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Friday, June 30, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs, Friday, June 30, 2023

The annual OKK Nāʻālehu Independence Day Parade rolls along Hwy 11 starting at 11 a.m., followed by activities
at Nāʻālehu Community Center and Park, tomorrow, Saturday, July 1. Photo by Brenda Iokepa Moses

"BEYOND DISAPPOINTING" ARE WORDS OF REACTION FROM UNIVERSITY OF HAWAI'I PRESIDENT DAVID LASSNER regarding Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling that raced based affirmative action is unconstitutional. The ruling concerns University of North Carolina and Harvard University, but can be applied to affirmative action at other educational institutions.
    The UH President said, "With the adoption of our new strategic plan by the University of Hawaiʻi Board of Regents in November 2022 we have recommitted ourselves to diversity and equity as Foundational Principles. Notwithstanding the new ban on use of race in admissions decisions, UH stands firmly committed to provide higher education opportunities for all, especially those historically underrepresented in our student bodies, as well as to continue to diversify our faculty, staff, and leadership. The families and communities of Hawaiʻi need and deserve no less.
U.H. Pres. David Lassner said he is beyond disappointed in this
week's U.S Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action. U.H. Photo
    "UH takes great pride in the fact that our campuses are often ranked as the most diverse in the country, reflecting the population of Hawaiʻi. Our seven UH community colleges have an 'open door' admissions policy, and our three universities currently admit all qualified undergraduate applicants to the campus. Our strong commitment to student diversity and equity focuses on encouraging and welcoming students from all backgrounds, especially those who have been underrepresented, into higher education and then supporting their success once enrolled.
    "We are now analyzing the Supreme Court ruling and will need to determine if any changes will be required to adhere to the ruling while maintaining our commitments to diversity and equity to meet the educational and workforce needs of Hawaiʻi."
    Kaʻū's Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives said the SCOTUS ruling is 
“heartbreaking and enraging. It ignores this country’s history and the barriers that are still present in our society ensuring everyone does not have equal opportunities.” She said it"will help eliminate an effective tool that has had measurable success, changing the futures of people of color for years to come."
      See Sen. Mazie Hirono's response in Thursday's Kaʻū News Briefs at . Sen. Brian Schatz said, "“This misguided ruling undermines the decades of progress we’ve made, but the fight is not over. Our march toward racial justice goes on.”

THE NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY FOUNDATION'S 2023 LEADERSHIP AWARD went to Hawai'i Congressman Ed Case during the June Capitol Hill Ocean Week in Washington, D. C.  
    Ocean Week brings together advocates for the world’s oceans. The Foundation honors one or two political leaders per year who demonstrate a commitment to ocean, coastal and Great Lakes stewardship. 
      Previous awardees include Pre. Bill Clinton, Pres. George W. Bust, First Lady Laura Bush, U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska and U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.
Congressman Ed Case wins the Leadership Award from the
National Marine Sanctuary. Photo from PBN
      Case said, “While I was truly honored to have received this award, it is just a moment in time when compared to the critical threats that face our oceans across a number of fronts. I am mostly just grateful to be part of a community of true passion who cares so deeply for our oceans and are so personally committed to saving them from what has become their worst enemy: humankind.” 
    The Foundation recognized Case, who in Congress formerly represented Kaʻū and the rest of rural Hawai'i and supported saving Kaʻū's Coast, and now represents urban Hawai'i. He was noted by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation as a longtime leader in ocean policy in Congress. Case was also an early advocate for and was instrumental in the designation of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in 2006 and current efforts to expand protections for the Pacific Remote Islands. 
Sol Pili Kaho'ohalahala receives Sanctuary Wavemaker Award.
Photo from NOAA
     Case, a member of the House Appropriations and Natural Resources Committees since his return to Congress in 2019, also co-led reauthorization of the Coral Reef Conservation Program and continues to fight for ocean-based climate solutions, sustainable climate ready fisheries management, and international cooperation and coordination in saving the world’s oceans. 
    Case shared the 2023 Leadership Award with his colleague, Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona. The Foundation said Grijalva has been a leading voice on environmental and social justice issues since being elected Congress more than two decades ago. In 2018, he became Chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, a role in which he successfully elevated climate action, environmental justice and indigenous affairs in national ocean policy. 
William Aila receives a Sanctuary
Wavemaker Award.
    Two fellow Hawai'i residents - Solomon (Sol) Pili Kahoʻohalahala and William J. Ailā – received the Foundation’s Sanctuary Wavemaker Award for their critical work benefiting national marine sanctuaries. Kahoʻohalahala, who served with Case in the Hawai‘i State House of Representatives, serves as Chairperson of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council. He is the current native Hawaiian member on the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument community group and a member of the Pacific Remote Islands Coalition. During the Obama Administration, he advocated successfully for the expansion of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, creating the world’s largest marine protected area, and currently serves as its native Hawaiian elder on the reserve advisory council. 
     Aila, who has served Hawai'i in various capacities including Chair of the Board of Land & Natural Resources and Hawaiian Homes Commission, "has been deeply committed to protecting areas that have deep cultural importance as well as significant natural resource value. He expanded Hawai'i’s Natural Area Reserve program, streamlined permitting for restoration of Hawaiian fishponds and helped create the first community-based subsistence fishing area in Haena, Kaua'i. He was also instrumental in the creation and expansion of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and was the former chair of the Papahānaumokuākea Reserve Advisory Council," said a statement from Case's office.

