About The Kaʻū Calendar

Ka`u, Hawai`i, United States
A locally owned and run community newspaper (www.kaucalendar.com) distributed in print to all Ka`u District residents of Ocean View, Na`alehu, Pahala, Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, Volcano Village and Miloli`i on the Big Island of Hawai`i. This blog is where you can catch up on what's happening daily with our news briefs. This blog is provided by The Ka`u Calendar Newspaper (kaucalendar.com), Pahala Plantation Cottages (pahalaplantationcottages.com), Local Productions, Inc. and the Edmund C. Olson Trust.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ka`u News Briefs July 31, 2011

The Slopes of Mauna Loa include the mountain and mists of Moa`ula. Scenic Byways meeting is set for Monday.
Photo by Michael Martin-Neal

Sen. Dan Akaka. Photo by Julia Neal
THE U.S. SENATE continues to try to come up with a plan to avert an unprecedented government default. Sen. Daniel Inouye said, “At this moment, we have a plan before us that will stave off the certain financial disaster that will occur if the United States defaults on its financial obligations. I urge my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to end the debate and come together to do what is right for our constituents. We have to find a solution to this financial crisis. I’m going to assure the soldiers they’ll get paid. I’m going to assure the seniors they’ll get paid. As long as I am a senator, they’ll get paid. So help me God they’ll get the money. We’re going to make up for this. We are going to get this done.” 
     Sen. Daniel K. Akaka said, “Service members and veterans, seniors on Social Security and Medicare, those on pensions or unemployment, investors and millions of other Americans across the country are depending on us. The United States’ economy and creditworthiness, and the well being of our families, should not be held hostage to shifting political demands. I am glad that negotiations are continuing, and hopeful that we can reach an acceptable compromise.”

HAWAI`I VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK will most likely shut down unless the federal debt ceiling is raised by Aug. 2. Superintendent Cindy Orlando spoke to Hawai`i Tribune Herald regarding the possible shutdown, saying “We have to remain confident that this is going to get resolved.” In the event of a government shutdown caused by a suspension of funding, one result could be the termination of non-essential services, including national parks. Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park would face a similar situation national parks faced in 1995, when a short federal shutdown forced it to close temporarily. A national default, however, would have more serious consequences.

A SCENIC BYWAY MEETING will be held at Na`alehu Community Center tomorrow at 6 p.m. Highway 11 in Ka`u has been nominated to as a State Scenic Highway, following an application by the Ka`u Chamber of Commerce to the federal government. “The Slopes of Mauna Loa” with its large stretches and untouched landscape, was the theme chosen by the committee established by the Chamber to oversee the designation of the scenic byway. Another byways meeting will be at Pahala Community Center Wednesday, Aug. 3 at 7 p.m.

THE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION’S PUBLIC HEARINGS on the proposed `Aina Koa Pono biofuel refinery between Wood Valley and Pahala and the proposed biofuel farm on thousands of acres of pasture between Pahala and Na`alehu are scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 2 at 9 a.m. at the State Building in Hilo and at 4 p.m. at the West Hawai`i Civic Center in Kona. The hearing is regarding the PUC approving the contract between `Aina Koa Pono and the electric company and a proposed rate hike for O`ahu and Big Island residents to help pay for the biofuel which would be trucked from Ka`u to the electric plant near Kona Airport. According to county and state officials, neither Environmental Impact Statements nor Environmental Assessments are required for the project.

Cellana Hawaiian Electric's Kona plant promises more energy on less
land than biofuel crops.

BIG ISLAND-BASED developer of algae-based biofuels and bioproducts Cellana LCC plans to expand its business in the state. The company announced recently that it is seeking up to $90 million in investment for a 217-acre commercial facility on Maui. The company has been operating a six-acre facility near Kona for over two years that produces up to 1.5 tons of algae a month. Algae grows much faster and produces up to 300 times more oil than crops currently grown for biofuel, the company says.

Sen. Gil Kahele
THE HAWAI`I COUNTY REDISTRICTING COMMISSION met again last week to settle the issue regarding excluding military and non-resident students and inmates from the population base recorded used for drawing district lines for electing public officials. The Commission is having difficulty with software provided by the state government, which includes non-residents in the population base. This makes it difficult for the county commission to exclude the non-residents. Commissioner Jeff Melrose called for the use of historical maps of the county to help draw new political boundaries.

SEN. GIL KAHELE will launch a series of community forums to allow local residents to voice their concerns and to prepare himself for the 2012 State Legislature. The first forum be held at Cooper Center at 19-4030 Wright Road in Volcano on Wednesday, August 31 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Participants may email questions or concerns prior to the meeting senkahele@capitol.hawaii.gov.

Ka`u News Briefs July 30, 2011

A test plot for the proposed `Aina Koa Pono biofuel farm has been plowed along  Wood Valley Road with ample irrigation, deep soil. Photo by Julia Neal
MORE NATIVE HAWAIIANS graduate proportionally in fields of medicine, engineering and education than their peers, according to a presentation by the University of Hawai`i at Manoa. Katherine Poythress, of Civil Beat, reports that while Native Hawaiians generally earn the same degrees as other students, there are some differences. The report focused on the Manoa student body. Sixteen percent of Native Hawaiians studied education, compared to 13 percent of other students. Five percent of natives Hawaiians studied medicine compared to three percent of other students. In engineering, 5 percent  of Hawaiians earned a degree, compared to 4.5 percent of others. However, proportionally fewer Native Hawaiians earned a degree in business and liberal arts than other students. At Monoa 36 percent of Native Hawaiian students earned a liberal arts degree,  compared to 42 percent of the total student body. In business, 10 percent of Native Hawaiians earned a degree compared to 16 percent of the total student body. It is important to note, however, that small differences in figures may be statistically unimportant.

Sarah Cain
A NA`ALEHU RESIDENT has been reported missing. Police are searching for the 29-year old woman, Sarah A. Cain, who was last seen on July 14. She is Caucasian with short brown hair and brown eyes, five-foot-6-inches tall, and weighs 120 pounds. Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Myra Iwomoto at 326-4646, extension 281, or the Police Department’s non-emergency line at 935-3311.

STUDENTS FROM ALL OVER the world travel far to experience life in the United States, and County Council member Brittany Smart is calling for more families in Ka`u to contact the Center of Cultural Interchange and apply to host foreign high school students. Hawai`i’s unique location helps it attract students from many countries. Last year, 13 students lived in Kona from countries like Japan, Cambodia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Yemen, Mali, Norway, France, Germany, Italy, and Pakistan. Families can be singles or couples, with or without children, any religion or ethnicity, straight or gay, as long as they are able to provide a safe environment for students. Candidate families will go through a screening process. The students are 16 to 17 years old and will attend the local high school in the host family’s district. Call local coordinator Pamela Wang at 323-2117 for more information on the program or visit the center online at www.cci-exchange.org.

A SCENIC BYWAY MEETING will be held at Na`alehu Community Center this Monday at 6 p.m. Highway 11 in Ka`u has been nominated to be designated as a State Scenic Highway, following an application by the Ka`u Chamber of Commerce to the federal government. “The Slopes of Mauna Loa” with its large stretches and untouched landscape was the theme chosen by the committee established by the Chamber to oversee the designation of the scenic byway. This week’s meeting will entail the creation of subcommittees that will manage different aspects of the scenic byway and a public discussion on its priorities. Another byways meetings will be at Pahala Community Center Wednesday, Aug. 3 at 7 p.m.

