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.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ka`u News Briefs, Feb. 28, 2013



Ka`u Hospital & Rural Health Clinic could be privatized if bills pass the Hawai`i State Legislature this session. Photo by Julia Neal
SHOULD KA`U HOSPITAL BE PRIVATIZED? This is one of the subjects for which Sen. Russell Ruderman, who serves the district where Ka`u Hospital and Rural Health Clinic are located, would like input from Ka`u residents. He brought up the issue at a meeting with Ka`u residents this week in Pahala.
      Another facility used by Ka`u residents that could also be acquired by Arizona company Banner Health is Hilo Medical Center. Legislation in both the state Senate (SB 1306) and the state House of Representatives (HB1483) would allow the transition from management by the non-profit Hawai`i Health Systems Corporation to Banner. The proposed legislation would allow any of the Hawai`i Health Systems Corporation regions or their health facilities to transition to non-public status. The transition would occur through the sale, lease, or transfer of assets, except for real property, which would only be transferred by lease.
      All liabilities of the transitioning region or facility that were transferred to HHSC upon its creation by Act 262, SLH 1996, and all collective bargaining contracts negotiated by the State, however, would remain the responsibility of the State. Subject to legislation appropriation, the State would be required to continue funding operating support subsidies and capital improvements for any of the new entities.
Kalbert Young, state Budget Director
    Kalbert Young, Director of the state Department of Budget and Finance, testified that his agency is concerned about the proposed requirement for the state to be responsible for previously negotiated labor contracts and continued subsidies and capital improvements for the health facilities. He also noted that employees have accrued benefits under the state’s Employees Retirement System and Employer-Union Trust Fund. He asked what would happen to these benefits?
      Young also wrote that many buildings at the medical facilities were financed with tax-exempt general bonds and that a transfer to a private entity could make the bonds no longer qualify for tax exemption. In addition, some facilities are on ceded lands, for which payments to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs have not been made as the health care serves Hawaiians and other members of the public. Should the facilities be privatized, OHA could demand payments.
      The board of the Hawai`i Health Systems Corp. took no stand on the issue, saying it plans to review the bill or come up with a board position, and that its supports “continued discussions with private entities for potential partnerships and relationships.”
Randy Perreira heads the HGEA
      Yesterday, the Senate Ways and Means Committee passed S.B. 1306 with Ruderman in favor, with reservations. Ka`u’s previous senator, Gil Kahele, who now represents Hilo, voted against the measure. The House Finance Committee passed the bill.  East Ka`u’s Representative Richard Onishi voted aye.
      United Public Workers state Director Dayton M. Nakanelua, who represents many health care facility employees, submitted opposition testimony. He said the bill  “undermines prior commitments made to public employees, eliminates the merit principle, and nullifies the right to engage in collective bargaining.” He wrote that Hawai`i Health Systems Corp. was created by the legislature in 1994 “to provide better health care for all the people of the State…by freeing the facilities from unwarranted bureaucratic oversight.” He said it was understood that Hawai`i Health Systems Corp. would maintain a “corporate-wide hospital personnel system …..and that no employee of the State having tenure with the state would suffer any loss of seniority, prior service credit, vacation, sick leave or other employee benefits or privileges as a consequence.” He said that a decision by the Hawai`i Supreme Court determined that “privatization violates the constitutionally established merit principle” under the Hawai`i constitution and eliminates “openness, merit, and independence” in public administration, which is promoted by the constitution.
           Hawai`i Government Employees Association union chief Randy Perreira also wrote in opposition: “The Hawai`i Health Systems Corporation operates a system of community hospitals primarily on the neighbor islands. That network provides a safety net of health care, with a Hawai`i State Constitutional mandate to ensure access to health care for all citizens. In many instances, care is provided without payment, a cost that our state taxpayers bear to ensure care for all.
         “To preserve the safety net for the neighbor islands the system must remain intact. If one or more regions were to withdraw from the system, it will create instability through the whole system, both financially and in the types of and mix of services available to local communities. A fragmented health care system is a disservice to Hawai`i's people and threatens the long-term viability of the entire health care delivery system. Further, the effort to divest our state from being involved in our health care, and put that responsibility on an Arizona-based provider is short-sighted and not in the best interest of our communities. It is unthinkable that our state will be better off with health care decisions for neighbor islanders being made out of state.”
      Numerous testimonies from workers opposing the bill and many testimonies asking for the partnership to improve health care are posted on the www.capitol.hawaii.gov website under SB1306 and HB1483.

Pahala Volunteer Firefighters fought a string of fires around the village that damaged eucalyptus, coffee and macadamia
and threatened the town. Photo by Julia Neal
THE VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT will be supported by a huge rummage sale on Friday through Sunday, March 15-17, at Discovery Harbour Community Association clubhouse. Donations will be taken on Wednesday and Thursday, March 13-14. “We are looking for anything you want to get rid of that is clean and in working condition,” said rummage sale organizer Elizabeth Girard. The sale typically has good deals including CDs, DVDs, jewelry, artwork, electronics, exercise equipment, furniture and clothes, said Gerard. The Discovery Harbour Social Committee will sell $5 hot dog lunches.
     Proper firefighting gear is expensive and “many of our volunteers in Kaʻū are not rich. The county tried to provide equipment, but has a limited budget. A good pair of boots costs $300,” she said. Using fundraiser money the Discovery Harbour volunteer fire brigade was able to purchase seven 3M full-face respirator masks.
      ʻO Kaʻū Kākou has donated three 3M full-face respirator masks to the Pāhala volunteer fire department and three to the Nāʻālehu volunteer department. The masks cost  $1250. “It will help with health issues..,.not having to breath the smoke,” said Pāhala volunteer fire captain Ron Ebert. Breathing smoke - “you just start coughing and it zaps your energy. Breathing clean air, you can do a better job.,” he said. Mask shields also keep ash off of faces of the firefighters.
Fundraising has led to the purchase of respirators to
protect volunteer firefighters. 

VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS ARE NEEDED. Pāhala and Nā’ālehu have three volunteer firefighters and Discovery Harbour has four. Ocean View also has fewer than a full company of 12. Discovery Harbour volunteer captain Terry James reported that during the huge dual fire blaze in Pāhala this past June, “more volunteers were needed.
      Said Ebert, “Volunteers are essential. They go out in very unpleasant conditions and fight fires to save people’s property. I can’t say enough about the people who do it.” He urged people to join “if you have the desire to serve your community in a very special way.”
     The mean age of Kaʻū volunteers runs between 55- and 60-years-old, said James. While the ranks would love young volunteers to join, the departments are calling to any male or female over the age of 18 to sign up. Volunteers need to be U.S. citizens and have valid driver’s licenses. At training sessions,  third Tuesday of each month, potential applicants can meet other volunteers and learn more on what is involved. Those interested can call one of the Kaʻū volunteer captains: Pāhala Ron Ebert, 928-0027; Nāʻālehu Wade Baji, 929-9923; Discovery Harbour Terry James, 895-8133; and Ocean View Mack Goddard, 939-7602.

VOLCANO VARIETY SHOW takes place this Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Volcano Art Center’s Ni`aulani Campus in Volcano Village. Acts include sketch, comedy, music and dance and are appropriate for all ages. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 children under 17. Call 967-8222.

A NIGHT OF IMPROV is set for Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Ocean View Community Center. Alohaha’s Improv-Sketch-Comedy troupe performs a series of improvisational games and original comedy sketches. $10 tickets are available at the door at 7 p.m. for adults 18 years old and over. For more, call 345-2571 or email thealohahas@gmail.com.

