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.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ka`u News Briefs September 20, 2011

A full house greeted representatives of `Aina Koa Pono at their public meeting in Pahala last night.
Photo by Michael Martin-Neal
`AINA KOA PONO representatives promised last night to hire an independent company to make an Environmental Assessment on their proposed refinery up Wood Valley Road and biocrop farm between Pahala and Na`alehu. The District 6 Matters meeting, sponsored by County Council member Brittany Smart, drew a full house at Pahala Community Center. The facilitator was Paula Donovan of Ocean View. Chris Eldridge, a partner in AKP, said he wanted to clarify that electric rates would not go up to pay for the construction of the $400 million `Aina Koa Pono facility, until such time as the company is actually making biofuel and the electric company is buying it. Should the company fail, the ratepayers would no longer pay the surcharge toward purchasing the biofuel. The agreement to raise the rates once the biofuel is being sold to the utility is needed in order to obtain money from equity partners and financing from banks, said Eldridge. Eldridge and Hawaiian Electric Light Co. president Jay Ignacio said that AKP is offering a fixed price per gallon over the next 20 years and that the biofuel would likely become less expensive than fossil fuel over time. AKP representatives said that this first plant is more expensive to build than refineries they plan to build on other islands. They said they have already issued Requests for Proposals for biofuel plants on other islands.

A COMMUNITY BENEFITS PACKAGE of at least $250,000 a year was also announced by `Aina Koa Pono representatives, who have been meeting with members of such community organizations as `O Ka`u Kakou to determine community needs.

MAPS OF THE 13,000 ACRES where the biofuel crops would be planted were promised by `Aina Koa Pono. Most of the properties are owned by the Olson Trust and the Mallick family, and a significant amount of the land was once in sugar cane. Regarding the scenic vistas and stands of monkeypod and silk oak trees along Hwy 11, Olson land manager John Cross said after the meeting that the dry, rocky lands at the low elevations along Hwy 11 would be largely inappropriate for biofuel and that the trees and Christmas berry may be thinned out to make more room for cattle grazing, to open up more grassland while leaving shade for the livestock. “We are not looking at wholesale bulldozing and harvesting of these trees. We are looking at selective work in order to improve the grazing capacity of the land,” said Cross.

John Carroll, agronomist for `Aina Koa Pono, talks with Lance Santo,
of Hawai`i Agricultural Research Center, about biofuel crops.
Photo by Julia Neal
AGRONOMIST JOHN CARROLL said that the establishment of the biofuel crops would be incremental and that the lands would not be bulldozed like they were in the days of the sugar plantations. The planting would be done on 20 to 30 acres at a time. 

TWO ROADS are being considered to take the biofuel from the proposed refinery site off Meyer Camp Road to Hwy 11 to keep all trucking out of Pahala Village. One would go from Meyer Camp Road across Wood Valley Road and through ML Macadamia orchards. The other route would come down Wood Valley road toward Pahala and turn makai near Pa`a`au Gulch and head along the Volcano side of the open pasture down to Hwy 11, just outside of Pahala.

Bobby Gomes
RETIRED POLICE OFFICER BOBBY GOMES addressed the idea that `Aina Koa Pono is coming to Pahala to make jobs for the people. He asked CEO and retired Admiral Melvin Chiogioji whether he woke up one morning and decided to come to Pahala to make jobs. Chiogioji said that is not how it happened. He and other company representatives said they looked for land around Hawai`i for two years and approached area land owners with their idea of growing biofuel here to help relieve Hawai`i from its dependence on fossil fuel. 

TRANSPORTING THE FUEL from the refinery up Hwy 11 to the power plant at Kona was another concern, and several people asked whether it wouldn’t trigger an Environmental Impact Statement. A painting contractor who drives to Kona on workdays said she was worried about the trucks damaging the state highway and causing traffic problems. `Aina Koa Pono representatives projected six round trips by fuel tanker trucks each day on Hwy 11. Another 30 to 40 biomass truckloads would be coming in from the fields on the old sugar haul road between Na`alehu and Pahala and up to Meyer Camp Road to reach the refinery. Rights- of-way through other properties would have to be worked out in order to avoid the trucks from the fields skirting the back of Pahala and turning up Wood Valley Road.

IMPACTS OF THE REFINERY on nearby residents were voiced by people living along Wood Valley Road and in Wood Valley. Noa Caiserman, who said she lives about 1.5 miles from the proposed refinery site, said that people travel to Wood Valley because of its special beauty. She called the idea of putting a refinery along the way “ugly” and said she couldn’t believe it was being considered. Caiserman runs a small business in Na`alehu and said she raised her family in Wood Valley, where she has lived for 30 years.
     Sandra Reha, who operates visitor accommodations in Wood Valley, said she is concerned about how fast the location of the refinery was changed from downtown Pahala to land off Wood Valley Road without consultation of people living nearby. “An oil refinery? To just pick a place that fast, I find hard to understand.
     You are asking us to have all the risk and also have to pay for this. Here you come into our community, come in from outside and plunk a refinery into our neighborhood.”

`Aina Koa Pono representatives (l-r) Bill Kucharski,
Chris Eldridge, Melvin Chiogioji and Sandy Causey.
`AINA KOA PONO representatives outlined the jobs they promised for the community. They said the 400 jobs to build the refinery would provide opportunities for local hire for apprentices and that some of the skills learned could be valuable for landing permanent jobs in factory maintenance. 

AKP ENGINEER SANDY CAUSEY said that 55 workers would be needed for day-to-day operation and maintenance and that jobs would include operation of the plant, loading, dispatching and catalyst loading. Workers would be trained in emergency response for any upsets at the refinery, and could also respond to other upsets in the larger community.
     Maintenance, lubrication, and minor repairs to factory and ag equipment would also be needed. There would be 40 to 50 various types of equipment used, requiring mechanic and welding skills, Causey said. He said that local residents could apply for scholarships and that Leeward Community College would bring classes to Hilo for training in power plant operations.
     In the fields, 90 to 100 people would be working. There would be training for CDL driver licenses, heavy equipment operations and small hand tools safety and operation.
     In management, there would be more than 15 employees, in bookkeeping, human resources and general administration.
     See more on the AKP presentation and public testimony in tomorrrow's Ka`u News Briefs.

Peter Anderson won last year's
Ka`u Chamber of Commerce
art contest with his Nene.
KA`U ARTISTS ARE INVITED to submit their works for the Ka`u Chamber of Commerce’s Directory 2012 Art Contest. Entries must be delivered to the Ka`u Federal Credit Union office in Na`alehu this Saturday between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. They will be on display for voting by the public next Monday through Saturday during credit union business hours, and the winner will be announced at the End of Show Celebration on Saturday, Oct. 1 from noon to 2 p.m. The winning artwork will grace the cover of The Directory 2012. For more information, call Wanda Aus at 929-9139.

OPE`APE`A, THE HAWAIIAN HOARY BAT, is the topic at After Dark in the Park tonight at 7 p.m. Wildlife ecologist Frank Bonaccorso presents findings about its elusive behavior and examines current and emerging threats to the survival of the bat, which is Hawai`i’s only native land mammal.