EPA Awards Over $30 Million to the Pacific Territories for Environmental Protection

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently awarded over $30 million as part of a yearly program that provides grants to Guam, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa for use in continuing environmental protection work and for improvements to drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.

EPA LOGO“EPA’s funding enables the islands to advance their goals in the pursuit of clean air, water and land,” said Jared Blumenfeld, Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “As one example, the investment made in leak detection projects in all three territories has dramatically reduced drinking water losses, and saved over $1 million in energy costs.”

Guam EPA will be receiving $3.2 million, CNMI DEQ will be receiving $1.7 million, and the American Samoa EPA $1.8 million to support the operations of each environmental agency. The work done by the agencies include inspections, monitoring the safety of beaches and drinking water, permit writing, enforcement and other facets of their environmental protection programs.

Additionally, EPA provides drinking water and wastewater construction grants to improve the water supplies in each of the territories. The Guam Waterworks Authority will be receiving $8.2 million, CNMI’s Commonwealth Utilities Corp. will be receiving $6.9 million, and the American Samoa Power Authority $8.3 million.

Accomplishment highlights from previous funding include:

  • Improvements to the drinking water system in all three territories, including improved chlorination in Guam, increased water storage in CNMI, and an ongoing extension of the central system in American Samoa to remote villages.
  • EPA funding has contributed to the increased drinking water availability in Saipan, where 95% of the population now has access to 24-hour water (up from 75% in 2009).
  • Improvements to the wastewater collection and treatment systems in all three territories, including rehabilitation of a treatment plant in Saipan, improvements to the collection infrastructure in Guam, and ongoing extension of sewer lines in American Samoa.
  • EPA has funded the replacement of older wastewater pumps with newer energy efficient pumps and controls, saving the utilities hundreds of thousands of dollars in power bills in all three territories.

Sea-Level Rise Online Map Viewer Now Available for Hawaii

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a web-mapping tool aimed at visualizing potential impacts from sea-level rise in Hawai’i, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. Known as the Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer, the tool serves as a simple and easy to use but powerful planning resource for planners, public officials, coastal managers, and communities engaged in climate adaptation planning and coastal inundation preparedness.

Hawaii Climate Change Map

“Tools like the Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer can provide planners and decision makers with a preliminary look at sea-level rise and coastal flooding information,” said Jesse Souki, Director of the State of Hawai’i Office of Planning.  “Sea level rise scenarios can be integrated into land use decisions, along with other economic, social, and environmental considerations, to make wise investments in public infrastructure and ensure livable, resilient communities.”

The inclusion of the Pacific Islands into the national viewer was made possible through a partnership between the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program (UH Sea Grant), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal Storms Program and Coastal Services Center.

The map features of the tool utilize high-resolution aerial images overlain on top of elevation data, enabling users to display and visualize coastal inundation associated with differentsea level rise scenarios – ranging from zero to six feet above mean sea level. Using a Google Map as a base map, the tool highlights sea-level rise-induced coastal inundation and flooding, helps viewers visualize impacts at select local landmarks and critical infrastructure, models potential habitat migration due to sea-level rise, and offers an overlay of social vulnerability information based on population attributes like age, income, and poverty.

“This tool fills an important gap for planners and managers in Hawai‘i,” explains Dr. Charles (Chip) Fletcher, associate dean for academic affairs at SOEST and map development partner. “On a national scale, the Sea Level Rise Viewer and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer fills the need to provide planners and managers with a screening-level tool that provides a preliminary look at sea level rise impacts. With the amount of detail and options it provides, the Sea Level Rise Viewer is at the cutting edge of planning tools,” states Dr. Fletcher.

“With these maps showing community assets at risk of sea-level impacts, the discussion can begin on questions such as ‘What policy changes are necessary to prepare for future climate change in Hawai‘i?’ and ‘How shall we adapt to long-term, essentially irreversible changes in sea level?’” stresses Dr. Fletcher.