WOMEN’S ENERGY WORKSHOP takes place Sunday, March 3 from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Shizuno Nasu’s Volcano Village Dance Studio. The workshop features yoga and dance meditation with Nasu and Debra Serrao focusing on the Sacred Feminine. $55 includes lunch; space is limited. Register with Debra at 985-7545 or debwhiteflower@hotmail.com or Shizuno at 967-8574 or shizunodance@gmail.com.


     

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ka`u News Briefs Feb. 27, 2013

Ka`u Intermediate girls stayed for several nights onboard the U.S.S. Missouri in Pearl Harbor.
Photo by Lawrence Lucero
KA`U INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL girls, interested in aviation, recently flew to O`ahu and stayed aboard the U.S.S. Missouri to attend Pacific Aviation Museum Flight School Encampment at Pearl Harbor. They were chosen after writing essays on their desire to learn about aviation, and yesterday received certificates for completing the mission from Sen. Russell Ruderman, who visited Pahala.
Teachers Dexsylin Navarro, Nellie Davis, Deisha Davis and Gailey
McGuire led junior high girls to the aviation academy.
Photo by Lawrence Lucero
      The group was led by Dexsilyn Navarro, who heads up the math department on the Ka`u campus. Also leading the group were teachers Deisha Davis, Nellie Davis and Gailey McGuire.

OVER THE NEXT EIGHT MONTHS, Ka`u residents will be able to interact with Sen. Russell Ruderman to plan for the 2014 Hawai`i State Legislature, he said. Ruderman came to Ka`u yesterday to meet with area residents and explained that new bills must be introduced into the Legislature within five days of opening day. He said that bills he introduced this year would still be alive next year and that there is plenty of time for interaction with the freshman senator before next session. He also encouraged constituents to interact with his staff and the legislative reference bureau, which can find bills and help community members draft bills.
Sen. Russell Ruderman congratulated Ka`u sixth-, seventh- and eighth-
grade girls yesterday for completing an aviation class on the
U.S.S. Missouri. Photo by Eileen O`Hara 
      At Ka`u High School, Ruderman visited the construction site of the new shelter and gymnasium, toured the campus with Principal Sharon Beck and gave a talk to middle school students at the cafeteria. He followed up with a talk story at Pahala Plantation House, where he discussed renewable energy, growing food, preventing farm theft, supporting irrigation for agriculture and agricultural education for both Puna and Ka`u. Residents also talked about the Ka`u Scenic Byway program and continued support for Pahala Library, which is open four afternoons a week with Internet and 28 computers. Residents urged that school students use the library during school hours and that it be opened in the future after work and on weekends, as well. Ruderman talked about his support for video conferencing and other ways for people living in remote places like Ka`u to participate in public hearings and other sessions of government.
      Constituents can sign up for a newsletter and for updates. See http://russellruderman.com/contact-russell-ruderman.

Sperm whales take care of their calves for more than a decade.
Photo by Brandon Cole/National Wildlife Federation
A DECAYING WHALE on the Ka`u Coast was examined by representatives of National Marine Fisheries and The Nature Conservancy yesterday. Justin Viezbicke, of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, was among them. He said the remains of the whale on the beach were likely from the head of a sperm whale. Sperm whales, the largest of the toothed whales, can reach 67 feet in length, with the huge head accounting for about a third of the body. The sperm whale dives deeper than any other mammal and could reach bottom of the Lo`ihi Seamount, which rises some ten thousand feet from the floor of the Pacific Ocean off the Ka`u Coast some 18 miles from where the whale was found.
      Sperm whales make the loudest noise of any animal and have the largest brains of any animal. They give birth every three to six years and take care of each calf for more than a decade. They can live more than 70 years.
      Anyone seeing marine mammals in distress, entangled, beached or washed ashore can contact Viesbicke at justin.viezbicke@noaa.gov, 327-3697 or 987-0765.

REGARDING THE `AINA KOA PONO proposal, the Public Utilities Commission last week published responses to more questions asked by the state Consumer Advocate, Hawai`i County and Life of the Land. The questions concern the proposed contract for `Aina Koa Pono to annually sell, at a fixed price for 20 years, 16 million gallons of diesel that would be manufactured at a refinery off Wood Valley Road above Pahala. The fuel, produced in 27 microwave units, would be sold to Hawai`i Electric Light and Hawaiian Electric Companies, with most of it trucked up Hwy 11 to a power plant in Kona. Electric bills on O`ahu and the Big Island would increase.
            Hawai`i County attorneys questioned production rates claimed by `Aina Koa Pono. The county said that, according to AKP’s website, the company “has determined that based on production per acre and quality of fuel, the Big Island facility would generate approximately 3,500 gallons of biofuel per acre, versus 650 gallons per acre for other liquid fuel technologies. This is seven times more productive than biodiesel from palm oil. Please explain how/where the 3500 gallons per acre is derived. Does this assume multiple harvests per year for the same acre?”
      The utilities responded, “AKP reports that the MicroDee process will use biomass feedstock (energy grasses and woody biomass). Therefore, the pyrolytic oils derived from the process can be called a biofuel. The specific biofuel produced is not derived from an oilseed crop, such as palm oil, soybean, canola, moringa, or any other type of oilseed crop. AKP asserts that it is able to produce enough feedstock from the proposed project’s land due to each harvest cycle being approximately nine months for the energy grasses and longer for woody biomass.
      “AKP discusses the need for about 900 dry tons per day of feedstock,” the county stated and asked, “How many cubic yards of harvested material is this equal to, or simply how many wet tons of feedstock do you have to produce to make a dry ton of biomass?” A dry ton is often confusing as you cannot grow dry biomass and you have to grow, harvest, transport and handle a lot of wet material in order to end up with a ton of dry biomass, the county said.
      The utilities replied, “AKP reports that woody biomass is assumed to be harvested with a 45 percent moisture content. When it is used in the MicroDee process in pellet form, the moisture content of the woody biomass pellet is now approximately at 10 percent. Therefore, the woody biomass had a 35 percent reduction of moisture content from harvest to pellet form. The energy grasses have an assumed 70 percent moisture content (varies upon the amount of rain and time of harvest). When used in the MicroDee process in pellet form, the moisture content of the energy grasses is now at approximately 10 percent. Therefore, the energy grasses had a 60 percent reduction of moisture content from harvest to pellet form. The volatiles content remains approximately the same with only minor losses throughout the processing into a finished pellet. At the AKP daily feed rate of 900 dry tons per day, AKP estimates that approximately 40 acres of energy grass will need to be harvested per day to meet their facility’s needs.”
      Hawai`i County asked the utilities to provide the projected amount that growers would be paid per dry ton of feedstock. “How does this compare with possible alternative fuels? Will AKP enter into a 20-year contract with growers? How will AKP handle situations where there is crop failure, inadequate yield, and/or if growers decide to produce other crops?”
      The utilities replied that “AKP will be performing the farming operation for production of energy grasses and woody biomass. Because the farming operation will be handled internally by AKP, there will not be any third party contracts with external growers…. Also, in the event of crop failures or inadequate yields, the AKP Biodiesel Supply Contract does allow for AKP to source their feedstock from anywhere within the state of Hawai`i.”
      Complete responses to all questions are online at puc.hawaii.gov. Docket number is 2012-0185.

VOLCANO VARIETY SHOW takes place this Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Volcano Art Center’s Ni`aulani Campus in Volcano Village. Acts include sketch, comedy, music and dance and are appropriate for all ages. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 children under 17. Call 967-8222. 

A NIGHT OF IMPROV is also set for Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Ocean View Community Center. Alohaha’s Improv-Sketch-Comedy troupe performs a series of improvisational games and original comedy sketches. $10 tickets are available at the door at 7 p.m. for adults 18 years old and over. For more, call 345-2571 or email thealohahas@gmail.com.