A PROMISED GOVERNMENT AGENCY to promote renewable energy development has yet to materialize, says Sophie Cocke, of Civil Beat. In response criticism of the Public Utilities Commission and state energy office last year, then-candidate-for governor  Neil Abercrombie declared that he would move to establish an Independent Hawai`i Energy Authority, “a new government agency that would bolster the state’s transition to renewable energy,” reports Cocke. The Energy Authority would address the reputed failings of both the PUC – languid due to a lack of funding and expertise in the field – and the Strategic Industries Division of the state Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism, which serves as the state energy office – short of the power needed to exert effective public policy – by combining them.
     While it takes 60 to 90 days for other states’ public utilities commissions to make a ruling, Abercrombie claimed on the campaign trail, it can take Hawai`i’s commission up to three years. The necessary funds and office space are cited as the main obstacles in reforming the two agencies. Cocke reports, however, that while the PUC and the state energy office remain two separate agencies, PUC Chair Hermina Morita claims that the governor has appointed able and highly regarded people to the commission.

THE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION’S PUBLIC HEARINGS on the proposed `Aina Koa Pono biofuel refinery between Wood Valley and Pahala and the proposed biofuel farm on thousands of acres of pasture between Pahala and Na`alehu are scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 2 at 9 a.m. at the State Building in Hilo and at 4 p.m. at the West Hawai`i Civic Center in Kona.
     Here are more questions and answers from `Aina Koa Pono:

Can the crops produce the volume of biomass needed to produce 16 million gallons of biofuel per year? 
Yes. The biomass volumes needed can be produced from less than the total acres leased by AKP, the company states.

How will other sectors of the local economy, like tourism, be impacted? 
The local economy should benefit greatly from more locally available high paying jobs, creating new businesses locally to support the additional jobs created, and "to bring in tourists who will be visiting Ka`u to see how our plant operates. Our plant will be hidden from the view of residents to the greatest extent practicable. Our plant will have no negative effect on Ka`u’s tourism economy," promises `Aina Koa Pono.

Will the project result in greater economic diversity or dependence? 
Economic independence will be a side benefit as other service industries spring up in Ka`u. As Ka`u is primarily an agricultural area, by adding a new type of facility gives greater diversity, states `Aina Koa Pono.  "This also means that it will make Ka`u more resilient to unexpected changes. For example, currently a poor crop of macadamia nuts or coffee depresses Ka`u because there is little else generating the economy," claims `Aina Koa Pono.  "Once AKP’s facility is in place even an exceptionally dry or wet season will not affect the generation of biofuel and that will help keep the local economy regulated."

Friday, July 29, 2011

Ka`u News Briefs July 29, 2011

HAWAI`I BRACES ITSELF for a possible national default as the Aug. 2 deadline to increase the debt ceiling approaches with no agreement in sight. Talks between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner collapsed last week in the dispute over what services and what amount of services should be cut in return for Republican votes for increasing the debt ceiling. Gov. Neil Abercrombie met with financial leaders and members of his Cabinet to draw up plans that would help prepare the state for the immediate fallout of a national default. The main goal of the Governor will be that the state government cover any funding gaps that would arise should the federal government stop funding programs it contributes to in the state. This would include federal funding for hospitals, schools and national parks in Hawai`i. This funding would only be short-term, though, says Budget and Finance director Kalbert Young.

The Army wants to train Blackhawk
helicopter pilots on Mauna Loa and
Mauna Kea. Photo from Big Island
Video News.
THE ARMY HAS ITS SIGHTS on Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, reports David Corrigan of Big Island Video News. Corrigan flew aboard an Army Blackhawk helicopter recently to record a High-Altitude Mountainous Environmental Training operation over Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. The Army claims that HAMET is crucial for training helicopter pilots destined for Afghanistan, as it tempers pilots’ ability to fly over high altitudes. However, it requires a number of landing spots along the volcanoes and may produce a level of noise and dust that has residents of the Big Island concerned of its environmental impact. The Department of Land and Natural Resources requested that the Army allow a recording of a HAMET operation and of Blackhawk helicopter landings on the volcanoes before deciding whether or not to permit the landing spots. “Like the Army had said” Corrigan stated, “very little dust was observed being kicked up by the landings.” The Army also conducted impact tests in March to determine how much noise and dust is produced and what effect helicopters might have on natural resources on the volcanoes. The Army determined that the helicopters had no significant environmental effect.

IN THE MIDST OF GLOOMY ECONOMIC PROSPECTS, Hawai`i is the bearer of some good news. The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism released jobless claims figures from this month showing that the state saw jobless claims fall in the middle of July 14 percent lower than the number recorded one year ago. This decline was generally representative of all the counties of the state. The Big Island saw the greatest improvement in jobless claims, with a 16.1 percent decline. The Big Island was followed by O`ahu with 13.7 percent, Kaua`i with 12.2 percent, and Maui with 8.6 percent. Hawai`i enjoys the eighth lowest unemployment rate in the country, at six percent. The national unemployment rate hovers just above nine percent.

IN ADDITION TO FEWER JOBLESS CLAIMS, the Hawai`i Tourism Authority reports that visitor spending increased in June. While the number of tourists visiting the state declined almost three percent last month, spending went up over 13 percent from the level of spending a year ago. This has been explained in part by the declining number of Japanese tourists due to the lagging effects of the tsunami and earthquake that ravaged the country, and by increasing costs of services. Airfares, for example, rose 27 percent, and the average hotel fare rose 10 percent in May. Visitor spending is, however, still under pre-recession levels.

THE PUBLIC HEARINGS on the proposed `Aina Koa Pono biofuel refinery between Wood Valley and Pahala and the proposed biofuel farm on thousands of acres of pasture between Pahala and Na`alehu are scheduled on Tuesday, Aug. 2 at 9 a.m. at the State Building in Hilo and at 4 p.m. at the West Hawai`i Civic Center in Kona.
     Here are more questions and answers from `Aina Koa Pono:

The price that HELCO will pay for bio-diesel is currently higher than what it pays for petroleum based diesel. Does this mean that AKP’s process is not efficient enough to be competitive in the market?
 No, the price that AKP required for its first plant is affected by the level of return needed by project investors to entice them to provide funding. As AKP develops additional facilities the price will drop considerably as the engineering costs will have already been incurred and the risk to investors lowers. AKP also offers stable energy pricing for 20 years. The price is fixed and not tied to the price of oil.