The first of a series of workshops in Hawai‘i will be held on September 19 and 20 at the Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa at Keauhou Bay for registered participants at the annual Hawai’i Congress of Planning Officials Conference. For information about future workshops call NOAA Pacific Services Center (808) 532-3200. For more information about the data, the modeling approach, and using the tool, visit the Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer’s support page, www.csc.noaa.gov/slr

Senator Glenn Wakai Appointed as Palau’s Honorary Consul

A local lawmaker is now a diplomat. State Senator Glenn Wakai was recently appointed as Palau’s honorary consul to Hawaii by Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr.

Senator Glenn Wakai

Senator Glenn Wakai

In appointing the State Senator, Remengesau expressed his appreciation for Wakai’s contribution and support to Palau and its citizens in Hawaii. As Palau’s honorary consul, Wakai will be working with the Republic of Palau to seek ways to strengthen Palau’s emergency relief capacity and bolster the nation’s relationship with the U.S.

“This appointment is truly an honor, which I accept with happiness and determination. I don’t plan to simply attend events and smile at cameras. I recognize our neighbors in the Pacific sometimes have difficulty adjusting to life in Hawaii. I aim to empower the Palauan community in Hawaii,” says Senator Glenn Wakai (Kalihi, Salt Lake, Aliamanu, Foster Village). “I have already organized meetings with their local leaders to map out a game plan for more community involvement and creation of individual success stories. This new relationship between Palau and Hawaii will lead to Better Days in the Pacific.”

Wakai is serving his second term as a Hawaii State Senator, following eight years in the State House of Representatives. He is the current chair of the Senate’s Committee on Technology and the Arts. He has created a non-profit, Reach out Pacific (www.reachoutpacific.org), which takes containers of medical and educational supplies to impoverished islands throughout the Pacific.

Prior to his political career, Wakai spent more than a decade as a television newscaster, first in Guam and Saipan, before returning to Hawaii to work at KHON2 and KHNL.

Wakai is a graduate of Mid-Pacific Institute and the University of Southern California.



I Can Handle Coqui Frogs… But Keep Them Damn Snakes Out of Hawaii

Media Release:

It was one of the first evening classes since arriving in Guam. Suddenly there was a snake, just six inches away, tongue out, staring coldly into his eyes. Raymond McGuire, Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife’s coqui control coordinator, later realized his work capturing coqui frogs on the Big Island had helped him spot the Brown Tree Snake (BTS) which can be nearly invisible outdoors.

Raymond Pulling a snake out of his trap

Raymond Pulling a snake out of his trap

McGuire was one of nine Pacific island-based personnel, including several from Hawaii Invasive Species Committees, sent to Guam for a three-week training led by James Stanford, BTS rapid response coordinator for the U.S. Geological Survey.

According to Page Else, Big Island Invasive Species Committee public outreach specialist, the impact of the Brown Tree Snake — which first invaded Guam in WWII — has been very costly to that island territory’s economic, ecological and social environment. She added it would cause similar problems for Hawaii.

A snake

A snake

“These snakes are frequent flyers and somehow know to crawl into airplane wheel wells or cargo holds. Without constant airport inspections, Hawaii is sure to be infiltrated,” Else said recently. “Snake populations would rapidly establish in Hawaii, with rats, mice, birds and lizards as plentiful food sources. The threat is even more of a concern now due to the military base buildup on Guam and the current constraints on government budgets.”

Christy Leppanen, until recently the Honolulu-based state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ invasive species specialist, is the newly appointed Invasive Species Biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This summer, she will be moving to Saipan to make sure, as Leppanen tells it, “the Brown Tree Snake doesn’t make it to Hawaii.”

Leppanen joined McGuire and Shawn Okumura of the Big Island Invasive Species Committee in the BTS training in Guam. McGuire and Okumura said they felt the training was worthwhile, although arduous. The students received daily classroom instruction in the mornings and four hours each night of field training in finding and capturing the BTS.

The first night in the field, a small snake bit into Shawn's leather glove

The first night in the field, a small snake bit into Shawn's leather glove

During the evening field session, the participants entered snake enclosures full of vegetation and trees to count the number of snakes. Initially, McGuire found it hard to coax himself to grab the snakes without hesitation. The duration of three weeks’ training helped him conquer that challenge. He learned to use the snakes’ scales and coloring as cues. The BTS’s scales shimmered in the light and sometimes – but not always – their eyes shined. BTS can vary in color from olive to dark brown and the older snakes often have yellow bellies.