WOMEN’S ENERGY WORKSHOP takes place Sunday, March 3 from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Shizuno Nasu’s Volcano Village Dance Studio. The workshop features yoga and dance meditation with Nasu and Debra Serrao focusing on the Sacred Feminine. $55 includes lunch; space is limited. Register with Debra at 985-7545 or debwhiteflower@hotmail.com or Shizuno at 967-8574 or shizunodance@gmail.com.

SUPPORT OUR SPONSORS AT PAHALAPLANTATIONCOTTAGES.COM AND KAUCOFFEEMILL.COM. KA`U COFFEE MILL IS OPEN SEVEN DAYS A WEEK.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ka`u News Briefs Feb. 26, 2013

Hikers came across remains of a decaying whale south of Honu`apo yesterday. Photo by Geneveve Fyvie
HAWAIIAN ISLANDS HUMPBACK WHALE National Marine Sanctuary representatives came to Ka`u today to look for a possibly pregnant monk seal who has been coming ashore at Punalu`u and Green Sands Beaches. Justin Viesbicke said he hopes people will stay away from the seal who was born in 2004, possibly on Moloka`i. He said he also hopes to reach the site of a decaying beached whale south of Honu`apo.
      About a half dozen whales have washed up onto the shores of the Big Island in the last year, including the one seen yesterday by hikers along the Ka`u Coast and another last summer at Ninole. The decaying remains of the unidentified species seen Monday may have come from a whale that could have been more than 30 feet long, as judged from the bones of possibly its cranium, which appeared to be about five feet wide, hikers said.
Whale's cranium bone appear to be about five feet wide.
Photo by Geneveve Fyvie
      Anyone seeing marine mammals in distress, entangled, beached or washed ashore can contact Viesbicke at justin.viezbicke@noaa.gov, 327-3697 or 987-0765.

NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY FOUNDATION’S Hawai`i Chapter was announced yesterday. It “marks a major milestone in the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s efforts to engage local communities throughout the nation in support of our national marine sanctuaries. This chapter will empower local leaders, stakeholders, and local residents to play an active role in supporting the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary,” said a statement from the organization.
     NMSF president Jason Patlis said, “This is a game-changer for how we support our national marine sanctuaries. National marine sanctuaries are nationally significant resources and places that anchor local coastal economies and communities. A local enterprise backed by national support combines the best of both worlds.” 
      Hawai`i NMSF was first piloted in July 2012, twelve years after founding of National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. It was approved by NMSF Board of Trustees on Nov. 28. Lynette Poncin, chair of Hawai`i NMSF, said: “Its mission is to inspire, educate, and engage people of Hawai`i’s culturally-rich and diverse marine ecosystems by supporting the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. The chapter is managed by a volunteer board made up of representatives from each of Hawai`i’s main islands and will coalesce community support for important initiatives to protect Hawai`i’s humpback whales and promote the value of national marine sanctuaries. 
      “Few people know that the thousands of endangered humpback whales that spend their winters here are in waters designated and protected as a national marine sanctuary. As a locally based chapter of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, Hawai`i NMSF seeks to increase public awareness of this important fact.”
      Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary is one of 14 sites in the national marine sanctuary system. An estimated 10,000 humpbacks visit the sanctuary annually and foundatino members say they are committed to the long-term protection of this endangered species.
      Sanctuary duperintendent Malia Chow said: “Hawai`i NMSF will help the sanctuary further reach out and build support of communities around the state. We are excited about the opportunities that the newly established chapter will create and look forward to having them as part of our sanctuary `ohana.” 
      For more information, visit HawaiiNMSF.org.

REGARDING  `AINA KOA PONO, the Public Utilities Commission last week published responses to more questions asked by the state Consumer Advocate, Hawai`i County and Life of the Land. The questions concern the proposed contract for `Aina Koa Pono to annually sell, at a fixed price for 20 years, 16 million gallons of diesel that would be manufactured at a refinery off Wood Valley Road above Pahala. The fuel, produced in 27 microwave units, would be sold to Hawai`i Electric Light and Hawaiian Electric Companies, with most of it trucked up Hwy 11 to a power plant in Kona. Electric bills on O`ahu and the Big Island would increase.
      “Please compare anticipated biomass yields per acre with actual experience in Hawai`i,” requested attorneys from Hawai`i County. “Convert these actual yields into estimates of how many cultivated acres will be required, and how many total acres this implies—along with required infrastructure (roads), supply yards, storage. Are there this many acres available on the Island of Hawai`i?
      “If AKP proposes making 16 million gallons on 12,000 acres, the AKP numbers imply production rates of 1,333 gallons per acre. It’s obvious this is much higher than other sources, about three times more productive than palm oil (which is a more direct route to biodiesel: since one starts with longer chain fatty acids) Please explain such productivity?”
      The utilities replied that, “according to AKP, it anticipates meeting all of the project’s feedstock needs from the land currently under consideration. Testing during 2013 will identify the exact details. With AKP’s farming methods, it is anticipated that a mature energy grass crop will be available for harvest in approximately nine months. Therefore, using sequential planting and harvesting methods, a continual supply of feedstock will be available. The advantages are many with a facility located on former sugar cane land. The infrastructure (roads and erosion controls) is already in place and should only need inspection and some slight improvements. Supply yards and storage is a function of commercially available and proven methods that are designed specifically for regional variability and local considerations.
      “According to AKP, there is no shortage of available productive acres on the Island of Hawai`i. In addition, there is also no shortage of excellent labor resources on the Island of Hawai`i. AKP states that the yield per acre and production of ethanol and biodiesel is an “apples to pineapples” comparison. Ethanol is a conversion of extracted sugars from a plant source, and biodiesel is dependent on extraction and conversion of plant oils. Neither process efficiently extracts the base energy content (sugars or oils). The MicroDee process targets the carbon and sugar content within the feedstock and through heat and catalysts, efficiently converts the majority of energy within the feedstock without having to initially go through an extraction (squeezing or pressing) process.
      “Feedstock yields of pyrolytic oils are consistently in the range of 80 gallons per ton of feedstock. Some other non-energy grass or woody biomass feedstock, not in consideration for this AKP project, has the potential of even greater yields. AKP is not producing a synthetic diesel with any fatty acids. The product from the MicroDee process is a synthetic diesel with the properties of a fossil diesel.
      “AKP is not producing oilseed crops. AKP is producing energy grass crops and will also be using woody biomass crops. The MicroDee process has demonstrated to AKP that biomass feedstock generally produced 80 gallons per ton of synthetic diesel.”
Sen. Russell Ruderman
      Ka`u News Briefs will cover more responses in the coming days.
      Complete responses to all questions are online at puc.hawaii.gov. Docket number is 2012-0185.

SEN. RUSSELL RUDERMAN meets with constituents at Pahala Plantation House today at 5 p.m. to discuss issues before the state Legislature. Light refreshments will be served. For more information, call 974-4000, ext. 66890.

A NIGHT OF IMPROV is set for Saturday, March 2 at 7:30 p.m. at Ocean View Community Center. Alohaha’s Improv-Sketch-Comedy troupe performs a series of improvisational games and original comedy sketches. $10 tickets are available at the door at 7 p.m. for adults 18 years old and over. For more, call 345-2571 or email thealohahas@gmail.com.

Image from Debra Serrao
WOMEN’S ENERGY WORKSHOP takes place Sunday, March 3 from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Shizuno Nasu’s Volcano Village Dance Studio. The workshop features yoga and dance meditation with Nasu and Debra Serrao focusing on the Sacred Feminine. $55 includes lunch; space is limited. Register with Debra at 985-7545 or debwhiteflower@hotmail.com or Shizuno at 967-8574 or shizunodance@gmail.com.