GOV. JOSH GREEN SIGNED THE STATE'S $37.2 BILLION FISCAL BIENNIUM OPERATING BUDGET on Friday. A statement from his office said it provides "sweeping income support to Hawaiʻi's working families, and to fund state operations." 
    He signed HB954 (Act 163), which  gives $104 million of income support to local taxpayers. The statement from the Governor's office said, many "will receive tax refunds worth thousands of dollars that will flow back into their household budgets to help make ends meet. The bill doubles the size of the
Earned Income Tax Credit for five years, providing $50 million in additional support. The bill also doubles the amount of the Food Excise Tax Credit, benefitting an additional 90,000 of the most economically vulnerable residents in the state. Working families who struggle to pay for child or dependent care will receive a refundable credit of up to $3,000 to help ease the high costs of living they face every day."
    The Governor said, "The people of Hawaiʻi honored me with this position in the hope that my administration would make their lives better. It is a top priority of mine, and it is thanks to the collaboration between my Administration and legislative leaders that our families will receive this relief." 
   House Speaker Scott Saiki said it "will deliver direct relief to over 200,000 families, our statewide parks and trails, our climate, and unsheltered individuals in need of mental health assistance."
Food Excise Tax Credit doubles in the new state budget bills
 signed by the Governor. Image from HI Tax Fairness
    Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, hailed the tax break bill as a positive financial benefit for struggling families. "HB954 is a positive step towards addressing the financial challenges faced by the ALICE (Asset Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed) population. By increasing the tax credits for household and dependent care services, refundable income, and income threshold and credit amounts for refundable food and excise tax, HB954 aims to provide much-needed support to working families."
     The state budget that Green also signed,  HB300 (Act 164), appropriates $10.7 billion in FY24 and $9.8 billion in FY25 for general funds; $19 billion in FY24 and $18.2 billion in FY25 for Executive Branch departments and agencies for the operating budget. The budget appropriates $2.9 billion in FY24 and $1.3 billion in FY25 for capital improvement projects. Governor Green yesterday provided official notice to lawmakers, finalizing line-item reductions and vetoes.
    Dela Cruz said the resources provided within the budget, "coupled with the shared commitment of the legislature and the Governor, will allow for considerable progress to be made in addressing Hawaiʻi's greatest challenges. Millions of dollars have been put forth to tackle homelessness, the housing crisis, mental health, and workforce shortages, to name a few."

