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, February 15, 2013

Ka`u News Briefs Feb. 15, 2013

DLNR is asking Ka`u residents to report defoliation of koa trees or an abundance of native caterpillars and/or moths which are currently causing damage in Hilo and Hamakua and could spread here. Photo from DLNR/DOFAW  
THE HAWAI`I HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES has unanimously passed HB 1133, which would repeal the Public Land Development Corporation. 
      House Lawmakers held a public hearing last Saturday to engage the community in considering a variety of options for dealing with the PLDC that ranged from overhauling the administrative rules to repealing the corporation. Testimony from the five-hour hearing made it clear where the public stood on the issue, a statement from the House says.
Rep. Cindy Evans, second from right, chairs the Water and Land
Committee. Photo from House of Representatives
      On Monday, Committees on Water and Land and Finance voted unanimously to advance an outright repeal of the PLDC to a full vote on the House Floor. “Today’s vote sends HB 1133 to the Senate with a clear message that the House and the public support repeal of the controversial PLDC,” the statement says.
      Water and Land Committee chair Cindy Evans said, “The public, in oral and written testimony, voiced its displeasure with the PLDC with an overwhelming number of people calling for repeal of the act. Clearly, the way it was structured, the public came to a point of understanding that the authority we gave the corporation bypassed county plans and zoning laws. Democracy spoke today with the passage of HB 1133.” 

THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON HEALTH has approved SB 130, which would privatize Hawai`i’s public hospitals, including Ka`u Hospital and seven others on the Big Island, Maui and Lana`i that are currently managed by Hawai`i Health Systems Corporation.
Sen. Josh Green
      Hawai`i Government Employees Association released a statement saying, “In response to member testimony and staff lobbying, the Senate Health Committee made some significant changes to the bill to ‘encourage further discussion.’ Amendments included adding a requirement that both the Senate and House vote to approve the transition of one or more regional systems of HHSC to non-public status. The committee also removed the section that would allow Banner Health to be exempt from Hawai`i Revised Statutes chapters 76, 87A, 88 and 89. Chapter 89 is the collective bargaining law that provides for union representation. This was a significant accomplishment, but we must remain vigilant and keep the momentum going, as the bill is now being referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.”
      Colin M. Stewart, of Hawai`i Tribune-Herald, reports that Sen. Josh Green, who used to be a doctor at Ka`u Hospital, said that testimony from HHSC employees “served as a reminder that any legislation would have to take their concerns into consideration.”
      “People testified that have been working for our hospitals for 10, 20, even 30 years,” he said. “I think we have to honor their service.”
      HGEA member Barbara Uwekoolani, who works at Maui Memorial Medical Center, said, “Sending money to the mainland is like sending prisoners to the mainland. She said she is also concerned about reduction of services in areas that don’t generate money but where services are needed.
      Green told Stewart, “We created an amendment to protect all the workers so that they would continue to have benefits and be able to bargain in a proper way. I also amended the bill to force a ratifying vote of the House and Senate if there’s going to be any sale to a private entity. We’ve restored control to the situation.”

Koa looper (Scotorythra paludicola) in caterpillar stage.
Photo from DLNR/DOFAW
THE DEPARTMENT OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES Division of Forestry and Wildlife has documented extensive defoliation of large sections of mature koa forest on Hawai`i Island, which scientists believe is the result of a natural but sudden proliferation of a native moth. Koa trees located in the Hilo and Hamakua regions, between elevations of 2,000 and 4,000 feet, appear to be impacted at this time. 
      The area currently impacted is estimated to span over 24,500 acres and is the largest koa defoliation in written history. Based on data from previous outbreaks, it is possible that the koa looper outbreak will spread to other areas of Hawai`i Island, although the exact path is unpredictable.
      “The department has determined that this defoliation event is the direct result of feeding by a moth native to Hawai`i, the koa looper. Fortunately, past occurrences of these outbreaks show us that koa forests can recover,” said William J. Aila, Jr., DLNR chairperson. “We are thankful that researchers from the University of Hawai`i, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Geological Survey and Hawai`i Agricultural Research Center are assisting DLNR to monitor this rare natural phenomenon.”
      Although the koa looper (Scotorythra paludicola) is a native moth commonly found in koa forests, caterpillars of this species have historically been associated with mass koa forest defoliation. Oral accounts indicate that such events were occurring before the first written documented outbreak in 1892. To date, researchers have not yet discovered what circumstances trigger the occasional moth population explosions.
      Given that this is a natural process caused by a native moth species, the DLNR will focus its efforts on documenting and monitoring the outbreak.
Koa looper (Scotorythra paludicola) in adult stage.
Photo from DNLR/DOFAW
      “Mapping the boundaries of this infestation will tell us what areas are affected right now, and provide a way for us to measure movement of the moths into new forest areas,” said Roger Imoto, DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife administrator. “We want to assure the public that this is a natural phenomenon, and DLNR and its partners are actively monitoring. The public can help us by calling DOFAW if new areas are observed.”
      Land managers and researchers have an opportunity to collect data on the moths, the koa, and the environmental conditions -- the combination of which may help answer some long-standing questions about these events.
      “We are prioritizing monitoring efforts because it is important to understand how this outbreak might affect our forests and koa forestry on Hawai`i Island,” Imoto said. “Despite the rapid and severe visual impact of defoliation caused by the caterpillars, it should be noted that koa can and do recover after such outbreaks.”
      Members of the public are encouraged to report koa defoliation and/or increased caterpillar or moth abundance to the DLNR if it is observed outside of the Hilo and Hamakua region.
      Call 587-0166 with information on the nearest street address, date of sighting, and a description of the defoliation. The public is encouraged to send photos with location information to DLNR@hawaii.gov.
      For more information on the koa looper, visit: www.hawaii.gov/dlnr/dofaw.