Have the crops and their management regimes (e.g., mechanical harvesting) been tested in a range of site, drought, and air quality conditions in Ka`u? 
The existing land has already demonstrated the ability to grow grasses. We will work with the USDA Farm Service Agency with their Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) to develop the land for growing biomass. Selection of the best grasses is underway and will be an ongoing program throughout the life of the project


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ka`u News Briefs July 28, 2011

Mufi Hannemann (center), who visited Bull Kailiawa (second from right) at his coffee farm during his race for governor last year, caught up with Ka`u Coffee farmers at the recent Hawai`i Lodging, Hospitality & Food Service Expo in Honolulu. Hannemann is now the executive director of the Hawai`i Hotel Association. With Kailiawa are Miss Ka`u Coffee Brandy Shibuya and coffee farmers Francis and Trini Marques.  Photo by Jamie Kailiawa

LOWER RATES TO INSURE HOMES are being requested by Hawai`i Insurance Commissioner Gordon Ito, who sent notices to insurance companies to provide a more reasonable rate schedule by Oct. 6 or face penalties. A story in Civil Beat by reporter Nanea Kalani says that Hawai`i home insurance rates rank 16th highest in the county. Highest for the most common homeowners plan is in Texas at $1,460 a year, followed by Florida at $1,390 a year. Hawai`i comes in at $862 a year, while the least expensive are in Oregon at $439, Utah at $432 and Idaho at $387, according to Civil Beat. Ito said he doesn’t accept the idea that high insurance rates are simply “the price of paradise,” Civil Beat reported. He told Civil Beat that “homeowner insurance rates are being charged at excessive rates.” For more see civilbeat.com. 

COUNTY FURLOUGH DAYS begin tomorrow for the current fiscal year, with most county offices closed on Friday and then again next Friday and the first Friday of the month thereafter. Anyone needing to renew drivers licenses by the end of this month should do it today, the last day of July when the motor vehicles office will be open. County swimming pools, including the one in Pahala, will be closed for two days in August, with individual pools shut down on different days. Hele-On Bus service will have normal schedules. The furloughs are expected to save the county $2.1 million a year.

Illegal dump sites like this will be cleaned up during a
three-day event in Ocean View.
Photo courtesy of Keep Hawai`i Beautiful
THE BIG CLEANUP will be held in Ocean View this Saturday. The three-day event is sponsored by Keep Hawai`i Beautiful Inc., The Church of Latter-Day Saints Ka`u Ward and Mike Dubois, coordinator of the Ka`u Prevent Illegal Dumping Task Force, and other volunteers and businesses. Volunteers sign up at 7 a.m. this Saturday at the intersection of Seabreeze and Iwalani Streets in Ocean View. Following a safety briefing, they will collect garbage with the help of heavy equipment and even excavators to clean out lava tubes. Funding comes from Hawai`i County Office of the Prosecuting Attorney, the Office of the Mayor, and the Hawai`i County Police Department. 

A SCENIC BYWAY MEETING was scheduled for this morning at Ocean View Community Center 10 a.m. and more are scheduled for next week. The meetings concern Highway 11 in Ka`u being nominated as a State Scenic Highway. The nomination was sent in by the Ka`u Chamber of Commerce to the federal government. “The Slopes of Mauna Loa” with its large stretches and untouched landscape was the theme chosen by the committee established by the Chamber to oversee the designation of the scenic byway. Meetings are set for Na`alehu Community Center Monday, Aug. 1 at 6 p.m. and at Pahala Community Center Wednesday, Aug. 3 at 7 p.m.

OCEAN VIEW COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT CORP. holds its meeting today at 5:30 p.m. at Ocean View Community Center.

Public Utilities Commission
director Mina Morita
THE PUBLIC HEARINGS on the proposed `Aina Koa Pono biofuel refinery between Wood Valley and Pahala and the proposed biofuel farm on thousands of acres of pasture between Pahala and Na`alehu are scheduled on Tuesday, Aug. 2 at 9 a.m. at the State Building in Hilo and at 4 p.m. at the West Hawai`i Civic Center in Kona. 
     Here are more questions and answers of a technical nature from `Aina Koa Pono:

What is the quality of the fuel?
 The microwave depolymerization process generates a synthetic crude oil that has properties very close to regular diesel and can be processed further to produce a diesel fuel with a BTU value of approximately 140,000 BTU/gallon, and that meets ASTM specification D 975 for No 2 Low Sulfur fuel.

Can the process be modified to produce gasoline and jet fuel?
 The synthetic crude is a mixture of hydrocarbons including gasoline and kerosene (jet fuel) fractions. The majority of the mixture is in the diesel fraction, through distillation and close monitoring of the microwave process the majority fraction can be shifted to kerosene or gasoline providing feed for the jet fuel and gasoline process lines.

 The freezing point of the fuels that are generated from the MWDP process meet the maximum FP limits for JP-8 and JP-5, which make it an attractive alternative to fossil fuels.

What are the physical properties of the fuel – is it corrosive?
 The fuel produced compares with diesel and other hydrocarbon fossil fuels. It may be considered a “drop-in” fuel to replace existing fossil fuel products. The microwave process breaks down the oxygen bonds which in turn reduces the acidity of the fuel, and its hygroscopic (water absorbing) properties and generates a less corrosive fuel.

How will the new fuel impact emissions?
 In general, when growing biomass for conversion to fuel the U.S. DOE allows the sequestration of CO2 to be included in the balance. Consequently the reduction in CO2 emissions will be of the order twelve times (ie 1/12th of current emissions). 
With conversion of plastics and other MSW products the reduction in GHG and CO2 emissions is about one quarter, plus the reduction in volume disposed in the landfill.

 The molecular structure of the fuel produced also has fewer saturated bonds which reduces particulate emissions and produces a cleaner burn, and the increased energy value of the synthetic diesel reduces the consumption approximately 10 percent on a gallon for gallon basis.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ka`u News Briefs July 27, 2011

`Aina Koa Pono proposes to build its biofuels refinery along Meyer Camp Road above Pahala in Wood Valley.
Photo by Julia Neal

THE HAWAI`I INTERAGENCY COUNCIL ON HOMELESSNESS was established by executive order on Tuesday. Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed the order, saying that the council “will be action oriented, results based, and maintain a relentless focus on bringing about results.” The 24-member council will include the governor as chair, members of his Cabinet, and the county mayors including Mayor William Kenoi. The council-members are to meet quarterly and report annually to the Governor, the Legislature, and the county mayors. The first meeting is scheduled for early August. 
Hawai`i State Department of Education
Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi

GOV. NEIL ABERCROMBIE, along with Department of Education Schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi and Board of Education Chairman Don Horner, have released a joint statement in response to a prohibited practice complaint filed by the Hawai`i State Teacher Association’s to the Hawai`i Labor Relations Board on July 8. The statement claims the state bargained “in good faith for many months to reach agreement with negotiators representing teachers.” The state attorney general pointed out that the teachers union and the Department of Education held 16 bargaining sessions. Thee were three meetings with the governor, two meetings between the administration and the union and one meeting between the union and the state budget chief. While there were many agreements made, the union did not offer the teachers the opportunity to vote on the agreements, the state claims. 

COUNTY CORPORATE COUNSEL MICHAEL UDOVIC will speak at a community meeting at Na`alehu Community Center tonight at 7 p.m. about redistricting for County Council seats.

ILLEGAL DUMP SITES in Ocean View will be the target of an ambitious cleanup effort beginning this Saturday. The three-day event is the product of a community alliance between Keep Hawai`i Beautiful Inc.; The Church of Latter-Day Saints Ka`u Ward; Mike Dubois, coordinator of the Ka`u Prevent Illegal Dumping Task Force and other volunteers and businesses. Named “The Big Cleanup,” the event begins with volunteers signing up at 7 a.m. at the intersection of Seabreeze and Iwalani Streets. After a safety briefing, garbage collecting begins with the help of heavy equipment and even excavators to clean out lava tubes. The cleanup is made possible by the funding from the Hawai`i County Office of the Prosecuting Attorney, the Office of the Mayor, and the Hawai`i County Police Department.

