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.

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.