Graph from UHERO
“EXPANSION SHIFTS INTO HIGHER GEAR” is the title of a report released today by University of Hawai`i’s Economic Research Organization. “Despite an exceptionally mediocre global economic environment, the Hawai`i visitor industry had a phenomenal year in 2012,” the report states. “Total arrivals grew by more than nine percent, exceeding their previous 2006 peak by more than 300,000 visitors. Expenditures rocketed upward more than 18 percent. This surge reflected both the higher visitor census and also higher hotel room rates, which were 7.7 percent higher than in the first three quarters of 2011. Statewide occupancy rates approached 77 percent, their highest level since 2006.
      “Based on planned air capacity and other early indications, we expect another impressive year for Hawai`i tourism in 2013, if off last year’s blistering pace. But we are now entering the final phase of what has been an exceptional period of recovery and expansion. With occupancy rates averaging near 85 percent on O`ahu in 2012, industry capacity constraints will begin to bite over the next few years. Room rates and other costs will rise, deterring some potential visitors, and growth in new markets will crowd out visitors from others. After 6.5 percent expansion in arrivals in 2013, we expect a tapering of growth to 2.1 percent in 2014 and 1.5 percent in 2015.”
      The report also says the construction industry is beginning to regain its footing. “Forward-looking indicators look positive, with the total value of permits shooting up almost 60 percent in the first three quarters of the year,” it states. “Government contracts awarded rebounded by more than 150 percent through the third quarter, but are estimated to end the year up closer to 80 percent from very low levels in 2011. Private building permits were up a robust 42 percent, but more than one-half of this surge was still driven by additions and alterations, which in turn owe a significant fraction of their strength to photovoltaic system installation. Residential building permits grew by more than 20 percent, and commercial and industrial permits declined by five percent.”
      “This pickup in permitting figures presages what we think will be a strong industry expansion building over the next several years,” according to the report.

Kumu Hula Roy Palacat Photo by Ken Kuroshima
HALAU NA PUA HA`AHEO O KONA with kumu hula Roy Palacat performs tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. at Volcano Art Center Gallery in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. Hands-on cultural demonstrations take place from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on the gallery lanai. Call 967-8222 or email julie@volcanoartcenter.org for more information. 

LUNCH WITH A RANGER takes place Sunday at 11:30 a.m. at Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park’s Kahuku Unit. Rangers choose varied topics and guide an open discussion with visitors over a bring-your-own-bag lunch. Check Activities boards at Kahuku Visitor Greeting Area for the day’s topic and location. Free. For more information, call 985-6011.

FRIENDS OF HAWAI`I VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK host a winter fundraiser with wine tasting, pupus and artwork by Christina Skaggs at Hilo Hawaiian Hotel’s Wai`oli Lounge this Wednesday, Feb. 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wine Tasting will include four specially selected wines with unlimited return visits to the wine bar. Another feature is an unlimited, open pupu buffet. The event includes live music, an optional raffle and silent auction as well as an art display and sale. Participants may choose wine tasting or pupu bar for $20 each or both for $40. All proceeds benefit the nonprofit Friends group. Tickets are available at 985-7373 or admin@fhvnp.org.