THE ONE ISLAND SUSTAINABLE LIVING CENTER, a nonprofit education organization, is launching a “local food system” campaign on the Big Island. The campaign emphasizes the consumption of locally grown produce. Buying local, the organization says, not only supports local farmers but promotes food security, health, and other benefits. The organization hosts a co-op farm booth at the South Kona Green Market, where farmers may sell their crops and participate in garden workshops from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday. 

OCEAN VIEW COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT CORP. holds its meeting tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. at Ocean View Community Center.

A SCENIC BYWAY MEETING will be held at Ocean View Community Center tomorrow at 10 a.m. regarding Highway 11 in Ka`u being nominated as a State Scenic Highway. The nomination was sent in by the Ka`u Chamber of Commerce to the federal government. “The Slopes of Mauna Loa” with its large stretches and untouched landscape was the theme chosen by the committee established by the Chamber to oversee the designation of the scenic byway. This week’s meeting will entail the creation of subcommittees that will manage different aspects of the scenic byway and a public discussion on its priorities. More byways meetings will be at Na`alehu Community Center Monday, Aug. 1 at 6 p.m. and at Pahala Community Center Wednesday, Aug. 3 at 7 p.m.

`AINA KOA PONO has a question-and-answer section on its website at ainakoapono.com. Chris Eldridge, an `Aina Koa Pono partner, said it will be updated after the public hearings held Tuesday, Aug. 2 in Hilo and Kona. Here are more of the questions and answers:

What Technology will be used for producing biofuel?
 `Aina Koa Pono says, “We will be using an established technology called microwave thermal depolymerization which has been used in the food processing and pharmaceutical industries for 50 years.” The technology has only recently been applied to making bio-fuel. Heat and pressure are applied to organic material to produce biofuel and biochar. 


`Aina Koa Pono's depiction of its refinery shows four microwave reactors.
What is Microwave Depolymerization (MWDP)? `Aina Koa Pono describes MWDP as “an acceleration of a natural decomposition process when large complex hydrocarbon molecules are broken down into smaller sizes that exist as liquids at Normal Temperatures and Pressures. Heat from the microwave process is what accelerates decomposition of materials.

Why are microwaves more efficient for heating? The company says microwaves heat from the inside out – as opposed to other heating methods which rely on heat transfer from the outside in, and microwave ovens have no emissions. They work effectively at much lower temperatures than traditional heating methods, the company says. 

How does MWDP compare with other processes? 
`Aina Koa Pono compares three technologies on its website: Hydrogen Power generates electricity at 800 to 900 kilowatt hours per ton, gasification/Fisher Tropsch generates fuel at an equivalent of 1,555 kilowatt hours per ton, and total energy output of MWDP is 3,496 kilowatt hours per ton.
     The company says that, in terms of gallons per acre, production varies, but MDWP generates 3,000-4,500 gallons per acre depending on location, soils and selected crops. Other processes such as palm oil conversion generate 500-600 gallons per acre, gasification/Fisher-Tropsch produces 1,500-2,000 gallons per acre, and algae is theoretically capable of producing 5,000 or more gallons per acre, but has a number of years for its commercial development.

At what temperature does MWDP work?
 The company says MWDP works at around 285-320 degrees Celsius, much lower than the 750-800 degrees Celsius needed by other heating methods. The process “produces no oxides of nitrogen, dioxins or furans which are considered hazardous materials,” `Aina Koa Pono says.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ka`u News Briefs July 26, 2011

A Scenic Byways meeting for Ka`u will be held this Thursday by the Ka`u Chamber of Commerce. Photo by Julia Neal
LAVA OVERFLOWED THE RIM of the southeast side of Pu`u `O`o Crater last night. With the Pu`u `O`u lava lake rim rising faster than the lake surface, a large piece of the east rim fell into the lake, and cracking is obvious on the doming crater floor. Lava is also issuing from sources along the base of the northeastern crater wall but remained within the crater.

Plastic bags are outlawed at retailers on Maui, Kaua`i
and in L.A.  Photo from ProjectGreenBag.com
REGULATION OF PLASTIC BAGS will be the subject of a public hearing 5 p.m. today at Na`alehu Community Center. The proposed bill would add a new article to the Hawai`i County code entailing plastic bag reduction measures. If passed, businesses will not be allowed to provide plastic bags to their customers. Businesses would have up to one year from the bill’s approval to shift away from handing out plastic bags and toward reusable bags made from machine washable fabric or of paper designed for multiple and long-term use. The bill, however, exempts nonprofit organizations from the ban, and it allows people to continue to use plastic trash bags. Kaua`i and Maui already banned commercial distribution of plastic bags. 

Michael Udovic
COUNTY CORPORATE COUNSEL MICHAEL UDOVIC will speak at a community meeting at Na`alehu Community Center tomorrow at 7 p.m. about redistricting for County Council seats. The county Redistricting Commission already plans to exclude temporary residents like the military, non-resident students and non-resident inmates. Udovic recently stated: “Those persons who do not have the intent to remain permanently in the County of Hawai`i are not considered permanent residents and should be excluded from the population base in determining the redistricting of the nine council districts.” 
     This contrasts with the recent state Reapportionment Commission’s controversial vote to include military personnel in redistricting for state Senate and House seats. Including military personnel would have given O`ahu more representation in the Hawai`i Senate and dashed hopes for a fourth Senate seat for the Big Island. After being asked for an opinion by by Ka`u’s Rep. Bob Herkes, state Attorney General David M. Louie declared that the population base could not include military personnel when drawing the maps for voter districts.
     A county decision to include military personnel in its local redistricting would have little effect as this island hosts few servicemen.
     The District 6 Matters Meeting is sponsored by County Council member Brittany Smart. 

A SCENIC BYWAY MEETING will be held at Ocean View Community Center this Thursday at 10 a.m. Highway 11 in Ka`u has been nominated to be designated as a State Scenic Highway, following an application by the Ka`u Chamber of Commerce to the federal government. “The Slopes of Mauna Loa” with its large stretches and untouched landscape was the theme chosen by the committee established by the Chamber to oversee the designation of the scenic byway. This week’s meeting will entail the creation of subcommittees that will manage different aspects of the scenic byway and a public discussion on its priorities. More byways meetings will be at Na`alehu Community Center Monday, Aug. 1 at 6 p.m. and at Pahala Community Center Wednesday, Aug. 3 at 7 p.m. 

THE PUBLIC HEARINGS on the proposed `Aina Koa Pono biofuel refinery between Wood Valley and Pahala and the proposed biofuel farm on thousands of acres of pasture between Pahala and Na`alehu are scheduled on Tuesday, Aug. 2 at 9 a.m. at the State Building in Hilo and at 4 p.m. at the West Hawai`i Civic Center in Kona.
     Here are more questions and answers from `Aina Koa Pono:

What training, education, and workforce development will be provided to prepare local residents for the available jobs?
 “We are already meeting with Big Island Labor Alliance, Work Hawai`i, and the University of Hawai`i. We will work with the county Planning Department, the local high schools, and unions to develop training programs to fill our needs,” says `Aina Koa Pono. 

