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, December 07, 2012

Ka`u News Briefs Dec. 7, 2012

Surfers are returning to Kawa, with access now available on foot from Hwy 11, said Hawai`i Police Department reserve
officer Bobby Gomes. Photo by Julia Neal
KAWA HAS REOPENED TO THE PUBLIC from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, according to Hawai`i Police Department reserve officer Bobby Gomes. Gomes said that the shore is accessible by walking from the highway. Surfers are already back in the water. The county closed Kawa more than a month ago and removed unpermitted buildings from the land for which it is planning a preserve and park. Police remain on duty at the gate to Kawa’s access trail.

MAKE LONGS A PART OF YOUR DAY will be easier in Pahala next year, as the pharmacy is expected to open in the old Tex Drive-In location in the Pahala Shopping Center. Architectural firm PSM, of Emeryville, CA, is working on renovations to make the location secure and airconditioned. The planning calls for changing the open air facility with sliding doors and louvers to fixed walls and glass with a more traditional store entryway. Longs in Pahala is expected to concentrate on the pharmacy side of its retail services, which are now being handled in a small room in Ka`u Hospital. Longs in other places also carries some foods and household goods, beauty products and office supplies. Longs in Pahala is expected to be open as soon as March. Longs Drug Stores merged with CVS Caremark several years ago.

Ka`u Hospital is one of the employers the district's diversified economy.
Photo by Julia Neal
HAWAIIAN ELECTRIC CO. representatives listened to Ka`u residents last night regarding long-term planning. It was the final of three public meetings held this week on the Big Island and was attended by more people than those held in Hilo and Waikoloa. About 50 members of the public came to Pahala Community Center, along with electric company staff, a Public Utilities Commission representative and a state Consumer Advocate representative.
      While the presentation was about overall planning for the future and the mission to decrease use of fossil fuel, the input focused on the proposed `Aina Koa Pono project, which would use pastures and shrub lands between Pahala and Na`alehu to harvest what is there and plant biofuel crops to make biomass for a refinery to be built off Wood Valley Road.
      A presentation by HELCO said the utility and its parent company Hawaiian Electric Co. plan to “Protect Hawai`i’s Culture and Communities and “Protect Hawai`i’s Environment.” Planner Pat Moore said that those who work at the company understand the “need to respect community and comment.
      DENNIS ELWELL, a retired materials scientist at Stanford University, said he objects to the high cost of electricity and to electric bills rising to pay for the `Aina Koa Pono fuel. He said that he particularly objects to rising rates when the HECO top executive earns more than $5 million a year. He said that HECO money should not be used on expensive advertising on television that says what a good job the electric company is doing. For the ratepayers, he said, HECO is doing “a lousy job.”
      RON SELF, an attorney and farmer in Wood Valley, talked about using sun, wind and water (hydroelectricity) to power the Big Island. He said that the flume tunnels from the old sugar companies, which are being revamped for irrigation water for agriculture, could also generate electricity as the water is brought down the mountain. He called biofuel the worst option for electricity and contended that it uses energy to grow and harvest the biofuel crops, and more energy at the refinery. He claimed that there is not enough land in the `Aina Koa plan to generate enough biomass to support the proposed refinery.
      He also suggested that “HELCO should relinquish its monopoly” to allow more competition in creating alternative energies. “There should be competition to drive down the price” of electric bills.
Royal Hawaiian Orchards is one of the largest macadamia growers in
the world. With offices in Ka`u, it plans to manufacture locally
and  take its new brand into retail.  Photo by Julia Neal
      BOBBY GOMES, a Hawai`i Police Department reserve officer and radio show host, said, “They are going to shove this (biofuels) down our throats.” He asked the representatives of the electric company whether community input matters. HELCO president Jay Ignacio said it does. He said that traditional planning was by calculations, in a vacuum, but that planning has been expanded to better include the community. He noted that the electric company was not required to conduct the series of meetings and chose to do so voluntarily.
      JON ITOMURA, a state Consumer Advocate attorney, was questioned about his agency’s support of the `Aina Koa Pono biofuels project last year before the PUC turned down its first proposal. He said that for the Consumer Advocate “there was not strong support of `Aina Koa Pono in the first docket.”
      He declared, “We are the advocate for the ratepayer.” He was described as being similar to an attorney for the people regarding rates for water, electricity and transportation regulated by the PUC. Itomura said the advocate has to balance the cost to the public with the ability for the utility to survive.
      CHRIS MANFREDI, who represents the company that owns land where many of Ka`u’s award-winning coffee growers are farming, said it was confusing to him why HELCO would consider a proposal that raises costs to the ratepayer given Hawai`i already has the highest electric rates in the country. He said that high electric bills are manifested in higher costs of all goods and services,  in everything purchased, and drives businesses away, hurting employment statewide.
     He said there is a risk of layering biofuel surcharges, should `Aina Koa Pono be approved. Similar projects around the state could ask for surcharges, making electric bills even higher.
Another major employer is Ka`u High & Pahala Intermediate &
 Elementary School.  Photo by Julia Neal
      He also noted that during last year’s `Aina Koa Pono case before the PUC, the Consumer Advocate accused Ka`u people of “NIMBYism” (not in my backyard). Manfredi called the characterization as "disrespectful. If my attorney accused me of NIMBYism, he would not be my attorney for long," said Manfredi. He said that opposition here is not NIMBYism  - the project would not be supported no matter where it is since it proposes to raise costs to the ratepayer.
      LYNN HAMILTON, a retired teacher and resident of Pahala, passed out notes about Pahala’s population, home ownership, and the jobs that are already here. She included macadamia and coffee farms; a coffee mill; cattle ranches; vegetable, flower and tea farms, a pre-school; elementary school; junior high and high school; a hospital and clinic; fire station; policing; churches; gas station; mechanics; grocery stores; bank; social services; construction; landscaping; post office and vacation rentals.
      Concerning the `Aina Koa Pono proposal, she said “the electric company’s thrust is to look at the impact on the community and the environment. What criteria is HELCO using to evaluate the impact?”
      She asked, “What is the effect of 200 to 300 workers coming into the town? Will they rent or purchase housing? What effect will that have on the local people? Pahala is a town where people can afford to live … where children can walk to school and people walk the streets.
      “Hundreds of people will come to town for a couple of years and then depart,” she predicted.
      Hamilton also asked, “What role does HELCO have with AKP regarding commitments? What assurances will there be that AKP will abide by the commitments made during the permit and planning phase? It may not effect HELCO, but it could effect the community,” she said.
      See more in tomorrow’s Ka`u News Briefs.

Another Ka`u CDP Steering Committee meeting takes place Tuesday
at Na`alehu Community Center.
KA`U COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT PLAN Steering Committee holds a business meeting next Tuesday, Dec. 11 at 5:30 p.m. at Na`alehu Community Center. “The Project Team is completing the CDP as quickly as possible given the broad scope of issues involved and the strong desire on both the community’s and the county’s part to produce the best plan possible,” said planner Ron Whitmore. “Though considerable progress has been made, the draft CDP is not yet complete, so it is not on the meeting agenda for discussion.” He said there will be many forums for public review and comment once the draft is complete. For more information, contact Whitmore at 961-8137 or rwhitmore@co.hawaii.hi.us.

CHRISTMAS EVENTS THIS WEEKEND include a concert by Volcano Festival Chorus. Comfort and Joy begins at 7 p.m. tomorrow at Kilauea Military Camp Theater in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. The concert is free, and park entrance fees apply.

PAHALA CHRISTMAS PARADE is Sunday at 1 p.m. All community groups and businesses are invited to participate. Call 928-0808 to sign up.