SUPPORT OUR SPONSORS AT PAHALAPLANTATIONCOTTAGES.COM AND KAUCOFFEEMILL.COM. KA`U COFFEE MILL IS OPEN SEVEN DAYS A WEEK.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Ka`u News Briefs Monday, Feb. 25, 2013

Sen. Russell Ruderman, seen here with his staff, from left, Michael Greenough, Trina Ishii, Dayva Keolanui and Eileen O`Hara, holds a talk story session tomorrow at 5 p.m. at Pahala Plantation House. Photo from Office of Sen. Russell Ruderman.
KA`U GYMNASIUM AND DISASTER SHELTER is expected to be under construction soon, following a vote yesterday by the Hawai`i Island Burial Council to approve a plan to preserve in place several burials in a lava tube on Ka`u High School campus. The entry to the lava tube where burials were found is next to land where the gym will be built and had been used as a dry well and storm drain. When the grading permit for the gym and shelter was submitted for review by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ State Historical Preservation Division, the burials on a shelf in the lava tube were noted and construction delayed until a plan could be made for protecting the graves.
      The Burial Council had concerns that the lava tube, under the road entering the campus, might not be strong enough to carry construction vehicles and could collapse the lava tube and damage access to the burials. It was concluded, however, that the tube has withstood other heavy vehicles such as school buses over the years and could withstand the weight of construction vehicles.
      The recommendation of the Burial Council is to leave the burials in place and to seal the dry well – storm drain. Kauanoe Ho`omanawanui, Burial Sites Specialist for the Big Island, said she will draft a letter reflecting the Burial Council’s approval within the week.
      The $18 million gym and shelter will be operated by the county Department of Parks & Recreation and will become the main gymnasium for the high school, junior high and elementary school campus. It would serve as a shelter during natural disasters and also be open for public recreation and community events.

MORE THAN 650 VOLUNTEERS gathered data from the shores of Hawai`i Island, O`ahu and Kaua`i during Saturday’s Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count. The count is a yearly shore-based census that provides snapshot data on humpback whales. Participants tally humpback whale sightings and document the animals’ surface behavior during the survey.
      Volunteers collected data from 57 sites statewide. At Ka Lae, 15 whales were seen between 8:30 a.m. and 8:45 a.m. A total of 287 whales were seen statewide during the 9 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. time period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count, with 54 sites reporting.
      Preliminary data detailing whale sightings by site location is available at www.sanctuaryoceancount.org.
      One more Sanctuary Ocean Count is scheduled to take place on Saturday, March 30.
      For more information on becoming a Sanctuary Ocean Count volunteer visit sanctuaryoceancount.org or hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov or call 1-888-55-WHALE ext. 253.

REGARDING THE `AINA KOA PONO proposal, the Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday published responses to more questions asked by the state Consumer Advocate, Hawai`i County and Life of the Land. The questions concern the proposed contract for `Aina Koa Pono to annually sell, at a fixed price for 20 years, 16 million gallons of diesel that would be manufactured at a refinery off Wood Valley Road above Pahala. The fuel, produced in 27 microwave units, would be sold to Hawai`i Electric Light and Hawaiian Electric Companies, with most of it trucked up Hwy 11 to a power plant in Kona. Electric bills on O`ahu and the Big Island would increase.
      Life of the Land asked about externalities, or consequences of an economic activity that are experienced by unrelated third parties.
      According to Life of the Land, HECO and HELCO have only listed positive externalities such as added greenscape and jobs related to the AKP project. “Yet, in a previous docket, HECO submitted its Externalities Workbook to the Commission which listed hundreds of negative externalities,” Life of the Land stated. “Does HECO/HELCO believe that there are any potential negative externalities associated with this proposal?” Life of the Land asked.
      The utilities responded that they “believe there are externalities associated with any new large-scale facility/project. The AKP project may have potential negative externalities, but it is difficult to determine the impact, if any, it will have. Also, it is important to note that a positive externality that impacts one group may create a negative externality for others. For example, the creation of jobs for any new project may result in the loss of jobs for others. Below is a short list of potential negative externalities based on the Externalities Workbook which was filed in Hawaiian Electric’s Integrated Resource Plan 1998-2017 (“IRP-2”), Docket No. 95-0347:
  • Outdoor air pollution, specifically possible increase in nitrogen oxides. 
  • Fuel spills or leaks (fuel storage and transportation) 
  • Economic 
  • Social issues, specifically traffic congestion 
  • Land use, specifically roadway damages and noise. 
      “The Companies have assessed externalities in the context of the subject proceeding, namely the Companies’ request for Commission approval of a biofuel supply contract. The Companies maintain that it is beyond the scope of this proceeding, and the role of the utility, to assess externalities more directly associated within the AKP project itself. Such an assessment of the AKP project is more appropriately addressed in the project permitting process, or in an environmental impact statement or environmental assessment process if so required.
      Life of the Land also asked about the lack of provisions in the AKP Biodiesel Supply Contract to address potential issues with the removal and restoration of property on which AKP’s facility will be located if it is unsuccessful. “If the Commission requires a decommissioning scenario, how would the utility address it?”
      The utilities replied, “If the Commission requires a decommissioning scenario, the Companies would discuss the issue with AKP. However, restoration of property issues are normally not addressed in fuel contracts. Further, HELCO believes that Commission approval of the AKP Biodiesel Supply Contract will send a signal to the agriculture industry that the transformation to energy crops is indeed a reality, which would be contrary to a decommissioning scenario.
      “In the case of AKP, it is also important that the AKP Biodiesel Supply Contract is not built only for HELCO, as that may create accounting consolidation issues. Accordingly, the
      AKP Biodiesel Supply Contract requires AKP to have multiple customers for its products, in addition to HELCO, and it is unknown at this time whether AKP will continue to operate its facility to supply other customers with its products after the termination or expiration of the AKP Biodiesel Supply Contract. As such, because AKP’s plans beyond the AKP Biodiesel Supply Contract are currently unknown, it is not practical to include contract provisions regarding the removal of plant and equipment.”
      Ka`u News Briefs will cover more responses in the coming days.
      Complete responses to all questions are online at puc.hawaii.gov. Docket number is 2012-0185.

Sen. Russell Ruderman
ISSUES BEFORE THE STATE LEGISLATURE will be discussed at a talk story session with Sen. Russell Ruderman at Pahala Plantation House tomorrow from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Light refreshments will be served. For more information, call 974-4000, ext. 66890.

TONI PARRAS, COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER for Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, presents an overview of Hawai`i’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site tomorrow at After Dark in the Park. The program, which covers the people, the partnerships and the promise for the monument, begins at 7 p.m.
 at Kilauea Visitor Center Auditorium in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park.

VOLCANO VARIETY SHOW takes place this Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Volcano Art Center’s Ni`aulani Campus in Volcano Village. Acts include sketch, comedy, music and dance. Appropriate for all ages. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 children under 17. Call 967-8222.

