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Saturday, January 15, 2022

Ka‘ū News Briefs, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022

A debris line along the shore at Honu'apo after a volcano sent tsunami waves from Tonga
on Saturday morning. Photo by Kiko Johnston-Kitazawa
SMALL TSUNAMI WAVES WASHED ONTO THE KAʻŪ COAST during a seven-hour tsunami advisory on Saturday, starting just before 1 a.m. The tsunami waves arrived after a South Pacific underwater volcano, named Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, erupted about 40 miles north of the main island of Tongatapu. Tsunami waves flooded and damaged buildings throughout Tonga, apparently extensive  on its 170 islands, 36 of them inhabited. With communications cut off, the extent of injuries and possible deaths is unknown.
    However, a fundraiser has been set up for victims by Pita Taufatofua, the Olympian who carried the Tonga flag at last year's games. The link is 
Tongan Pita Taufatofua, who carried the Tonga 
flag at last year's Olympics has set up a fund
to help victims of the tsunami in Tonga.

     The eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai sent waves in many directions - to Hawai'i, the U.S. West Coast and Alaska, as well as Japan, New Zealand and beyond.
    Waves washed up on the shores of Kaʻū, leaving debris lines, spilling into the pond at Honu'apo and reversing back to sea. In Kailua-Kona, there were reports of higher waves, damaging some of the canoes at the landing place next to the pier. Several boats around the Hawaiian Islands and as far away as 
Japan and the U.S. West Coast were damaged.
    Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reported that Kawaihae and Honokahau Harbors recorded small waves, just above one foot high that were continuous and about 15 to 20 minutes apart.
     The tsunami advisory was cancelled for Hawai'i around 8 a.m.  

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A community meeting, called by Black Sand Beach, LLL in Pāhala on Saturday concerning the future of Punalu'u.
Photo by Julia Neal
BLACK SAND BEACH LLC'S PRESENTATION AND COMMUNITY COMMENT SESSION in Pāhala on Saturday brought in ideas from community members and concern for the potential impact of development on an already crowded Punalu'u Beach. It also drew support for Eva Liu, the owner of the property, for continuing her involvement and outreach into the Kaʻū community to determine the future of Punalu'u.  Its shoreline provides the only beach in Kaʻū that can be reached by paved road. It also provides the only lifeguards. It is popular with families and their keiki. It is also a nesting place for endangered hawksbills turtles and a resting place for green sea turtles.
   Existing plans by Black Sand Beach, LLC include building a restaurant and open market across from Black Sand Beach; making an active park on nine holes of the golf course closest to Black Sand Beach, while restoring the old golf clubhouse; developing the tennis court area into a sports, spa, retail and dining center with some accommodations; and building condominiums next to the existing ones. Plans also call for restoration of the old Aspen Center with some accommodations around it.
    Several speakers talked about planning the 434 acres makai of Hwy 11 for more than a reliance on tourism. Stephanie Cosgrove, of Hawai'i Farmers Union United, asked for thought to be given on creating non-tourism related, long-term jobs.
Punalu'u Black Sand Beach is home to turtles and a 
destination for an increasing number of humans.
Photo by Bob Martin
    Guy Enriques, whose family operates a stand on the beach that began with selling lei in the 1940s, pointed to a Honolulu Star Advertiser newspaper poll that showed that 61 percent of residents around the state said tourism had come at too great of a cost. He said workers in resorts in Hawai'i are the lowest paid in the nation and asked what the planners could do to avoid creating only low paid jobs.
     Black Sand Beach, LLC planners said they are creating a platform not totally focused on tourism. They said their plan would bring opportunity for fishermen to sell to the restaurants at the resort and for farmers, ranchers and fishermen to sell in an open market beneath the restaurant, proposed along Ninole Loop, across from Black Sand Beach.
    Representatives of the owner talked about the community being "mauka-makai" and said Punalu'u enterprises could contribute to sustainability by purchasing fish, beef, vegetables, and coffee from local producers. They mentioned a planned food truck for Punalu'u and that Liu has "donated" two acres for the community group O Kaʻū Kakou to farm on her own land above Nāʻālehu, showing her interest in sustainability.
    Farmers Union Vice President Matt Drayer mentioned a decline in food productivity in California and said he sees Hawai'i Island becoming "the next California" for food production. He talked about exporting food grown here to the mainland. He also advocated for a slaughterhouse in Kaʻū.
A collage of photos showing areas that Black Sand Beach, LLC plans to
restore. Image from Punalu'u Community facebook
    Another man suggested a cooperative model for planning Punalu'u, allowing community members to make small investments in enterprises to be based at Punalu'u and for the community to be further immersed in the planning. Black Sand Beach, LLC Project Director Norman Quon said it is a good idea.
     Another suggested a study be done to project the number of people that "would show up" with the development that is planned so that the community and planners could understand the possible impacts.
    Sophia Hanoa urged more consultation with Kaʻū kupuna. She also said "I like Eva because she is the first developer (at Punalu'u) that's female." She cautioned, however, that she doesn't agree with all that is planned and urged for a development process to "go slow." She also encouraged employing from the community. "Local bruddahs got to get hired."
    Regarding several people's comments on being worried about conserving sea turtles at Punalu'u, Hanoa said, "It's a western idea to save honu" and indicated that turtles at Punalu'u are responsible for depleting the area of seaweed: "Now we don't have limu."
    Sandra Reha, of Wood Valley, recommended that the proposed restaurant and market be placed farther away from the shore. She suggested that the commercial component of the development be put closer to the highway, where people could see it driving by. "Why are we impacting the coast?...It makes no sense to impact the waterfront at this time," she said.
    Enriques, a former County Council member, said he has never seen Punalu'u Beach so crowded as in the last two years. He said the future of Punalu'u "shouldn't be about money.... this is our home...We got roots really deep." He recommended that funding from the county's Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Commission program be used to purchase the shoreline area to preserve it.
    Liu mentioned that she has been talking with County Council Chair Maile David about the prospect. She also invited more input from the community and pointed to Black Sand Beach, LLC's facebook, Punalu'u Community at https://www.facebook.com/punaluucommunity/. The planning team promised
more community workshops. One man recommended a "placed based" planning workshop.
See more in future Kaʻū News Briefs.

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