Is the project economically viable? 
“Yes,” says `Aina Koa Pono.

What is the price of biofuels being sold to HECO?
 “This is proprietary information under the terms of the contract with HECO as they are currently negotiating other bio-fuel contracts,” says `Aina Koa Pono.

What are the basic assumptions of AKP’s finance and business plans?
 “To sell fuel to HELCO and to grow our own feedstock to contain costs. We have a 20-year contract for our biofuel,” says `Aina Koa Pono.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ka'u News Briefs July 25, 2011

`Aina Koa Pono says its refinery and biofuel farm between Na`alehu and Pahala will impact the local lifestyle in the least intrusive manner. Photo by Julia Neal

As Chair of the Board of Land and Natural Resources,
William Aila will oversee partnerships with private
entities to generate income for the state agency.
        STATE LAND ALONG THE COAST and other park-like areas could be targeted for private - government partnerships under the new Act 55, recently passed by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie. Sophie Cocke, of the online news organization Civil Beat, wrote that the new “law creates the Public Land Development Corporation, which will act as the development arm of the Hawai`i Department of Land and Natural Resources. Board members have recently been appointed, and a range of possible projects, such as renovating state park facilities and constructing boat slips, are on the radar.”
       “The law’s supporters say profits generated by such improvements could provide a long-awaited salve to DLNR’s budget woes and aid the department in better maintaining neglected public lands. The public-private partnerships are also part of a broader national trend, in which states, struggling with decaying infrastructure and restricted budgets, are turning to the private sector for help. But the new corporation, which spearheads project financing through a mix of revenue bonds and private capital, has raised some alarm,” reports Civil Beat.
        Donna Wong, executive director of Hawai`i’s Thousand Friends, a watchdog organization for land use decisions, told Civil Beat: “I’ve been told over and over it’s all about money. We’ve joined other states that are selling their stadiums, fairgrounds and public parks because they need money. It’s a trend to sell it for quick cash. But once it’s gone to private hands, you don’t get it back and are beholden to what the [private companies] want to charge and their rules.”
Guy Kaulukukui says income is needed for DLNR to
protect watersheds.
       According to Civil Beat, however, supporters say its intent is not to open the floodgates to unrestricted development. “Without equivocating, we’re not going to take a state park and put a hotel on it,” said Guy Kaulukukui, a Volcano resident and deputy director at DLNR. He also told Civil Beat that he believed there were legitimate concerns about the powers of the corporation, and that the board will need to constrain its own behavior. Civil Beat reports that board members for the Public Land Development Corporation have been appointed, and they include Big Island native Duane Kurisu, a partner in the real estate investment firm Kurisu & Fergus, and former state senator Bobby Bunda. Also on board are Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism Director Richard Lim and Budget and Finance Director Kalbert Young. DLNR will be represented by either DLNR chief William Aila, Jr. or Kaulukukui. According to Civil Beat, “funding for DLNR’s capital improvement program has declined 55 percent from $29 million in 2002 to $13 million this year. The lack of funding for upgrading essential infrastructure and protecting natural resources poses a public threat, Kaulukukui told Civil Beat. Revenue generated from the Public Land Development Corporation could compensate for the losses, he said.
       Kaulukukui told Civil Beat that Hawai`i’s endangered watersheds, which provide all of the state’s drinking water, are being compromised by plants and hoofed livestock which compromise the ability of soil to absorb water. “With revenue generated by the corporation, DLNR officials hope to increase the budget for watershed protection tenfold,” the Civil Beat story reports. “We have to address this now, and we have to pay for it now,” Kaulukukui told Civil Beat, also saying that the alternative to harnessing drinking water was desalinating seawater, which would quadruple the cost.

      THE PUBLIC HEARING on the proposed `Aina Koa Pono biofuel refinery between Wood Valley and Pahala and the proposed biofuel farm on thousands of acres of pasture between Pahala and Na`alehu goes to public hearing on Tuesday, Aug. 2 at 9 a.m. \at the State Building in Hilo and at 4 p.m. at the West Hawai`i Civic Center.
         Here are more questions and answers provided by `Aina Koa Pono:
         Will any of the energy produced be used or available in Ka`u?
 Yes, says `Aina Koa Pono.

         What impact will the project have on Ka`u’s rural lifestyle?
 AKP says it wants “ to enrich Ka`u, be a good neighbor and impact the local community in the least intrusive manner so as to not interrupt or change its lifestyle.”
         What community benefits is AKP willing to commit to communities in Ka`u? How will the project’s economic benefits be distributed?
 AKP says it is “deeply committed to community giving in Ka`u. Although it is premature at this point in the project to identify specifics, AKP is committed to giving back to the community and is open to receiving community input for future consideration,” AKP states. 
Brittany Smart
       How does the project create jobs for people in the community? 
AKP says it projects that approximately 150 to 200 permanent jobs will be created by this project.

       How many of the construction and operations jobs will be filled by residents of Ka`u and Hawai`i Island?
 AKP says, “we hope to fill as many of the jobs available by local hires. It does not make sense to bring in outside personnel unless the capability is not available locally.”


REDISTRICTING OF HAWAI‘I COUNTY is the topic at a District 6 Matters meeting Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Na`alehu Community Center. County Council member Brittany Smart and attorney Michael Udovic, from the office of Corporation Counsel, will be on hand to answer questions.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Ka`u News Briefs July 24, 2011

Pasture land with trees between Na`alehu and Pahala would be turned into a grass farm for the biofuel refinery.
Photo by Michael Martin-Neal
A NEW BUILDING CODE was adopted unanimously last week by the County Council and includes a map of wind-designated areas that determine how tough your new house has to be to stand up in storms. Homes are categorized as fully enclosed, partially enclosed or open. Partially enclosed and open houses have to be built with expensive high impact resistance glass, shutters, or a system to put up protection, like plywood boards, to save the houses from hurricane force winds. Otherwise you have to build a safe room somewhere in the house. There are also new rules requiring insulation. However, exceptions will be made, such as allowing Volcano residents to be exempt from insulation in the ceilings should they want hot air to circulate from the attic to the living area for heating. New rules severely restrict single wall construction. 

Lava could soon overflow the rim of Pu`u `O`o crater.
Photo courtesy of Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
LAVA IS ABOUT TO OVERFLOW the southwest flank of Pu`u `O`o on the east rift of Hawai`i’s Kilauea volcano, according to Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s latest report. Park visitors at Jaggar Museum, looking at the glow in Halema`uma`u Crater, have been able to see a glow shining up into the sky at night that is coming from Pu`u O`o. Scientists predict the spillover, which would stream lava from the Pu`u `O`o Crater for the first time since the Kamoamoa fissure erupted and halted lava flowing toward the ocean. 

THE BOTTOMFISH WORKSHOP will be held tomorrow at the University of Hawai`i campus in Hilo in Room K-127 of the Kanakaole Bldg. from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The workshops will feature interactive booths with information on the new state annual bottomfish vessel registration and new state commercial bottomfish reporting requirements. Changes to the bottomfish Deep-7 annual quota from a total allowable catch to an annual catch limit and what they mean will be presented, along with information on federal non-commercial bottomfish permit and reporting. A forum will be conducted on options for non-commercial fishery data collection.