SUPPORT OUR SPONSORS AT PAHALAPLANTATIONCOTTAGES.COM AND KAUCOFFEEMILL.COM. KA`U COFFEE MILL IS OPEN SEVEN DAYS A WEEK.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ka`u News Briefs Feb. 24, 2013

Papahanaumokuakea Marine National  Monument is the topic of this Tuesday's After Dark in the Park.
Photo by James Watt
OF THE 2,000 BILLS INTRODUCED to the 2013 Hawai`i State Legislature, the sugary beverage tax, which has failed in past sessions, is one of about 300 with the possibility of success this year. The bill would impose a fee on sugar-sweetened beverages. It would also establish the obesity and chronic disease prevention special fund and the Hawai`i interagency obesity prevention council to support obesity prevention programs. It would make an appropriation from the obesity and chronic disease prevention special fund to the state Department of Health. SB1085 passed second reading in the Senate Health Committee, chaired by Sen. Josh Green, who represents Ka`u. It also passed the Committee on Judiciary and Labor. The two no votes came from Republicans Sen. Mike Gabbard and Sen. Sam Slom. The measure is now before the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
      The language of the bill states that, “In Hawai`i, childhood obesity increased by 38 percent between 1999 and 2009, and adult obesity has more than doubled between 1996 and 2011. As a result of health risks and complications related to obesity, this generation of children may be the first generation not to outlive their parents.
A tax on sugary drinks would fund state obesity prevention and health
promotion programs. Image from nih.gov
      “Obesity-related medical expenditures in Hawai`i were calculated to be over $470 million in 2009 and are continuing to increase. Sugar-sweetened beverages have been identified by many scientific studies as a major contributor to the costly obesity epidemic.
      “A 2004 study found that sugared soft drinks are the single largest contributor of calorie intake in the United States.
      “According to nutritional standards, sugar-sweetened beverages such as non-diet soft drinks, energy drinks, sweet teas and sports drinks offer little or no nutritional value and contain massive quantities of added sugars and calories. For example, a twelve-ounce can of soda contains the equivalent of approximately eight to ten teaspoons of sugar.”
      The American Diabetes Association wrote, “If we do not do something about this growing epidemic, the quality of life and the economic cost to Hawai`i will be crippling.” The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and the Hawai`i Public Health Association support the bill.
      The Grocery Manufacturers Association, Hawai`i Bar Owners Association, and local soft drink manufacturers oppose the bill.
      The tax would be one cent per ounce and would increase the cost of an average soft drink by 17 percent. Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s testimony said the tax is “expected to reduce consumption by eight to 10 percent and maybe even higher on youth. If this bill passes, in 2014-15 we are hoping to raise $38 million in new revenue and will use these funds to support childhood and adult obesity prevention and health promotion programs,” wrote Abercrombie.
      Other supporters of the tax include The Queen’s Health System and numerous health organizations.
      Progress on this and other bills in the state Legislature can be tracked at capitol.hawaii.gov.

REGARDING THE `AINA KOA PONO proposal, the Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday published responses to more questions asked by the state Consumer Advocate, Hawai`i County and Life of the Land. The questions concern the proposed contract for `Aina Koa Pono to annually sell, at a fixed price for 20 years, 16 million gallons of diesel that would be manufactured at a refinery off Wood Valley Road above Pahala. The fuel, produced in 27 microwave units, would be sold to Hawai`i Electric Light and Hawaiian Electric Companies, with most of it trucked up Hwy 11 to a power plant in Kona. Electric bills on O`ahu and the Big Island would increase.
      County of Hawai`i asked the utilities to explain what it called “the rationale behind raising electricity prices to support a single new industry sector that may decrease the profitability of other sectors.”
      The county cited a Biofuels Study incorporated in the Final Report to the Legislature in Accordance with Act 203, Session Laws of Hawai`i, 2011, which, according to the county, states that “biorefineries produce a variety of products, including a variety of biofuels, enabling one or more of the products (such as fuel for electricity generation and/or fuel for the Department of Defense) to be supplied under long-term contracts at known prices.
      “This process has been identified by the industry as extremely important for success, and should be viewed as contributing to, rather than competing with, the success of other biofuel products. Having long-term contracts at high prices is attractive in any industry, but when electricity prices in Hawai`i are already the highest in the nation and eroding other industry-sector profits, there may be a net-negative effect to the economy from such contracts.
      HELCO and HECO replied, “As explained in the Application, the approval of the AKP Biodiesel Supply Contract is reasonable for, among other reasons, (1) the use of the biodiesel will help to meet State energy policy objectives and Hawaiian Electric’s, HELCO’s and Maui Electric Company, Limited’s mandated Renewable Portfolio Standards requirements; (2) the AKP Biodiesel Supply Contract provides a locally sourced fuel supply which will contribute to the State’s goal of greater energy security and energy self-sufficiency; (3) the fixed biodiesel price, with a nominal escalation provision, is reasonable and is projected to fall below the price of petroleum diesel during the term of the AKP Biodiesel Supply Contract; (4) use of the biodiesel in place of petroleum diesel will not result in any additional curtailment of existing as-available renewable resources or otherwise impede the consideration of additional renewable resources to HELCO’s system; and (5) the AKP Biodiesel Supply Contract is consistent with HELCO’s third major integrated resource plan.
      “HELCO is also aware that having its customers absorb the entire differential between the cost of the biofuel and the cost of the fossil fuel that the biofuel is replacing is unfair, especially given that the use of the biodiesel helps the Hawaiian Electric Companies, in total, meet the Renewable Portfolio Standards requirements. Therefore, the Companies are proposing the establishment of a Biofuel Surcharge Provision that will pass through the differential between the cost of the biofuel and the cost of the fossil fuel that the biofuel is replacing, in the event the cost of the biofuel is higher than the cost of the fossil fuel, over the customer base of the Companies, based on kilowatt-hour usage. Using the Biofuel Surcharge Provision, HELCO estimates that the impact to HELCO’s customers is relatively small, with the estimated overall bill impact (without MECO) for the Companies in the range of $0.84 to $ 1.00 per month (which is lower than the $1.55 to $ 1.86 per month from AKP1) for a residential bill of 500 to 600 kWh.
      “Finally, it is important to note that the Hawaiian Electric Companies’ strategy is to actively seek and incorporate a diverse portfolio of new renewable energy resources (as opposed to a single sector) including wind, solar power, hydro, geothermal, biomass, biofuels, and other types of renewable generation that may emerge and become commercially viable several years down the road (e.g., wave energy, ocean thermal energy). Along with adding new renewable energy resources, biofuels are a critical component of a “green” energy future for the Hawaiian Electric Companies because biofuels can be used to generate energy from existing conventional generating units which provide essential grid services including load following, frequency response, voltage control and on-line operating and spinning reserves. Moreover, utilizing biofuel in existing generating units is expected to achieve cleaner air emissions and facilitate compliance with new and revised environmental regulations. Increasing the use of biofuels in existing power plants will ensure that the Hawaiian Electric Companies meet the Renewable Portfolio Standards requirements.”
      Ka`u News Briefs will cover more responses in the coming days.
      Complete responses to all questions are online at puc.hawaii.gov. Docket number is 2012-0185.

Sen. Russell Ruderman
A TALK STORY WITH SEN. RUSSELL RUDERMAN takes place at Pahala Plantation House Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Ruderman meets with constituents to discuss issues before the state Legislature. Light refreshments will be served. For more information, call 974-4000, ext. 66890. 

PAPAHANAUMOKUAKEA Marine National Monument is the topic at After Dark in the Park on Tuesday. Toni Parras, communications manager for the monument, presents an overview of Hawai`i’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site. The program, which covers the people, the partnerships and the promise for the monument, begins at 7 p.m.
 at Kilauea Visitor Center Auditorium in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park.