By the end of the three weeks of training, McGuire had caught 15 snakes with hand tools and many more in traps. Okumura earned the record for most hand-captured snakes in one evening: seven.

Shawn and his large snake

Shawn and his large snake

Trapped BTS were bad-tempered, according to McGuire. Each participant was responsible for 10 traps that they checked every other day. The density of Guam’s BTS population became apparent as the group captured 70 snakes from a three-acre parcel one night, only to return two days later and capture another 60.

Working in teams of two, the participants learned to maneuver the snakes without frightening them, coaxing them onto branches where they could be captured. One trick they were taught was to thump a tree to get the BTS to descend from the upper branches.

Gurney Amore and Shawn Okumura holding a large snake

Gurney Amore and Shawn Okumura holding a large snake

According to the trainer, BTS are only mildly venomous and are not aggressive in the wild but quickly realize when they are being hunted. For children, a bite can result in a hospital visit but adults are usually not affected, the trainer said.

Okumura and McGuire deliberately allowed themselves to get bit, to make sure they were not allergic. “It didn’t hurt, even though the snakes try hard and chew strongly,” McGuire reported.

Obviously, the BTS is a potential threat to Hawaii’s environment but it is not the only reptilian threat, according to Else. Other snake species have been smuggled into Hawaii, despite it being against the law to do so. “Many people do not understand the impact snake populations could pose to our economy and ecosystems,” Else said. “It is illegal to bring a snake into the state but there have been over 300 credible snake sightings in the past 25 years, with only 100 recovered.”

The BIISC representative in Hilo said that designated state and federal employees continue to train and guard Hawaii against invasion by snakes and other biological threats. “We’re glad to have our ‘snake warriors’ ready to protect our island,” she said.

She then urged anyone who spots a snake to immediately call the Big Island Invasive Species Committee hotline at 961-3299 or the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife at 974-4221

Public Health Emergencies … Hawaii Sucks, Even Guam and American Samoa are Better!

Here in Hawaii, we  have faced a few “public health emergencies” in the last couple years.

Vog has created havoc for many residents, we recently had the the rat lungworm problem, and currently there is a Swine Flu virus running around.

A few days ago I blogged about the new Mobile Health Vehicle coming to the Big Island that will hopefully help in the case of a public health emergency.


…Georgia found itself in exotic company recently when federal officials evaluated readiness for public health emergencies.

Tied for sixth-worst among 56 states and territories, Georgia ranked ahead of Hawaii and the Northern Mariana Islands, for example, while trailing Guam and American Samoa.

I truly think Hawaii is a great place to live, but when I read things like our health care crisis, our government layoffs, and our education system… Often times I wonder about the future for my own son.

Anyone Worried About the Implications of North Koreas Rocket Launch?

The countdown could begin as early as Saturday morning, and North Korea says its rocket will blast off sometime between then and Wednesday. It warned aircraft to stay clear of its easterly trajectory over northern Japan, toward the Pacific.

I don’t really understand a lot of things when it comes to world politics.  I guess that’s part of the reason why I don’t like national politics that much.  It always seems to come down to a few things:  the war, the economy, or the way things should be and the way things are not.

Why does the US feel the need to push around so many countries I just don’t know.  I could have sworn there was something about keeping out of other countries business.

Do I feel threatened that the Koreans are blasting off a rocket carrying a satellite into space that could be a test for a rocket that could lift something that could reach Hawaii potentially in the future… well a bit.

Big Island residents… I don’t think the Koreans would target us.  I think they’d go after Pearl Harbor once again.  We might get hit with a stray.

But think about those kids in some of those countries that we are currently occupying that see missiles flying over their heads weekly?


Whatever happened to that big Golf Ball that was perched in Pearl Harbor when I was living over there on Oahu.  That thing was huge and was supposedly designed for such a threat.

How much time would we as Big Island residents have to prepare if we found out an errant rocket/missile was heading our way?