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, June 22, 2012

Ka`u News Briefs June 22, 2012

Green sea turtle basks on the shore of Kamehame near what appears to be an old hawksbill nest. Conservationists
worry  about smoke and ash from the fires between Pahala and The Nature Conservancy coastal preserve.
Photo by Will Olsen, Hawai`i Island Hawksbill Sea Turtle Recovery Project 2011.
KAMEHAME PRESERVE is a major concern of firefighters and conservationists still worried about fires that started Monday and are still meandering toward the coast through gulches below Pahala. Managers from the Hawksbill Sea Turtle Recovery Project and The Nature Conservancy, which owns the 26-acre property, plan to visit the site to assess smoke and ash conditions at the beach, where hawksbill turtles nest and green sea turtles and monk seals rest.
The Nature Conservancy's Kamehame Preserve Photo by Geneveve Fyvie
      Lauren Kurpita, coordinator of the Turtle Project, said this morning that turtles are nesting there. The fires, which started in ML Macadamia orchards, are considered 50 percent contained as they spread makai into the Ka`u Desert away from the village and farms. 

HOT SPOTS GOT MORE DOUSINGS yesterday as crews cleaned up from the mauka and makai fires around Pahala and owners made damage assessments to agriculture. With more than 5,200 acres burned since Monday, it will take weeks to examine all the macadamia, coffee and eucalyptus trees and months to determine which ones will recover and when they could become productive. Last night, Dayday Hopkins, of the county Department of Research & Development, promised full support in helping coffee and other farmers recover.
      The cost of the fire was not only to the future of agriculture. Fire fueled by wild brush in Pa`au`au Gulch moved mauka and jumped Hwy 11, engulfing Ka`u Hospital in smoke, shutting down its long-term care facility, clinic, emergency room, laboratories and pharmacy - some of them for days. The hospital moved its patients to Na`alehu and required extensive cleaning of ash, removal of smoke and purifying the air, which is ongoing. “The air quality is still not great,” said administrator Merilyn Harris. “The good news is that there was no damage to the facility.” Extra costs include overtime for staff and extra food.
Pa`au`au Gulch makai of Pahala cleared of brush by
wildfire. Photo from Hawai`i County Fire Department
      Other costs were to home and business owners and church groups who suffered smoke and ash in their buildings and to those who left Pahala and rented hotel rooms to get out of the smoke. Some volunteer firefighters took off work to help out. Some employees of area businesses and public agencies were sent home during the fire.
      The volunteer and county Fire Departments are adding up bills for hiring water trucks and bulldozers, the cost of fuel for the fire trucks and support vehicles and the cost of transportation for firefighters coming from around the island to Pahala.
      Regarding the cost of water drops by helicopter, County Council Finance chair Brenda Ford said Chopper One cost the county $1.5 million to purchase in 2010 and that a second helicopter used during the first day of the Pahala fire was contracted from a private owner and pilot.
      Ford said there is not only an expense from fires that spread from gulches but a possible liability. If someone dumps rubbish, agricultural or yard waste into a stream, drainage-way or floodway, causing a fire to burn onto another person’s property, the perpetrator could be held liable for damages. Ford, who also chaired the County Council Public Works Committee, said that county ordinance also requires private landowners to clear obstructions in the waterways and that members of the public can call the Department of Public Works to make a complaint. The county can clean the waterway and charge the landowners, should they not respond to the request to remove obstacles within 30 days. Ford described gulches and waterways as natural firebreaks when kept clean.

BIDS HAVE BEEN OPENED by the county for erecting garages for volunteer fire fighter trucks and equipment in Pahala and Na`alehu. The county estimated the combined cost at $75,000, much lower than all the bids: Central Contracting with $154,740;  Isemoto Contracting Co., Ltd. with $141,141 and Stan's Contracting, Inc. with $133,700.  Low bid came from Site Engineering, Inc., of Honolulu, with $97,300.

REOPENING KULANI PRISON may not happen soon, if at all, according to news reported in a Hawai`i Tribune-Herald story by Tom Callis this morning. The story quoted state Sen. Josh Green as saying Kulani was considered but “too expensive” for now. However, Kulani is included in discussions on long-term planning to save money by bringing prisoners held on the mainland back to Hawai`i for incarceration. Also being considered long-term is building new prisons on Hawaiian Home Lands. 
Kulani Prison is considered "too expensive" to reopen for now.
      Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed a package of bills this week that could save money in the prison system by reducing sentences of non-violent offenders. Following recommendations from a 40-member working group for the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, second-time felony drug offenders could have probation, and probation could be reduced to four years for second and third degree felonies. The legislation also adds more staffing to victim services and makes prisoners pay more restitution money to victims through work while incarcerated.
      According to the Tribune-Herald story, housing 1,700 inmates – about a third of its prisoners -- on the mainland costs the state some $45 million annually. Former governor Linda Lingle shut down the 123-bed Kulani in 2009, saying it was too expensive to operate.

REMOVAL OF HIGHLY FLAMMABLE fountain grass from roadsides in Ocean View takes place tomorrow. Volunteers are invited to work with Ocean View Community Association and Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park staff from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Meet at Ocean View Community Center at 9 a.m. For more information, contact ecologist David Benitez at 985-6085 or david_benitez@nps.gov.

OCEAN VIEW COMMUNITY CENTER’S monthly BBQ takes place tomorrow at 2 p.m. Normally scheduled on the third Saturday of each month, it was changed from last Saturday to accommodate a previously scheduled graduation party.