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.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Ka'u News Briefs Feb. 4, 2012

While mauka rains have greened up the tabletop mountains of Ka`u, makai ranches still suffer from drought.
Photo by Julia Neal
THE KA`U IRRIGATION SYSTEM has received $500,000 in funding, released this week by Gov. Neil Abercrombie. Russell Kokubun, who chairs the Hawai`i Board of Agriculture, which will oversee the expenditures through the state Department of Agriculture, applauded the funding. “Much of the state’s agricultural infrastructure is decades old, and it is important to maintain and upgrade them and keep them in service to Hawai`i’s farmers, growers and ranchers, now and for the future,” Kokubun said. The water system to be upgraded and repaired includes tunnels dug into the side of Mauna Loa to collect water for sugar plantations in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Russell Kokubun
      Cooperatives are being formed to determine how the funds will be used to install and manage the irrigation systems. Anyone interested in irrigation water or joining one of the co-ops can call Jeff McCall at 928-6456 or Malian Lahey at 808-280-2851.

KA`U ATTORNEY RON SELF will appeal the decision by Judge Greg Nakamura to deny compensation to Ocean View residents Leiloni O’Grady and Michael Patrick O’Grady for injuries suffered when a 160-ton boulder fell from the side of Hwy 11 and crushed their car. Since the accident on March 8, 2007, Leiloni O’Grady has been unable to return to work at the state Department of Education. According to a story in this morning’s Hawai`i Tribune-Herald, the judge concluded the non-jury trial by writing that “plaintiffs failed to prove ... that any breach of duty on the part of the state was a proximate cause of the harm suffered by plaintiffs.” However, the judge also wrote that the state “owes a duty to maintain its highways so they are reasonably safe for their intended uses,” and that the state is bound to “exercise ordinary care to maintain the areas adjacent to the highways and shoulders so they are reasonably safe from rockfalls.
      Self described the O’Grady’s as “devastated” following the judge’s decision and said he and his co-counsel, Peter Bersin were “shocked and stunned.” Self told The Ka`u Calendar that the state knew about the potential for the rockfall for years and that the condition was obvious following a separate rockfall there during a 1999 earthquake and by a 2004 study that specified the site as a dangerous rockfall condition. “This accident could have happened to any innocent driver or school bus,” Self said, noting that after the O’Grady’s accident, the state removed the other dangerous rocks for $1,500 paid to a consultant and using state maintenance workers to remove them.
      The state argued that there are more than 100 such rockfall sites along state highways on the Big Island and that the one that hit the O’Grady’s car was not one of the top ten most dangerous.
      O’Grady’s are seeking millions of dollars in medical expenses, wages and future lost wages. She is a speech pathologist, and he is a social worker.
      They claim the state Department of Transportation was negligent when it cut the road through the mountain, leaving rocks and a giant boulder with no place to fall but the highway.

Most Ka`u Coffee farms have been free
of the coffee borer. Photo by Julia Neal
COFFEE FARMERS ARE PROPOSING a tax of a penny a pound on green coffee beans to create a fund to fight the coffee berry borer. The plan would include ridding the island of feral coffee where the borer population could grow untreated. Farmers said they need funding to strip trees, sanitize the farms and apply the fungicide that kills the borers. However, the state Department of Agriculture has warned that the bill could be unconstitutional and could be unenforceable, given lack of funding for policing the situation. The proposal for the tax is coming out of Kona, where farms are hard-hit by the borer.

KA`U, ALONG WITH THE REST of Hawai`i County, has been designated as a primary natural disaster area by the U.S. Department of Agriculture due to ongoing drought conditions, Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced. Last month, Abercrombie applied for the designation, which sets the path for Hawai`i Island ranchers and farmers to apply for available federal relief. 
      Abercrombie said, “by designating Hawai`i County a natural disaster area, President Barack Obama and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack have recognized that the island’s farmers and ranchers have endured enough. Even today, Big Island residents continue to experience drought conditions ranging from severe to extreme. The USDA’s assistance will help hard working families recover losses and see it through until conditions improve.”
      Russell Kokubun, chairperson of the Hawai`i Board of Agriculture, said, “a drought can be as catastrophic as a hurricane or flood to a farmer or rancher. This disaster assistance is a lifeline for many of our agriculture producers who have been dealing with severe drought conditions for over six years. We truly appreciate this support from the USDA.”
Recent rains in Ka`u are helpful, but drought
remains. Photo by Julia Neal
      The formal designation was made on Jan. 18. Qualified farm operators in Ka`u and other parts of Hawai`i County can apply for low interest emergency loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency to cover losses due to the drought. Eligible individuals must apply within eight months from the date of the declaration. FSA considers each loan application on its own merits. Additional information is available online at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.
      According to the National Weather Service, Ka`u remains within severe drought parameters, while parts of South Kona District remain within moderate drought conditions.

VOLCANO ART CENTER’S Niaulani Campus in Volcano Village hosts two public events tomorrow. From 10 a.m. to noon, VAC holds a reception for the exhibit Masquerade: The Art of Illusion, available to the public by appointment from today through Feb. 11. For more information or to make an appointment, call 967-8222 or email community@volcanoartcenter.org.
      Tomorrow from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., VAC invites everyone to join Patty Johnson’s free lesson, Medicine for the Mind, on Buddhist healing meditation. For more information, call 985-7470.

A SUPERBOWL TAILGATE PARTY is set for tomorrow from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Kilauea Military Camp’s Lava Lounge in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. The event is open to authorized patrons and sponsored guests, and park entrance fees apply. For more information call 967-8351.

DUI CHECKPOINTS will be conducted this weekend by Hawai`i Police Department. The movement is part of a national campaign, “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.”