HERE ARE MORE QUESTIONS & ANSWERS FROM `AINA KOA PONO, leading up to the public hearings scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 2 on its proposed refinery between Pahala and Wood Valley and its proposed biofuel farm between Na`alehu and Pahala.

`Aina Koa Pono engineer
Alexander Causey
`Aina Koa Pono appears to have a lack of expertise, specifically agronomists.
 The company says it is bringing on board a number of subject matter experts. “We are working with the Hawai`i Agricultural Research Center in developing optimal varieties of feedstock for our plant.” The company says it has retained John Carroll, an agronomist and Mike Thieman, an expert in sustainable biomass production, to help with the agricultural aspects of the project. It also says it has retained John Cross and James Cuddihy, “both of whom were involved in the sugar business in Ka’u for many years with the Ka’u Sugar operation and will provide significant insight. We are prepared to retain other expertise as required,” `Aina Koa Pono says. 


Does `Aina Koa Pono have an agricultural plan for the project?
 `Aina Koa Pono says it has a three-step plan that is being developed and will include significant input from local farmers and ranchers. `Aina Koa Pono also says it has a written protocol that has been agreed to with the Hawai`i Islands Land Trust “that guarantees there will be environmentally sound land management practices followed.


Why has `Aina Koa Pono proposed several different types of grasses to use as feedstock?
 The company says it wants to select a non-invasive grass that meets its energy needs and the nutritional needs of local ranchers. It is planning test plots to determine optimal varieties and methods. “Existing invasive and cultivated biomass will gradually be harvested, while other grasses and trees are cultivated where appropriate,” the company says.

What is the environmental impact? `Aina Koa Pono says that “the project in and of itself benefits the environment by reducing green house gases and CO2 emissions.” It says that the carbon dioxide from its facility will be absorbed by the biomass feedstock crops. 

`Aina Koa Pono co-founder
Melvin Chiogioji
Assuming some of the construction workers come from off-island (or from outside Ka`u and don’t want a long daily commute), where will they be housed? And how will that impact the affordability of housing for local families? How will other impacts of a significant, temporary increase in population be mitigated? 
`Aina Koa Pono says it will engage local sources to the maximum extent to perform the construction. “This project is small enough that the number of people potentially brought in from outside the island to assist in construction could be housed locally and would not increase the population in any significant way,” it says. The company says it also plans to hire Big Island-based contractors for much of the construction work.


During both construction and operation, how much traffic, noise, odor, waste, and emissions will be produced, and how will they be mitigated?
 “Best management practices will be used as required by permits,” the company says. “It is our intention to set the biorefinery back from Wood Valley Road and expand a natural rise to partially block the view of the facility from the road,” the company says.

`Aina Koa Pono
Kenton Eldridge
What roads will be used, what improvements will be required, and what arrangements are being made with the roads’ private owners?
 `Aina Koa Pono says that private roads are in the lessor’s lease, and that it will maintain those roads. The company says it plans to develop a private new access road connecting Wood Valley Road with Highway 11, so that truck traffic can by-pass Pahala. 

How will the biofuel be safely stored and transported? `Aina Koa Pono says it will design and construct fuel storage facilities “as currently done in the U.S. The permitting process will assure compliance with all safety considerations, including county fire department approvals.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ka`u News Briefs July 23, 2011

NO NEW ZONING CHANGES for Ka`u until the Ka`u Community Development Plan passes or until Dec. 31, 2012, whichever comes first. The bill passed the County Council unanimously this week and will have no impact on the proposed Nani Kahuku `Aina resort on 16,000 acres of land near Ocean View, nor the `Aina Koa Pono refinery proposed for land between Wood Valley and Pahala. 
     The county zoning changes for the resort will come after the CDP is completed, and the refinery does not require a zoning change to build the refinery on agricultural land, according to current zoning law, says the county Department of Planning. The construction of the refinery, since it is connected with growing biofuels, is exempt from Environmental Impact Statements and Environmental Assessments. A hearing on the contract between Hawaiian Electric and `Aina Koa Pono, which is planning to build the refinery, will be held Tuesday, Aug. 2 at the state Building in Hilo at 9 a.m. and at the West Hawai‘i Civic Center in Kona at 4 p.m.
     Nani Kahuku `Aina has been holding its own small meetings with groups and individuals in Ka`u. 

Legacy Land Funds can be used to preserve aquatic resources in Ka`u.
Photo by Julia Neal
THE HAWAI`I FOREST LAND PROGRAM of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources seeks applications for funding assistance for forest conservation for the year 2013. The DLNR partners with local land trusts and private landowners to sustain forests through conservation easements that help prevent conversion of forest land to other uses.
 The deadline is Aug. 22. Landowners and non-profit entities can contact Sheri Mann at the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife at 587-4172. “Hawai`i projects have been very successful in this nationally competitive program,” said DLNR Chair William J. Aila, Jr. “Through the Hawai`i Forest Legacy Program we have been able to protect our environmentally sensitive forest resources, preserve watersheds, shelter endangered species, and safeguard our culturally important sites.” The Hawai`i Forest Legacy Program has identified many forestlands throughout the state as important and in need of permanent protection. More about this can be found in the State’s Assessment of Needs website. See www.hawaii.gov/dlnr/dofaw/hflp. 

`AINA KOA PONO has updated its frequently-asked-questions section on its website ainakoapono.com. Here are some excerpts: 

Will there be a smell from the plant or processing?
 `Aina Koa Pono says that the only smell created by this process will be that of “sawn lumber” which is comparable to the smell of a lumber yard. The company says there will be no gasoline or chemical smells associated with the plant or processing. 

Will AKP’s facility process municipal solid waste?
 `Aina Koa Pono says its feedstock will be exclusively biomass derived from growing plants and other vegetative matter.

The Public Utilities Commission holds public hearings
regarding proposed rate increases related to `Aina Koa
Pono's biofuels project on Tuesday, Aug. 2
Why don’t you use technology like solar, which has less demand on land resources? 
`Aina Koa Pono says, “Solar power is not economically feasible without significant government subsidy, and more importantly, solar power will not produce liquid fuel for transportation or electricity generation in the HELCO plants.”


Will HELCO’s 20-year contract with AKP to purchase bio-fuel reduce the potential for geothermal, wind or solar?
 “No,” says `Aina Koa Pono. The company says HECO is expanding its geothermal work and continues to work with new solar installations on a daily basis. It claims that “the current total energy used by all of the Hawaiian Islands far exceeds all the current and planned Hawai`i renewable projects combined. 

Even with solar and geothermal resources, a facility like Keahole will be used as a back up to assure the continuous flow of power to the residents of the Big Island. The only question is whether Keahole will be operated using fossil diesel or renewable diesel. If, after the development of geothermal, biomass, and solar energies, less power from Keahole is needed, and therefore less biofuel, any renewable liquid fuels can be transported anywhere in Hawai`i.” The company says its project increases the fuel independence of Hawai`i by directly reducing foreign oil imports.

Is there a potential to use this for ground and air transportation? 
`Aina Koa Pono says that “the process will produce ‘synthetic diesel’ that can be used for electric generation, transportation and similar uses. In addition the process also produces lighter distillate that can be processed to jet fuel and gasoline."

