|History of the Napua Fire, ignited by lava on March 5, was 50 percent contained by March 26,. Mainland firefighters help out.|
THE NAPAU FIRE is more than 50 percent contained, following heavy rains over two days and an aggressive mop-up and fire suppression. The fire is confined to the perimeter with 50 firefighters, fire management staff and park resource advisors working to protect the Special Ecological Areas at Kealakomo and Naula. Firefighters from other national parks, national forests and recreational areas on the mainland have been helping and Chain of Craters Road is open again. The fire was sparked March 5 by the Kamoamoa Fissure Eruption. There are currently no active lava flows in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park.
BUILDING A NEW COMMUNITY-BASED re-entry program between Hilo and Ka`u to help bring inmates from the mainland back home to Hawai`i is the subject of resolutions introduced by Sen. Gill Kahele and Rep. Bob Herkes at the 2011 Legislature. A public hearing will be held Thursday, March 31 at the Capitol. One proposal is to build the facility on Hawaiian Homes Land and a committee to study the issue would included the chair of the Hawaiian Homes Commission as well as representatives from the Pana`ewa Community and Farmers Associations. A bill introduced by Herkes would establish a prison for 1,000 to 1,200 inmates on unoccupied Hawaiian Home Lands.
|The home of the PUC in the Territorial Building in Honolulu.|
THE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION is expected to be revamped through legislation. A proposal would add commissioners and require more public notice and public input before decisions are made. The Keahole Defense Fund supports amendments to the PUC law, saying that current regulations do not require the PUC to hold open meetings or vote in public. The consumer advocate and utility are allowed to negotiate without much public participation, testified Keahole Defense attorney Michael Matsuaka. The PUC would receive more funding to cover its wide berth of responsibilities, from regulating interisland ocean transportation to dealing with electrical rates and the emergence of the renewable energy industry.
|The Ka`u water system is over 100 years old.|
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE CHAIR Russell Kokubun has been battling for money to repair water systems around the state that fell into disrepair after the sugar industry shut down. He testified to the 2011 Legislature that “irrigation systems provide an essential resource to farms. Most of the systems are over 100 years old and are in need of significant improvements to reduce water losses and maintenance costs,” he said . Kokubun said repairs are needed to move Hawai‘i toward a more sustainable future. The measure is supported by the Hawai`i Farm Bureau and other pro ag organizations. The bill, which is also being promoted by Sen. Gil Kahele and Rep. Bob Herkes would allow the state to issue bonds to fund the Ka`u Irrigation System between Pahala and Na`alehu with $500,000 in 2011 and 2012, and another $2 million in 2012 – 2013, along with other irrigation projects around the state. It passed the Senate and has gone to House Finance.
ANOTHER AG BILL that lost traction in the legislature would have allowed agricultural inspectors to be trained and hired by contract in such remote areas as Ka`u. The bill was supported by a number of Ka`u coffee farmers who say they are experiencing problems with getting their coffee inspected before shipping out. The inspectors are in Kona where Ka`u farmers do not want to take their clean coffee and vehicles since Kona is the hotbead of the coffee cherry borers, Hypothenemus hampei, which could ride back to Ka`u on vehicles. Megan Collins of Paradise Orchard and bee Farm testified for the measure as a director of the Ka`u Farm Bureau. Coffee farmer Effran Abellera testified that he doesn't want his coffee going to Kona. Coffee farmer Lorie Obra also supported the measure along with Ka`u Farm Bureau President and statewide Farm Bureau vice president Chris Manfredi who also testified on behalf of Ka`u Farm & Ranch, which manages land where many of the Ka`u farmers have their coffee.
The Department of Agriculture and Hawai`i Government Employees union opposed the measure, saying that it would be difficult to ensure quality and consistency of an independent agent’s work performance and that the measure would privatize the inspection function of the Department of Ag. The HGEA testified that higher costs, lower quality of services and loss of accountability are some of the common results of the privatization of government services and recommended restoring inspector jobs that were cut from the department under Gov. Linda Lingle’s administration. Coffee farmers said they are documenting added costs of transportation and time going to Kona and added risks taken that could bring coffee borers to their farms. They said they hope inspectors will come here.
DENGUE FEVER is in Pearl City on O`ahu and even though that seems far away, the state Department of Health encourages everyone to disperse standing water that hosts mosquitoes to prevent the spread of the disease across the island. Dengue is more common in more tropical places. Dengue fever is a virus and causes a sudden high fever and a flat red rash, headache, aching joints and muscles. Hydration is important during the illness. Anyone thinking they have the virus should contact a physician for treatment and so the health department can track the outbreak.