    The statement from the Governor's office broke down some of the big picture plans in the budget with headlines:
    Developing affordable housing and infrastructure. "Housing is at a crisis level in the state. Many families leave because they don't have access to affordable housing and some even become homeless. This budget funds a multi-prong approach to build more units, provide subsidies to renters, and to develop much-needed infrastructure to speed up housing development. This budget appropriates $280M to the Hawaiʻi Housing Finance Development Corporation Rental Housing Revolving fund to develop more affordable housing units, $100M to the Dwelling Unit Revolving fund to develop infrastructure and support for affordable housing, over $70M to develop infrastructure, $50M for teacher housing, and $6M for the state rent supplement program to help eligible families pay part of their monthly rent."    
Hawai'i's Child Wellness Incentive Program will
pay $50 to state Medicaid recipients for each well
child examination. Photo from DOE
Getting people the care they need. "This budget invests in Hawaiʻi's people. Access to high-quality, comprehensive health care services is vital for physical, social, and mental health. This budget increases the provider reimbursement rate for Medicaid recipients ($30M in general funds and $42.8M in federal funds each fiscal year). This means that thousands of low-income individuals and families will get better access to high-quality healthcare. This budget also appropriates $3.3M in FY24 and $4.5M in FY25 for the Child Wellness Incentive Program which will pay $50 to state Medicaid benefit recipients for each completed well-child examination. This will incentivize more care, early on, for our keiki which leads to healthier outcomes later in life.
    'We must address homelessness in Hawaiʻi, and it will take action, resources, and for us to work together to implement multiple approaches. This budget takes a multi-faceted approach to address homelessness by providing funds for family assessment centers ($3.1M), housing first and rapid re-housing programs ($15M), homeless outreach services ($3.5M), 'ohana zones ($15M) and kauhale ($48M)."
    Expanding and improving our healthcare services. "To help recruit and retain the health care workers we need for our residents, we are making big investments ($30M) in the Hawaiʻi State Loan Repayment Program. This program helps pay off educational loans for healthcare workers, including social workers, therapists, and many others who care for patients in Hawaiʻi in areas where there is a healthcare shortage. This budget also makes large investments in our hospital system. We are appropriating $50M to expand the Intensive Care Unit and Medical Surgical Unit at Hilo Medical Center, $2.3M for the Kona community Hospital Pharmacy Expansion, and nearly $30M for Hawaiʻi Health Systems statewide to improve and renovate hospitals, including on our neighbor islands and in our most rural areas.
    Preserving our islands for current and future generations. "Hawaiʻi is home to some of the most ecologically diverse areas in the world, and we must act to protect, conserve and manage the unique natural resources that make Hawaiʻi so special.
    "This budget appropriates over $100M towards the climate, energy, and environment.
Substantial investments are made to protect our natural resources ($20M), restore our state parks ($25M) and ecosystems ($14.8M). We are also funding our Climate Change Carbon Smart Land Management Assistant Pilot Program, which promotes carbon sequestration through forest conservation, farmland preservation, and other regenerative land management practices ($2M). Lastly, we are appropriating $50M to the Hawaiʻi Green infrastructure Authority's Solar Energy Storage Loan Program to increase loan opportunities for ALICE households for the installation of solar panels and battery storage systems ($50M)."
  Educating our keiki. "We know that early education for our keiki allows them to develop the skills and tools they need to succeed later in life. That's why this budget provides $38.8M to the Preschool Open Doors Program which will expand assistance to eligible families to pay for preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, and 36 positions and $3.9M in FY24 and 126 positions and $7.6M in FY25 for preschool teachers, educational specialists, and assistants for the EOEL Public Prekindergarten Program.
    "We also need to make sure we support all learners throughout their educational journey. This budget provides 13 additional positions and $1.2M for bilingual and bicultural school home assistants across schools statewide and $5M for classroom supplies to help our schools. In addition, Governor Green's Administration will provide to our schools and university system, additional resources from the discretionary fund that the legislature made available. We know that education is one of the best investments and that we need to support our education system from keiki to college and beyond."