SUPPORT OUR SPONSORS AT PAHALAPLANTATIONCOTTAGES.COM AND KAUCOFFEEMILL.COM. KA`U COFFEE MILL IS OPEN SEVEN DAYS A WEEK.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Ka`u News Briefs Feb. 23, 2013

Trail maintenance and the fight against invasive species in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park could suffer with sequestration.
Photo from National Park Service
HAWAI`I VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, with most of its land in Ka`u, is ready for the possibility of sequestration. The park is prepared to cut five percent of the $7.3 million it receives from Congress through the Operation of the National Park Service annual budget, said Superintendent Cindy Orlando.
      The budget cut would go into effect unless Congress comes to an agreement on the entire federal budget by March 1. The sequestration cuts the budget of all federal agencies.
      Orlando said that if sequestration takes place, “We won’t be doing as much preventive maintenance. We will have lower levels of trail maintenance, lower levels of invasive species control. There will also be reduction in our school and educational programs.” A half dozen permanent fulltime jobs will go unfilled for now, she said.
HVNP superintendent Cindy Orlando said the park will remain open 24/7,
and her goal is to protect jobs of full time employees and to keep
visitors safe. Photo by Julia Neal
      The superintendent said the goal, should sequestration happen, will be “to protect our fulltime employees and to protect the public visiting the park.”
      Getting ready for the sequestration is a “planning exercise, and we hope it won’t happen,” Orlando said. The overall budget for Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park is about $15 million. In addition to congressional funding, there are grants, the park competes for projects, and there are other programs from which there is income.
      With sequestration, the park may have to delay buying some supplies and equipment. However, “a good percentage of all of our budget is personal service – salaries,” she said. “We are prepared to protect them.”
      Over time, however, the park would not be able to sustain the cuts, said Orlando. The park needs to hire an electrician, journeyman carpenter and other skilled people to maintain the buildings and trails, she said.
      She noted, however, that the park is open 24/7 and that budget cuts in recent years have helped prepare the staff for any additional belt tightening.

Sen. Mazie Hirono
KA`U’S U.S. SENATOR MAZIE HIRONO recently wrote about the looming sequestration and called for preserving many educational, health, welfare and economic development programs as well as defense spending. 
      She praised Pres. Barack Obama’s efforts to avert sequestration. She said the President “laid out a strong and compelling course for Hawai`i and our country. He was right to focus on the economy and jobs. Our economy is still trying to recover from a deep recession, and we should do everything we can to create sustainable economic growth. In the near term, that means averting sequestration – the indiscriminate, across-the-board cuts that are projected to cost Hawai`i some 11,000 jobs. “Averting these cuts before March 1 is not just an economic necessity; it’s a matter of national security.”
      Hirono said that “top military officers warned my colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee and me that these cuts would impact the military’s readiness everywhere, including in the increasingly important Asia-Pacific region.


      “I applaud the far-sighted plan the President laid out for broad-based economic growth that creates dependable jobs and expands opportunities for everyone, not just those at the very top of society.
      She said that Obama’s effort in expanding access to early childhood education “is one of the smartest things we can do as a nation to ensure our economic future. Study after study has shown that early childhood education leads to increased educational achievement and employability later in life. Business leaders, economists, and educators all agree investing in early childhood education is one of the easiest ways to ensure we have a workforce that can compete on the international stage.” Head Start and Early Head Start could be cut if sequestration happens.

REGARDING THE `AINA KOA PONO proposal, the Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday published responses to more questions asked by the state Consumer Advocate, Hawai`i County and Life of the Land. The questions concern the proposed contract for `Aina Koa Pono to annually sell, at a fixed price for 20 years, 16 million gallons of diesel that would be manufactured at a refinery off Wood Valley Road above Pahala. The fuel, produced in 27 microwave units, would be sold to Hawai`i Electric Light and Hawaiian Electric Companies, with most of it trucked up Hwy 11 to a power plant in Kona. Electric rates on O`ahu and the Big Island would increase.
      County of Hawai`i asked about the use of biofuels for transportation, which it calls a “higher-value use.” “It seems the electricity sector is being used to start a biofuels industry that will ultimately benefit a biofuels industry for transportation,” the county said. “Therefore, a real likelihood exists that if this contract is authorized, Hawai`i electric ratepayers could be helping to subsidize a biofuels transportation industry. Why are long-term contracts not being done in the transportation sector?” the county asks. “Why is the electric ratepayer subsidizing a lower-value use? Should the higher-value use of a transportation fuels and the associated biofuels industry stand on its own?”
      The utilities replied that “the Companies are not in a position to speculate on why long-term contracts are not being done in the transportation sector or whether the biofuel use in the transportation sector should stand on its own, and issues related to these topics are beyond the scope of the subject proceeding. Further, the Companies also respectfully disagree with the characterization of the use of biodiesel by the utilities as a lower-value use. As explained in the Application and in response to County of Hawai`i’s Supplemental Information Request 13, the use of biofuels is a critical component of the Hawaiian Electric Companies’ strategy to actively seek and incorporate a diverse portfolio of new renewable energy resources (as opposed to a single sector) including wind, solar power, hydro, geothermal, biomass, biofuels, and other types of renewable generation that may emerge and become commercially viable several years down the road (e.g., wave energy, ocean thermal energy). Biofuels are an element of this strategy as biofuels can be used to generate energy from existing conventional generating units which provide essential grid services including load following, frequency response, voltage control and on-line operating and spinning reserves. Moreover, utilizing biofuel in existing generating units is expected to achieve cleaner air emissions and facilitate compliance with new and revised environmental regulations. Increasing the use of biofuels in existing power plants will help the Hawaiian Electric Companies meet the Renewable Portfolio Standard requirements.”
      Ka`u News Briefs will cover more responses in the coming days.
      Complete responses to all questions are online at puc.hawaii.gov. Docket number is 2012-0185.

THE SEVENTH ANNUAL SPAGHETTI DINNER raising funds for Ka`u Hospital’s emergency room takes place today beginning at 4 p.m. at Na`alehu Community Center. The event is sponsored every February by Red Hat Ladies of Ka`u and Ka Lae Quilters. Contributions are welcome. For more information, call Barbara Beatty at 929-9072.

SEN. RUSSELL RUDERMAN holds a talk story at Pahala Plantation House Tuesday, Feb. 26 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Ruderman meets with constituents to discuss issues before the state Legislature. Light refreshments will be served. For more information, call 974-4000, ext. 66890.

AT AFTER DARK IN THE PARK on Tuesday, Toni Parras, communications manager for Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, presents an overview of Hawai`i’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site. The monument has been called a global treasure, rainforest of the sea, the last best place on earth, and it is a place of great cultural significance to Hawaiian people. The program, which covers the people, the partnerships and the promise for the monument, begins at 7 p.m.
 at Kilauea Visitor Center Auditorium in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park.
      A short film about Midway Island in the western portion of the monument can be seen at midwayfilm.com.

SUPPORT OUR SPONSORS AT PAHALAPLANTATIONCOTTAGES.COM AND KAUCOFFEEMILL.COM. KA`U COFFEE MILL IS OPEN SEVEN DAYS A WEEK.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Ka`u News Briefs Feb. 22, 2013