What are the risks for HELCO/HECO and its consumers if AKP fails to develop the project or deliver per the specifications within the contract?
 `Aina Koa Pono says there are no risks for consumers. It says that “the contract contains specific development milestones and details on performance,” and that HELCO is only obligated to purchase fuel from `Aina Koa Pono if all of the criteria are met.

Will AKP allocate land for food production?
 `Aina Koa Pono states that “the Edmund Olson Trust has carved out acreage along Wood Valley Road as a diversified agricultural area in conjunction with the biomass production on former cane fields that have long been fallow.” It says that “currently, there is a wide variety of plants cultivated under land leases. About 15 acres of sweet potato production has been recently planted in addition to taro, kukui nuts, bananas, strawberries, a wide variety of lettuce and an assortment of other vegetables including squash, coffee trees, and soon peanuts.
     The company says it looks forward “to supporting the diversified agriculture efforts of our joint venture partner, the Edmund Olson Trust, and helping to achieve Hawai`i’s dual goals of increased energy security and self sufficient food production.”

WORLD HEPATITIS DAY is being marked next Thursday by the state Department of Health, which encourages Hawai`i residents to be tested. Knowing you have the silent disease can help you get treatment and avoid liver failure. Hawai`i has the highest rate of hepatitis in the country. Hepatitis B is endemic in Pacific Islanders and Asians, while C is spread mostly though sexual contact, needles and blood. Beginning Monday, there will be a website hepfreehawaii.org for more on this silent disease which many people have without even knowing about it. Free tests will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Waiakea Health Center, 191 Kuawa Street in Hilo and in Kea`au at the HIV/AIDS Foundation from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. HIV screening is available free at Ka`u Hospital Clinic every third Wednesday of the month from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ka`u News Briefs July 22, 2011

`Aina Koa Pono says it will get rid of non-productive trees and invasive brush by destroying them in its refinery. The company also promises to grow other feed for cattle.  Photo by Julia Neal
THE STATE STANDS BY the “last, best and final offer” it gave to the teachers union, and the state’s decision to impose it on July 1 without a vote by union members. The State of Hawai`i responded to the union’s “prohibited practice” complaint late yesterday, declaring that the Hawai`i Teachers Association has a “pattern and practice of bad faith bargaining.” The state claims that union leaders could have put the state’s offer to a vote. Instead the union waited for the state to implement wage and health insurance payment reductions, and complained to the Hawai`i Labor Relations Board. 
     Gov. Neil Abercrombie, Department of Education Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi and Board of Education chair Don Horner released a joint statement yesterday. They said the state’s response to the labor board complaint details “how the state bargained in good faith,” with months of negotiations, offers and counter offers and agreements with union bargainers that never went to a vote.
     Union leader Wil Okabe disagrees. He sent a letter to teachers this week contending that Hawai`i is “confronting the most serious threat to our Constitutional rights in a generation. He said the state violated the Constitution by implementing the altered teacher pay and benefits package without union approval. Okabe said the teachers want to go back to the bargaining table.
     Changes in teacher compensation include a 1.5 percent pay cut, 7.5 furlough days for those who teach for ten months and nine furlough days for yearlong teachers, and teachers must pay half of their health insurance bill instead of 40 percent.

Irrigation is being established for diversified agriculture from the old
sugar plantation system above Wood Valley. Photo by Julia Neal
`AINA KOA PONO, whose proposed refinery between Pahala and Wood Valley goes to an electric company rate hike hearing before the Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday, Aug. 2, has updated its frequently-asked-questions section on its website ainakoapono.com.

What crops will be grown to supply the facility with biomass? 
`Aina Koa Pono says it will haul sterile napier grasses, Christmas berry and eucalyptus trees to its refinery. Its crops would be grown on the lands now largely in trees and pastures between Pahala and Na`alehu. Other than napier grasses, “There is the possibility that other grasses may be considered; if that is the case only those that are classed as non-invasive will be pursued. Other than grown crops, AKP will consume invasive plant species to Hawai`i, that already grow in Ka`u - such as Christmas Berry and Guinea Grass.”
     The group promises to work closely with the Department of Agriculture, University of Hawai`i, and others to provide a means for disposal and eradication of invasive species of plants in Hawai`i. “Prior to our Ka`u Energy Farm, their effort to eliminate or even reduce alien plants was limited because there was no means to destroy the plants once they were collected.” AKP states, “Our facility can provide the means other than herbicides and burning.”
     That facility would vaporize anything put into its giant microwave reactors. Another question on the website describes biomass that could be taken in to such a facility. 

What is Biomass? `Aina Koa Pono says that typical examples of “Green Material” include “lumber, grasses, and bushes, plastics, synthetic and natural fabrics like nylon, polyester, cotton, paper and cardboard products, food waste, and tires.” It says, however, that no municipal waste will go into the microwave reactors. AKP’s Ka`u project proposes to process many different types of biomass including invasive species, hurricane debris, yard waste, and biomass crops. 

How might the crops and their management impact Ka`u’s other agricultural activity such as coffee growers, vegetable farms, cattle ranchers, forests, and coastal areas? 
Says `Aina Koa Pono: “Our feedstock crops should have no impact on other agricultural activity, forests and coastal areas. 
Our facility should be beneficial to coffee growers, macadamia nut farms, and cattle ranchers. We can use the waste products from their operations e.g., macadamia nut hulls, old non-productive trees, coffee fruit pulp. We are looking to partner with cattle ranchers to develop dual land use in which the rancher and our biomass production can exist side by side. Various sterile grasses are being considered which grow extremely quickly for available cattle forage without impacting the production needs of the local ranchers. 
Cattle farmers will experience some impact from the additional management of relocating cattle in and out of land for grazing (i.e. between crop cycles), but it will be minimized where possible. Harvesting some of our grasses early can provide a nutritious hay forage if baled and delivered to the ranchers.” 

`Aina Koa Pono says it can help coffee farmers get rid of agricultural
waste in its microwave reactors.
What other inputs will the crops need (e.g., fertilizer, pesticides, etc.), and how will their use be managed? “We will need minimal fertilization with the grasses which we expect to plant. We can also use some of the composted biochar and other local agricultural wastes as a soil amendment. This will allow much faster growth of our feedstock. We do not anticipate the use of pesticides on this project.” 

How much land are you using? Are you cutting down forests? 
 `Aina Koa Pono says it has leased 12,800 acres between Pahala Wood Valley and Na`alehu. “As such we are only using about one-tenth of the agricultural land in Ka`u – and none of the conservation forest land. 

How do you plan to water your crops, given Hawai`i has been in drought conditions? 
“The region has successfully grown sugar cane without additional irrigation. We do not anticipate irrigation for our sterile napier grass since guinea grass has proven to thrive without it. However, should a need arise, there is a reservoir available on the leased property. ” The reservoir referred to is the huge reservoir mauka of Wood Valley Road – the Keaiwa reservoir, which is being restored, along with new pipes, for diversified agriculture.

More questions and answers will be given in tomorrow’s news briefs.

VOLCANO ART CENTER HOSTS a Poetry Slam tonight from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at its Niaulani Campus in Volcano Village. This high-energy poetry competition is open to up to 15 poets on a lottery basis. Admission is $8.