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs, Thursday, June 29, 2023

A decade ago, the Independence Day Parade travels past Na'alehu Theatre, which was torn down this year. For 2023, the
 parade will be this Saturday, July 1 at 11 a.m., sponsored by O Ka'u Kakou. Photo by William Neal

THE U.S SUPREME COURT STRUCK DOWN RACE-BASED AFFIRMATIVE ACTION on Thursday. Hawai'i's Senator Mazie Hirono released the following statement on the Supreme Court’s decision, which rules that affirmative action policies at University of North Carolina and Harvard University are unconstitutional:
   “Affirmative action policies have helped colleges and universities across our country cultivate more diverse student bodies," wrote Hirono. "These commonsense policies recognize that diversity on campuses
The Supreme Court ended affirmative action at
colleges and universities. Photo from PBS
benefits all students, and help to advance racial equity.
    “But once again, this extreme Supreme Court has taken our country backwards. Given our country’s long history of racial discrimination and the stark racial inequality that continues to this day, for Justices to focus on whether the benefits of diversity can be measured precisely is shortsighted and detached from reality.
    “Diversity of every kind makes us stronger. At a time when those on the right disavow diversity in a cynical attempt to divide us, I’ll continue working to advance diversity, equity, and justice for all.”
    In August 2022, Senator Hirono signed an amicus brief in support of UNC and Harvard’s affirmative action policies. See https://www.supremecourt.gov/DocketPDF/20/20-1199/232469/20220801161644001_RSAC%20Nos%20201199%2021707.pdf.

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TRACKING DOWN MAUNA LOA'S CARBON DIOXIDE is the subject of Volcano Watch, the weekly article and activity update written by U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists and affiliates:
    When lava poured out over the floor of Moku'āweoweo, Mauna Loa's summit caldera, late on the night of Nov. 27, 2022, it was still many hours away from infrastructure. Or most infrastructure.
    The lava eventually blocked Mauna Loa NOAA observatory access road the next day, but well before it got there, it destroyed the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory's summit gas measuring station—less than ten minutes after the eruption began.

Color photograph of volcanic gas monitoring station
The former gas monitoring station in Moku'āweoweo, Mauna Loa's summit caldera. Power and telemetry components of the station are to the right in the image, with solar panels. The gas sensors themselves were housed in the black box toward the lower left of the image. Note that the white, yellow, and orange discoloration of the dark ground surface is a result of volcanic gases reacting with the darker rocks. USGS photo by K. Calles