Farmers who want to the sell products to the public can sign up for a workshop entitled Food Business Basics: Getting Started and Finding Your Niche in the Specialty Foods Business that will be offered at Pahala Community Center in March by The Kohala Center and The Laulima Center.
MORE TRANSPARENCY IN CONTRACTS SIGNED BY THE ELECTRIC COMPANIES would be available to the state Public Utilities Commission if state House of Representatives Bill 813 passes the 2013 Hawai`i Legislature. The bill goes to public hearing on Monday, Feb. 25 at the State Capitol.
      Life of the Land’s executive director Henry Curtis sent out an email entitled: Are Ratepayers Being Ripped Off? Key Legislative Bill Needs Your Support. He wrote that the electric company signs “contracts with `Aina Koa Pono, Pattern Energy, PGV or First Wind. The utility asks the Public Utilities Commission to approve the contract.
      “The renewable energy companies are not parties to the PUC proceedings and could be getting windfall profits at ratepayer expense.
      “HB813 would allow the PUC to review their financial records.”
      Citizens can send in testimony by going to http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=HB&billnumber=813&year=2013. Click on submit testimony at the top of the page.
Henry Curtis of Life of the Land
      The bill says that the PUC “shall have the authority to examine all documents, ledgers, records, projections, contracts, or any other information and data pertaining to the development, financing, taxation, construction, or operations and maintenance of a project in any power purchase agreement that has been submitted to the commission for review or approval, as the commission deems necessary, including the information and data of any third-party electricity producer seeking to sell electricity to a public utility as defined within section 269-1; provided that this section shall be effective to the extent it is not inconsistent with applicable federal law. The commission shall maintain the confidentiality of all information submitted under confidential seal and provided in accordance with this section."
      The justification section of the proposed legislation says: “Electricity in Hawai`i is supplied increasingly by non-utility power generators that use a variety of both fossil fuel and renewable energy resources. Electric utilities acquire third-party supplied energy via power purchase agreements that establish a final price for energy supplied throughout the entire contract term, which typically lasts for twenty years. Negotiated prices in purchased power agreements are reviewed by the Public UItilities Commission, though the independent power producers’ underlying cost data and associated assumptions are not typically disclosed to the commission.
     “Complete access to underlying renewable energy project cost information, including cost support information and associated materials, would allow the commission to better determine the reasonableness of proposed prices in the context of the local energy market, independently track trends in renewable energy project development and more readily compare independent power producers’ projects. More specific, detailed contract information can fundamentally shift the way renewable energy project costs are currently set so that they move more closely in line with the actual costs of energy production and are free of the influence of volatile fuel oil prices. In addition, more open and clear contract pricing information could potentially improve the financing environment for non-utility energy developers, thus benefiting the entire state through lower renewable energy project financing costs.
     “The purpose of this Act is to authorize the Public Utilities Commission to examine all records, projections, business documents, and other necessary information relating to the review by the commission of power purchase agreements for the sale of electricity to a public utility.”

CONCERNING THE `AINA KOA PONO proposal, the Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday published responses to more questions asked by the state Consumer Advocate, Hawai`i County and Life of the Land. The questions concern the proposed contract for `Aina Koa Pono to annually sell, at a fixed price for 20 years, 16 million gallons of diesel that would be manufactured at a refinery off Wood Valley Road above Pahala. The fuel, produced in 27 microwave units, would be sold to Hawai`i Electric Light and Hawaiian Electric Companies, with most of it trucked up Hwy 11 to a power plant in Kona. Electric rates on O`ahu and the Big Island would increase.
      Hawai`i County asked HELCO and HECO to list the financiers AKP has had discussion with this project. “At the previous and current dollar per gallon annual escalation figures, please provide copies of any and all pro-forma statements provided to possible financiers,” the county asked. “Please provide all past and present AKP pro-forma statements that are being provided to any potential investor. Please provide the amount of projected financial return and how AKP, investors, SBS/TekGar, Biocon, AECOM and other partners (listed by AKP) will be compensated from this proposed contract.”
      The utilities replied that, “according to AKP, the financial information requested by this information request is confidential and proprietary and if disclosed would risk AKP’s ability to obtain financing of the project. In addition, AKP objects to answering this information request as it is beyond the scope of County of Hawai`i’s permitted participation in this Docket. AKP asserts that Issue No. 1 and the sub-issues refer to factors that the Commission should consider in evaluating the AKP Biodiesel Supply Contract, but not an evaluation by County of Hawai`i of AKP’s underlying financing or other terms. AKP is not willing to provide this information even under protective order.
      “Without waiving these objections, AKP has stated that it has had numerous discussions with potential financiers. These include discussions with major investment banks and private equity firms who specialize in renewable energy and biofuels. AKP will continue these discussions in order to raise capital for both the initial 33-ton per day unit and the larger 900-ton per day plant.”
      Ka`u News Briefs will cover more responses in the coming days.
      Complete responses to all questions are online at puc.hawaii.gov. Docket number is 2012-0185.

Lou Cooperhouse
FARMERS WHO WANT TO SELL A PRODUCT to the public can learn from value-added and specialty foods consultant Lou Cooperhouse when he presents Food Business Basics: Getting Started and Finding Your Niche in the Specialty Foods Business. The workshop to be held at Pahala Community Center on Wednesday, March 13 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. is designed for farmers seeking to develop their raw product into a value-added product and bring it to market, entrepreneurs and restaurateurs interested in diversifying their revenue streams with specialty food products, and established producers looking to take their food businesses to the next level. 
      According to The Kohala Center, which is sponsoring the workshop, the Food Industry offers many exciting opportunities, and this workshop will provide attendees with critical assistance to develop, build or evolve their businesses. Topics include Understanding the Food Marketplace and Channels of Distribution; Top Trends Affecting Our Food Industry and their Impact on New Product Innovation; Identifying Your Target Consumer; Developing Your Product Niche and Creating Your
Unique Selling Proposition; The Strategic Planning Process and Your Business Plan; Local, State and Federal Food Regulations and Food Inspection Requirements; Food Processing Options and What to Look for in Getting Your Product Produced; Food Safety Technologies from Farm to Fork that will Enhance Quality and Safety; The Product Development Process: Scaling Up from Concept to Commercialization; and Funding Options and What Banks and Investors Will Want to Know.
      Following lunch (included with pre-registration), Nicole Milne, Agricultural Business Development specialist for The Laulima Center, will present two one-hour trainings. One is on Financial Resources Available for Hawai`i Farmers. The other is Marketing Agricultural Products on Hawai`i Island.
      In addition, Cooperhouse will also conduct 30-minute one-on-one consulting sessions each afternoon with pre-selected workshop participants. Registrants interested in the one-on-one consultations must complete and submit a brief application.
      For more information and to register, visit http://laulimacenter.org/foodbasics.html or call 443-2755.

THE SEVENTH ANNUAL SPAGHETTI DINNER raising funds for Ka`u Hospital’s emergency room takes place tomorrow beginning at 4 p.m. at Na`alehu Community Center. The event is sponsored every February by Red Hat Ladies of Ka`u and Ka Lae Quilters. Contributions are welcome. For more information, call Barbara Beatty at 929-9072. 

SEN. RUSSELL RUDERMAN holds a talk story at Pahala Plantation House Tuesday, Feb. 26 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Ruderman meets with constituents to discuss issues before the state Legislature. Light refreshments will be served. For more information, call 974-4000, ext. 66890.

KA `OHANA O HONU`APO hosts its first 2013 family event at Honu`apo on Sunday, March 10 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Titled Tutu & Keiki, it will showcase two hosts: Tutu & Me Traveling Preschool and Hawaiian Civic Club of Ka`u.
      “We’re excited to share what we do,” including learning activities and educating caregivers, said Tutu & Me administrator Betty Clark. Zachary DeBernardi, Civic Club chair of Na Mea Hawai`i Committee, said members will demonstrate and conduct five makahiki games - konane, hu, pala`ie, ulumaika, and moapahe`e. Prizes will go to keiki who participate.
      Refreshments and drinks will be available for sale along with handmade items from Ka`u kupuna. Call Ka `Ohana’s executive director Lehua Lopez at 929-9891 for more information.

IN SPORTS TOMORROW, Ka`u High’s tennis teams travel to Kea`au, and a judo tournament takes place in Hilo.

