air quality and human health while supporting green jobs in disadvantaged communities,” said Ms. Strauss. “Public-private partnerships like the West Coast Collaborative are leading the way on reducing harmful diesel emissions and advancing domestic economic development.”

The 2016 grants will fund the following projects:

California Air Resources Board (CARB): CARB was awarded a $539,412 grant to be combined with $371,168 in state funding to retrofit 41 heavy-duty diesel school buses operating throughout California.

Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD): BAAQMD was awarded a $1,420,263 grant to be combined with a BAAQMD contribution of $4,278,662 to replace one older locomotive and two Tier 0 switcher locomotives with cleaner Tier 4 locomotives operating in the San Francisco Bay Area.

San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District (SJVUAPCD): SJVUAPCD was awarded a $900,000 grant to be combined with $4,789,626 in local funding to replace 41 model year 1994-2006 Class 5 through 8 heavy-duty diesel delivery trucks operating in the San Joaquin Valley with ones powered by 2015 or newer model year engines.

South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD): SCAQMD was awarded a $523,809 grant to be combined with $2,229,000 in local funding to replace one pre-model year 1973 diesel switch locomotive with a new cleaner Tier 4 diesel locomotive that will be operating at the Port of Long Beach.

Port of Long Beach: The City of Long Beach Harbor Department was awarded a $1,469,818 grant to be combined with $1,957,164 in funds from the Long Beach Container Terminal, Inc. to replace five existing diesel powered yard tractors with electric automated guided vehicles used for handling cargo at the Port of Long Beach.

Port of Los Angeles: The City of Los Angeles Harbor Department was awarded a $800,000 grant to be combined with $2,214,000 in funds from APM Terminals and TraPac, LLC. to replace 16 yard tractors with cleaner Tier 4 models and repower two heavy lifts with Tier 4 engines used for handling cargo at the Port of Los Angeles.

Arizona’s Maricopa County Air Quality Department (MCAQD): MCAQD was awarded a $217,069 grant to install Diesel Oxidation Catalyst retrofits on 37 heavy-duty public works vehicles operating in Arizona. The project will be implemented through a partnership the Maricopa County Equipment Services Department and other participating fleets.

Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP): NDEP was awarded a $193,627 grant to be combined with $580,881 in local funding to replace four Class 5 legacy diesel vehicles with new vehicles powered by model year 2013 or newer engines. The project will also retrofit 15 Class 5 vehicles with diesel oxidation catalysts and switch them from ultra-low sulfur diesel to renewable diesel fuel.

Hawaii Department of Health (HDOH): HDOH was awarded a $194,787 grant to be combined with $584,361 in local funding to replace two Class 5 legacy diesel transit buses operating on the Island of Hawaii.

American Samoa: The American Samoa Power Authority was awarded a $70,715 grant to repower an existing diesel-powered stationary generator with a clean, 1.4 megawatt photovoltaic solar system and a Tier 3 275 kilowatt backup diesel-powered generator on the Island of Ta’u. The system will also include 6 megawatt hours of batteries, allowing island residents to continually utilize the renewable energy on days when the sun is not shining.

The projects selected today will result in cleaner diesel or electric engines that operate in economically disadvantaged communities whose residents suffer from higher-than-average instances of asthma, heart, and lung disease. These actions are estimated to reduce emissions of oxides of nitrogen by 1,315 tons, fine particulate matter by 167 tons, hydrocarbons by 71 tons, carbon monoxide by 541 tons, and carbon dioxide by 32,830 tons over the lifetime of the affected engines.

This funding is part of U.S. EPA’s Diesel Emission Reduction Act fiscal year 2016 allocation that includes engine replacements, idle reduction and retrofit technologies to clean up a variety of older diesel engines. Since 2008, the program has awarded more than 700 grants across the country in 600 communities. These projects have reduced emissions from more than 60,000 engines. Reducing particulate matter emissions has important public health and air quality benefits, including the reduction of soot and black carbon.

To learn more about all of this year’s West Coast Collaborative DERA projects, including those awarded in the Pacific Southwest, please visit: http://www.westcoastcollaborative.org.

For more information about EPA’s National Clean Diesel campaign and the awarded DERA projects nationally, visit www.epa.gov/cleandiesel.