    The station measured four gases—sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon dioxide (CO2), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), and water vapor—as well as meteorological parameters including wind speed and fumarole (small gas vent) temperature. As part of HVO's monitoring network, the station was installed to alert HVO of any changes in gas concentrations or the temperature at the site. Had the station survived, it would have given HVO a rich dataset regarding the chemistry of any eruptive gases blown toward it.
CO2 in particular can be indicative of deep magma recharge, either before or after an eruption.
    For example, at Kīlauea, a decrease in the proportion of CO2 relative to SO2 over a few months was a clue hinting at the eventual onset of Kīlauea's 2008-2018 summit eruption.
    At Mauna Loa, the NOAA observatory has a long history of measuring atmospheric CO2. Volcanic CO2 is removed from their long-term atmospheric dataset, though that removed data can in turn be used to study Mauna Loa's CO2 emissions. A study published in 2001 by a NOAA observatory scientist—using data from the 1950s through the 1990s, which covers the periods after the 1950, the 1975, and the 1984 eruptions—showed that most CO2 there has been released after each of those eruptions.
    That study also showed a small increase in CO2 emission from Mauna Loa in the 1990s, when there was no eruption. It's possible that this CO2 pulse was related to a deep magma intrusion that didn't make it to the surface.
    There was no increase in CO2 emission detected before the 2022 eruption; however, based on the 2001 NOAA study, we might expect enhanced CO2 degassing now that the eruption is over.
Given the potential for anomalous CO2 emissions before, during, and after eruptions, HVO is eager to replace the station at Mauna Loa summit as soon as possible.
An HVO gas scientist carrying portable gas sensor (yellow box) near Mauna Loa summit in June 2023. The white material on the ground in this photo is snow. USGS photo by P. Nadeau 
     However, before we can do that, we need to find a new suitable location. The previous station was on the floor of Moku'āweoweo, where we hoped that it might detect increased degassing before a new eruption, but that location clearly came with a lot of risks. The initial lava flows from the 2022 eruption destroying the station meant that we got no data from it during the ensuing two weeks of eruption.
    This time, HVO is considering placing a station on the caldera rim, which is close enough to measure CO2 emitted from the caldera during favorable wind conditions and is a much safer spot. A new station there should survive future summit activity and give us gas data throughout eruptions.
    Earlier in June, HVO gas scientists headed to Mauna Loa's summit to begin searching for locations where gas might already be leaking out of the ground. They brought with them small, portable versions of the same gas sensors that are part of larger permanent monitoring stations. Visits to other summit locations are planned for later this summer as we continue the hunt for the best spot for the new station.
    As you read this, you may be wondering how volcanic CO2 emissions like those at Mauna Loa and Kīlauea compare to other sources of CO2, such as those from industry. Though volcanoes and their eruptions may seem like they should be big factors in the global CO2 budget, volcanoes release less than 1% of the CO2 emitted by human activities.
    Although the amount of CO2 emitted by Mauna Loa may be small in a global view, it could still yield important clues about Mauna Loa's volcanic processes and future eruptions. HVO hopes to find a location for the new gas monitoring station soon and have it installed in the coming months.
In the meantime, HVO does have a similar gas monitoring station high on Mauna Loa's Southwest Rift Zone, as well as another at Kīlauea summit. Even without our Mauna Loa summit station, we are still keeping an eye on our volcanoes and their degassing.

Both volcanoes in the park: Kīlauea caldera and its blackened lava lake,
and the sloping profile of Mauna Loa in the background under blue skies.
NPS Photo by J.Wei
Volcano Activity Updates
Kīlauea's eruption is paused. Its USGS Volcano Alert level is WATCH. The summit eruption at Kīlauea volcano—which has been confined to Halemaʻumaʻu crater—remains paused since June 19. Earthquake activity in the summit region has been low over the past week. Summit tiltmeters tracked gradual inflation and deflation for much of the past week. A sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission rate of approximately 160 tonnes per day was measured on Thursday, June 22.
Mauna Loa is not erupting. Its USGS Volcano Alert Level is at NORMAL.
    Webcams show no signs of activity on Mauna Loa. Seismicity remains low. Summit ground deformation rates indicate slow inflation as magma replenishes the reservoir system following the recent eruption. SO2 emission rates are at background levels.
    There were two earthquakes with 3 or more felt reports in the Hawaiian Islands during the past week: a M3.1 earthquake 17 km (10 mi) WSW of Kailua-Kona at 32 km (20 mi) depth on June 28 at 4:45 p.m. HST and a M3.1 earthquake 3 km (2 mi) SSW of Pāhala at 32 km (20 mi) depth on June 23 at 8:46 a.m. HST.
    HVO continues to closely monitor Kīlauea and Mauna Loa.

THE DISCOVERY OF STARLIGHT FROM TWO MASSIVE GALAXIES GROWING BLACK HOLES was announced this week by an international team of scientists, including Chien-Hsiu Lee, staff astronomer at W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea. The quasars are from less than a billion years after the Big Bang. According to the Keck announcement: "The successful detection of these hosts represents the universe’s earliest epoch to date at which light from stars has been detected around a quasar."
    The Keck announcement says, "These black holes have masses close to a billion times that of the Sun, and the ratio of the black hole mass to host galaxy mass is similar to those seen in the more recent universe. Initially discovered in a deep survey program of the Subaru Telescope on Maunakea, the two quasars were then captured by the James Webb Space Telescope. This powerful combination of ground-based observations from Subaru Telescope and space-based observations from JWST has paved a new path to study the distant universe.