SUPPORT OUR SPONSORS AT PAHALAPLANTATIONCOTTAGES.COM AND KAUCOFFEEMILL.COM. KA`U COFFEE MILL IS OPEN SEVEN DAYS A WEEK. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ka`u News Briefs Feb. 21, 2013

In a document published by the Public Utilities Commission Tuesday, Hawai`i County asks HELCO and HECO for more information about feedstocks `Aina Koa Pono plans to use to create biofuel at a refinery above Pahala.
Photo from ainakoapono.com
POLICE HAVE NABBED A SUSPECT in the recent series of Ka`u Coffee thefts. According to various coffee farmers, police visited coffee mills in Kona and found a receipt showing sales of Ka`u Coffee to the Kona mill by a person unrelated to a coffee farm. Mills are required to show receipts to confirm the source of their coffee under Hawai`i law. Such receipts or other documents are also required of people transporting coffee from place to place around the island. The cooperation of the mills and those selling coffee to retailers and at farmers markets will help cut down the thievery, said County Prosecuting Attorney Mitch Roth. Roth met with farmers and ranchers earlier this month following a string of thefts from coffee fields and coffee mills in Ka`u. The suspect has a criminal history with jail time and is suspected of having several accomplices still at large.
      In multiple incidents, thousands of pounds of coffee were stolen from Ka`u Coffee Mill on Wood Valley Road – from the drying pad. Thousands of pounds of coffee were also stolen from Aikane Plantation Coffee Co. on the old cane haul road between Pahala and Na`alehu.
      Farmers, including international coffee award winner Lorie Obra, said that coffee was stripped from the trees on her farm.
      With the coffee berry borer heavily damaging Kona coffee orchards, thieves have been stealing from Ka`u to sell to Kona, not only causing grief and economic damage to Ka`u coffee farmers but also tainting the branding when Ka`u Coffee is sold as Kona.
      Suggestions for dealing with the thieves have included increased security at all coffee farms and mills, dying the parchment with food dye to make it easy for buyers to recognize the origin, and heavier policing of wholesale and retail buying to prove coffee origins.
      Anyone with tips on coffee thieving can call Crimestoppers at 329-8181 or 961-8300.

Howard Dicus of Hawai`i News Now
TOURISM TO THE BIG ISLAND is soaring. According to Hawai`i News Now reporter Howard Dicus, the count is up 10.1 percent so far in February. Statewide, it has increased by more than 48,000 visitors, reaching a half million tourists in February.
      Dicus reports that tourism to the Big Island increased 8.2 percent this month over the same period as last year. Japanese visitors statewide increased 15.7 percent over the same period as last year.
      Earlier this month, Hawai`i Tourism Authority predicted that the total airline seat capacity in Hawai`i is expected to increase 6.8 percent in 2013 over last year. Double-digit growth is expected out of the U.S. East, Japan, Other Asia (South Korea, China and Taiwan) and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) regions.
      Contributing to the growth will be additional new routes from the U.S. and Asia-Pacific regions to the Hawaiian Islands from Boise, Spokane, San Diego, Taiwan, New Zealand and Tokyo-Narita commencing in the first half of the year.
      “The success of our visitor industry has a direct correlation with the increased airlift, and we are committed to ensuring that we maintain a strong inventory of air seats to support our industry and our state’s economy,” said Mike McCartney, president and CEO of HTA. “Hawai`i lost 1.5 million air seats within two years following the closure of Aloha and ATA airlines and the economic downturn. Through our efforts and collaboration with our industry partners, it has taken us more than three years to gain back more than two million air seats to our state,” said McCartney.

Sen. Brian Schatz
HAWAI`I’S U.S. CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION is back home during a recess, meeting with constituents and talking about the pending sequestration, which would cut $85 billion in federal spending across the board nationwide, if a compromise is not reached by March 1. 
      According to Sen. Brian Schatz, who said he would prefer that Congress kept working on the problem rather than take its current recess, sequestration could mean that 80 percent of all Department of Defense employees in the country could be furloughed starting in April, having a devastating impact on the Hawai`i economy.
      Said Shatz, sequestration “was designed not to happen…. It was supposed to be so awful for Republicans and Democrats and for the people of America that we would be forced to compromise, and that is what we’ve got to do…. It is avoidable, and it is unacceptable.” The new senator said, “We only have a little bit of time.” He called for a balanced approach with deficit reduction of $2 trillion through cutting some Department of Defense funding and domestic spending and through increased revenues through closing tax loopholes.
      “If we don’t do it, there will be severe consequences for real people,” said Schatz.

CONCERNING THE `AINA KOA PONO proposal, the Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday published responses to more questions asked by the state Consumer Advocate, Hawai`i County and Life of the Land. The questions concern the proposed contract for `Aina Koa Pono to annually sell, at a fixed price for 20 years, 16 million gallons of diesel that would be manufactured at a refinery off Wood Valley Road above Pahala. The fuel, produced in 27 microwave units, would be sold to Hawai`i Electric Light and Hawaiian Electric Companies, with most of it trucked up Hwy 11 to a power plant in Kona. Electric rates on O`ahu and the Big Island would increase.
      Hawai`i County asked about feedstocks that would be grown to create biofuel. “Please identify the specific feedstock(s) that AKP proposes to grow on the Island of Hawai`i. Assuming it is a grass, has this grass previously been cultivated as a commercial crop on the island? If not, have trial plots been grown at all? If so, then please describe the size, location, soil characteristics, altitude, ground slope, and actual rainfall at these plots. If there is no prior commercial experience with this grass, please describe the program to introduce this grass and to determine its optimal agronomics—including anticipated amounts of fertilizer, potential disease and insect pressure and how this will be managed, response to differing soils/altitudes/slopes/rainfall amounts. (Note that multi-year projects have been undertaken on the mainland to subsidize farmers as they gain experience with a new crop— switchgrass —including a recently complete four year project... which, by the way, has left farmers at a loss whether to continue growing switchgrass). Has the AKP/MicroDee process been tested on that particular biomass/feedstock (as different kinds of biomass can give very different results)?
      HELCO and HECO replied that, “According to AKP, specific feedstocks proposed by AKP consist of varieties currently under testing within the varietal selections found at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, Hawai`i Agricultural Research Center, University of Hawai`i and from among local Hawai`i grasses. One specific grass variety that is a lead contender as an AKP feedstock was distributed over twelve years ago by UH throughout the Hawaiian Islands as an agricultural wind block for commercial farmers. This particular grass has proven itself to be robust, vigorous, and healthy without added fertilizers or much attention. Other varieties have been put into commercial production trial plots; for example, several are currently under observation at Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company. Trial plots continue to be propagated, monitored, and new trials are currently under design. Although one of the energy grasses AKP is considering has only been used in Hawai`i as an agricultural windbreak, the same grass variety is in commercial use in other regions of the world.
      “The specific grasses under consideration will be tested once the 33-ton-per-day unit is operational. However, several other wood species have been tested in the MicroDee process with satisfactory results.
      “The technical science of the MicroDee process is blind to the species and types of biomass. The specific volatiles content of each specific feedstock determines the potential for synthetic oil extraction. Knowing the volatile capacity of each feedstock allows an ability to understand the feedstock’s yield.”
      Ka`u News Briefs will cover more responses in the coming days.
      Complete responses to all questions are online at puc.hawaii.gov. Docket number is 2012-0185.

Sen. Russell Ruderman
KA`U AG WATER COOPERATIVE DISTRICT meets today at 4 p.m. at Royal Hawaiian Orchards’ field office in Pahala. For more information, call Jeff McCall at 928-6456.

THE SEVENTH ANNUAL SPAGHETTI DINNER raising funds for Ka`u Hospital’s emergency room takes place Saturday beginning at 4 p.m. at Na`alehu Community Center. The event is sponsored every February by Red Hat Ladies of Ka`u and Ka Lae Quilters. Contributions are welcome. For more information, call Barbara Beatty at 929-9072.

SEN. RUSSELL RUDERMAN holds a talk story at Pahala Plantation House Tuesday, Feb. 26 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Ruderman meets with constituents to discuss issues before the state Legislature. Light refreshments will be served. For more information, call 974-4000, ext. 66890.

SUPPORT OUR SPONSORS AT PAHALAPLANTATIONCOTTAGES.COM AND KAUCOFFEEMILL.COM. KA`U COFFEE MILL IS OPEN SEVEN DAYS A WEEK.