ALSO AT VOLCANO ART CENTER’S Niaulani Campus, Moon Brown and Reggie Griffin perform tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. as part of the Center’s Live Jazz Concert Series. Tickets are $15. Call 967-8222 or purchase online at volcanoartcenter.org.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ka`u News Briefs July 21, 2011

Some 13,000 acres between Pahala and Na`alehu could be changed from pasture and trees to a biofuel farm to support the electric plant in Kona and fuel for cars, trucks, boats and airplanes.  Photo by Julia Neal
THE SIERRA CLUB is intervening in proposals that would take agricultural land away from food production and is having some success. The organization went to court on O`ahu and helped stall a Castle & Cook development of 5,000 homes on prime ag land when a judge recently ruled that the state Land Use Commission’s approval of the project was invalid. The Sierra Club is next going after the D.R. Horton-Schuler development which plans 12,000 more homes and shopping centers at Kapolei. The project would displace 1,500 acres of prime farmland. According to the Sierra Club, it would “further undermine the security of our food supply and threaten aesthetic and environmental interests.” The developers are promising thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of permanent jobs. 
     The Sierra Club has also taken an interest in the `Aina Koa Pono project planned for Ka`u on 13,000 acres between Pahala and Na`alehu. Sierra Club president Robert Harris said that there are much better ways of producing electricity than taking up good farmland to grow a substitute for fossil fuel.
     However, in addition to refining biomass into a synthetic fuel to be tanker-trucked up Hwy 11 to the power plant by Kona Airport, `Aina Koa Pono plans to make biofuel for transportation. The proposed $350 million refinery would be located between Pahala and Wood Valley.
     A public hearing on its proposed Hawaiian Electric contract that would raise electric rates to help fund the Ka`u refinery will be held Aug. 2 at the state Building in Hilo at 9 a.m. and at the West Hawai`i Civic Center in Kona at 4 p.m.
     `Aina Koa Pono has updated a frequently-asked-questions section on its website at www.ainakoapono.com. 

PROGRAMS FOR NATIVE HAWAIIAN STUDENTS have won more than $13 million in federal grants, which will be distributed to 23 agencies by the U.S. Department of Education through the Native Hawaiian Education Act. The University of Hawai`i, state agencies, private firms and nonprofit groups make up the recipients. Rep. Mazie Hirono said that the “innovative educational projects will make a difference in the lives of Native Hawaiian children and young adults. Just five months ago House Republicans sought to eliminate funding for Native Hawaiian education programs. We were able to fight back with the Young-Hirono Amendment and preserve this funding. Moving forward, we must remain vigilant in defending against further attempts in Congress to do away with Native Hawaiian programs.” Sen. Dan Inouye said that “too many Native Hawaiians face a unique set of obstacles on their way to obtaining a quality education. Many of these children live in challenging communities and often have difficulty navigating risky environments to attend school and better themselves.” Recipients with programs in Ka`u include Partners in Development Foundation, which oversees Tutu & Me, the preschool educational program, and Hui Ho`omalu, which helps place teens and children with temporary families. 

Anton Krucky
Photos courtesy of
A NEW KAMEHAMEHA SCHOOL TRUSTEE will be selected following a public comment period that ends Aug. 30. A screening committee has selected three finalists to succeed trustee Dianne Plotts. They are Anton Krucky, Lance Wilhelm and T. `Aulani Wilhelm. The new trustee will be named by a state probate judge. 
     Anton Krucky is co-founder of Tissue Genesis Inc. and serves as its chief executive officer and president. He worked in product development, marketing, and sales at IBM, serving as General Manager of operations in the Pacific. He has consulted to and invested in small and emerging technology, and owned several small businesses. He serves on boards of major Hawai`i corporations that include Servco Pacific, and medical and healthcare Boards like University of Hawai`i’s John A. Burns School of Medicine and the Pacific Health Research Institute. 
Lance Wilhelm
     Lance Wilhelm is a Kamehameha School graduate and executive vice-president of Kiewitt Building Group, which recently built Trump International Tower. He is a career executive in the Kiewitt construction company. 
     T. `Aulani Wilhelm, another graduate of Kamehameha School, has been involved in conservation and management issues in Hawai`i for nearly 15 years. She is superintendent for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, the largest single conservation area under the U.S. flag and the world’s largest marine protected area. She previously served as acting reserve coordinator of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve. She served as an information officer with the state Hawai`i Department of Land and Natural Resources. 
T. `Aulani Wilhelm
     The public is invited to submit written comments through Aug. 30 to be filed with the probate court. Comments can be sent to Kamehameha Schools Trustee Screening Committee, c/o Inkinen & Associates Inc., 1003 Bishop St., Suite 477, Honolulu, HI 96813.

DEFENDING THE EAST-WEST CENTER is a fight that Rep. Mazie Hirono is taking on in Congress. A bill in the House would eliminate the East-West Center by repealing a 1960 law that established the center for cultural and technical interchange between Asian, Pacific and Western countries. Hirono is asking to remove the language from the funding bill. “Eliminating the East-West Center would have an immediate and potentially devastating impact on our country’s foreign policy and national security interests in the Asia-Pacific region,” she said. “Its work addressing trade, security, human rights, and energy security among other key issues is needed today more than ever.” The bill is being discussed in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The East- West Center still has support at the State Department. The East-West Center, created at the University of Hawai`i-Manoa in 1960, receives federal funding each year of approximately $21 million from the U.S. government and $10 million from other governments, companies and foundations. It brings foreign students to the U.S. for university training in government and economic development. One group of students came to Ka`u as part of their training. Congressional delegate Eni Faleomavaega, of American Samoa, is helping Hirono to preserve the center and is asking for an amendment to remove the proposed funding cut in the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Council Districts were last set in 2001, with District 6
cutting through Napo`opo`o.
COUNTY COUNCIL DISTRICTS that don’t cut through villages and communities and split the population is one of the aims of the county Redistricting Commission. Such a district boundary exists at Napo`opo`o, where Ka`u County Council member Brittany Smart has one part of the community and council member Brenda Ford has the other section of the neighborhood. The issue came up at a District 6 Matters meeting at Yano Hall last night, according to a report in West Hawai`i Today. According to reporter Brendan Shriane, one resident said the split means community voices weren’t being heard. If the two council members don’t get along, “then we are out of luck,” said the Napo`opo`o resident. A redistricting meeting under the District 6 Matters banner will be held at Na`alehu Community Center next Wednesday, July 27. 

THE NEW STATE SCHOOL BOARD plans to conduct informal visits and meetings to remote places like Ka`u, according to a report in Civil Beat. Board of Education Chair Don Horner said he would like to hold periodic meetings on the Neighbor Islands, despite the cutbacks in funding for education. At least two board members would attend each meeting.

VOLCANO ART CENTER HOSTS a Poetry Slam tomorrow from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at its Niaulani Campus in Volcano Village. This high-energy poetry competition is open to up to 15 poets on a lottery basis. Admission is $8.

ALSO AT VOLCANO ART CENTER’S Niaulani Campus, Moon Brown and Reggie Griffin perform on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. as part of the Center’s Live Jazz Concert Series. Tickets are $15. Call 967-8222 or purchase online at volcanoartcenter.org.