The zoomed-out image (left), the quasar image (center), and the host galaxy image after subtracting the quasar light (right) (from left to right). The image scale in light years is indicated in each panel.
Photo by Ding, Onoue, Silverman, et al., JWST NIRCam 3.6 μm image of HSC J2236+0032

    The study, led by Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (Kavli IPMU) Project Researcher Xuheng Ding and Professor John Silverman, and Peking University Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics (PKU-KIAA) Kavli Astrophysics Fellow Masafusa Onoue, is published in an online issue of the journal Nature this week.
    “This is the first time we’ve seen host galaxies from such an early age of the universe. It is only possible thanks to JWST’s deep images, which enable us to model and subtract the light from the quasar to reveal the host galaxy. We’ve seen quasars from this age previously, but they were so bright it was impossible to subtract their light to reveal the host galaxy,” said Lee, co-author of the study.
An infrared image of the Quasar HSCJ2236+0032 captured by JWST.
Photo by Ding, Onoue, Silverman, et al.
    Studying host galaxies and black holes in the early universe allows scientists to watch their formation and see how they are related to one another. Quasars are luminous while their host galaxies are faint, which has made it challenging for researchers to detect the dim light of the galaxy in the glare of the quasar, especially at great distances. Before the JWST, the Hubble Space Telescope was able to detect host galaxies of luminous quasars when the universe was just under 3 billion years old, but no younger.
    The superb sensitivity and ultra-sharp images of JWST at infrared wavelengths has finally allowed researchers to push these studies to the time when quasars and galaxies first formed. Just a few months after JWST started regular operations, the team observed two quasars, HSC J2236+0032 and HSC J2255+0251, at redshifts 6.40 and 6.34 when the universe was approximately 860 million years old, both of which were discovered using Subaru Telescope’s deep survey program. The relatively low luminosities of these quasars made them prime targets for measuring the properties of their host galaxies.
    The images of the two quasars were taken at infrared wavelengths of 3.56 and 1.50 microns with JWST’s NIRCam instrument, and the host galaxies became apparent after carefully modeling and subtracting glare from the accreting black holes. The stellar signature of the host galaxy was also seen in a spectrum taken by JWST’s NIRSPEC for J2236+0032, further supporting the detection of the host galaxy.
    Photometric analyses found that these two quasar host galaxies are massive, measuring 130 and 34 billion times the mass of the Sun, respectively. Measuring the speed of the turbulent gas in the vicinity of the quasars from the NIRSPEC spectra suggests the black holes that power them are also massive, measuring 1.4 and 0.2 billion times the mass of the Sun. The ratio of the black hole to host galaxy mass is similar to those of galaxies in the more recent past, suggesting that the relationship between black holes and their hosts was already in place 860 million years after the Big Bang.
“I’m excited to see powerful ground-based and space-based telescopes working together to tackle these challenges. Along with the Subaru Telescope, we will also be using Keck Observatory’s MOSFIRE instrument to identify similar targets that JWST can observe and enlarge the sample of ancient galaxies hosting quasars in the early universe,” said Lee.
    The team of astronomers will continue this study using scheduled Cycle 1 JWST observations, which will further inform models for the coevolution of black holes and their host galaxie.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs, Wednesday, June 28, 2023

A blessing on Wednesday at the U.H. Hilo site of the new USGS facility that will  replace the one destroyed on the edge of
Kīlauea caldera. It will be the location of Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center.
 Photo from U.H. Hilo

CONSTRUCTION OF THE NEW USGS HAWAIIAN VOLCANO OBSERVATORY AND PACIFIC ISLAND ECOSYSTEMS RESEARCH CENTER was celebrated Wednesday. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, Sen. Brian Schatz and U.S. Geological Survey Director David Applegate joined federal, state, local and University of Hawai'i leaders to launch the new facility to monitor volcanoes and support conservation science. The site is University of Hawai'i at Hilo campus. It will replace HAVO's facility that was irreparably damaged by the 2018 eruption on the edge of Kīlauea caldera in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.
Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland met
with U.H. Hilo students on Wednesday. Photo from U.H. Hilo
     The Secretary of the Interior said, "Partnership and collaboration are at the heart of everything we do. I’m so excited about the collaborations that will be formed in this facility between USGS scientists and personnel, the brilliant faculty and the students who have already accomplished so much. As we celebrate this facility today, we celebrate the enduring relationship it represents for the Department of the Interior and the community at large, as well as and the benefits this partnership will bring long after our time doing this important work is done.”
    The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory monitors and assesses hazards from active volcanoes and earthquakes in Hawai‘i, providing science for emergency managers, scientists, and local communities.
    USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center conducts research to support management and conservation of biological resources in Hawaiʽi and other Pacific locations. This includes scientific studies of imperiled species, invasive species, and plant diseases such as Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death.
Rendering of new USGS HAVO and Ecosystem Research
Center on the campus of U.H. Hilo.
    The USGS Director said, “We selected this location because of its unique qualities and partnership opportunities. One quality in particular that is critical to our future success is access to a very precious resource: students who can become our next-generation workforce, helping bring science to bear on some of the most challenging issues facing our nation and the planet.”
    Bonnie D. Irwin, Chancellor of the University of Hawai‘i – Hilo, said, “UH Hilo has a long and rewarding relationship with the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center, and I am excited for the additional opportunities their presence on campus will have for research partnerships and student internships. Working side-by-side with professionals in the field is an invaluable complement to the education students receive at our university.” 
    Construction of the facility is estimated to be completed late 2025.
Federal funding is released to work toward prevention of extinction of Hawai'i's Native Forest Birds.
Photo from state Division of Forestry & Wildlife

THE U.S. SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR ANNOUNCED $16 million will be deployed to prevent the imminent extinction of Hawai'i Forest Birds. Sec. Deb Haaland revealed the funding on Tuesday in her opening address to the Hawai'i Conservation Alliance's annual Conference in Honolulu, which runs through Thursday.
    The Conference is attended by numerous organizations with a large presence in Kaʻū including Three Mountain Alliance, The Nature Conservancy, Hawai'i Wildlife Fund and Kamehameha Schools. Ulupono Initiative and agencies with a presence here, such as the National Park Service, USGS, NOAA, US Fish & Wildlife Service, state Department of Land & Natural Resources, University of Hawai'i and Department of Hawaiian Home Lands also attend. Those who run the endangered captive bird program in Keauhou at Volcano and indigenous scholars and practitioners attend and are among the speakers,
     The federal funding announced by Haaland, herself the first indigenous person to lead the Department of the Interior, will support a new Hawaiian Forest Bird Conservation Keystone Initiative, which was unveiled as part of Department of Interior's Restoration & Resilience Framework. The Framework is guiding $2 billion in investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act to restore lands and waters and advance climate resilience. 
Read the abstracts, learn more at https://www.hawaiiconservation.org/conference/2023-conservation-conference/
    The  Secretary of the Interior said, “Hawaiian Forest Birds are a national treasure and represent an irreplaceable component of our natural heritage. Birds like the ‘I’iwi, Kiwikiu and ‘Akikiki are found nowhere else in the world and have evolved over millennia to adapt to the distinct ecosystems and habitats of the Hawaiian Islands." Haaland said that through the Investing in America agenda, "we are working collaboratively with the Native Hawaiian Community and our partners to protect Hawaiian Forest Birds now and for future generations.”
    An example of the decline in Hawaiian Forest Birds: Historically, there were more than 50 species of honeycreepers in Hawaiʻi. That number is down to 17,
Secretary of the Interior Deb
Haaland announced $16 million to
help prevent extinction of Hawaiian
Forest Birds.
due to an array of threats that have caused significant declines in their populations. "Habitat loss, invasive species, climate change and disease, such as avian malaria spread by mosquitoes, are urgent challenges impacting bird species across the Hawaiian Islands," said a statement from the Interior Department.
    In December 2022, the Interior Department released a Strategy for Preventing the Extinction of Hawaiian Forest Birds. The strategy provides a shared vision among the Department’s bureaus for a comprehensive approach to prevent the extinction of Hawaiian Forest Birds by applying a science-based approach, various conservation techniques, and Native Hawaiian biocultural knowledge and practices.     "This approach is rooted in close coordination with federal and non-federal partners to leverage resources and expertise to meet common goals......Without this funding, experts assessed that two species could go extinct within the next year."
    The Hawaiian Forest Bird Conservation Keystone Initiative includes its list of the following objectives:
    Captive Care: Expanding captive care programs and facilities for bird species most at risk of imminent extinction.
    Invasive Mosquito Eradication: Implementing cutting-edge strategies to control and eradicate invasive mosquitoes that spread avian malaria, which has ravaged Hawaiian forest bird populations in recent years.
    Establish New Bird Populations Through Translocation: Relocating new populations of bird species to higher elevation refugia within the Hawaiian Islands where avian malaria is not yet present will help prevent further extinctions.
    Research and Monitoring: Conducting extensive scientific research and monitoring to ensure mosquito control efforts are effective and enhancing our knowledge on mosquito and forest bird biology. This knowledge will inform more effective conservation strategies.
    Native Hawaiian Community Engagement: Actively engaging Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners and experts through consultation, knowledge sharing, protocol and traditional practices at each major stage of a conservation action. This not only contributes to the overall forest bird recovery efforts but also sustains the Native Hawaiian Community’s biocultural relationship with the forest birds.
    Read the Department of Interior Strategy for Preventing the Extinction of Hawaiian Forest Birds at https://www.fws.gov/media/doi-strategy-preventing-extinction-hawaiian-forest-birds-508

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Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs, Tuesday, June 27, 2023

County Council member Michelle Galimba with Kahu Kimo Awai at the blessing of the newly 
expanded Wai'ohinu Transfer Station. On Tuesday, Galimba released an update on her work. Photo by Julia Neal

COUNTY COUNCIL MEMBER MICHELLE GALIMBA released an update on Tuesday, regarding her work representing District 6, which covers Kaʻū, Volcano and South Kona. She wrote:
    "I was honored to be part of the Grand Opening of the beautiful and spacious new Waiʻōhinu transfer station on June 9, 2023.  While the finishing touches continue, the new transfer station is far larger, more convenient and safer than the old transfer station that was damaged by an earthquake. Our thanks go out to Mayor Mitch Roth and the entire team at the Department of Environmental Management, but especially Director Ramzi Mansour and Kaʻū's own Deputy Director Brenda Iʻokepa-Moses.  A special thanks also  to Lee McIntosh, our District 6 representative on the Commission of Environmental Management and to former Council-member Maile David for their years of work advocating for the new transfer station!" 
    Galimba noted that the County Council approved the 2023-2024 County Budget early in June.                    "Highlights of the budget include significant and much needed investments in information technology across multiple departments to help County employees do their jobs more effectively and efficiently, thereby providing better customer service and timely information to the residents of Hawai'i County."
County Council member Michelle Galimba reports that among her many
 projects is working on renovation of the Pahala Pool. Photo by Julia Neal
    The Council member said her office "advocated for increased police presence in Ocean View during the budget process and would like to thank the Hawai'i Police Department for the heroic work they do every day, and especially our new Police Chief, Ben Moszkowicz.  I look forward to working with "Chief Ben" in the coming year to increase public safety and security in District 6." Galimba said her office has also been working with County Department of Parks & Recreation Director Maurice Messina on many projects in the District including extensive improvements to Miloliʻi Park and Pavilion to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, skateparks at Volcano and Ocean View, renovation of the bathroom facilities at Waiʻohinu Park and renovation of the tennis courts at the Nāʻālehu Park and Yano Hall in South Kona. "Other projects that I am advocating for are the renovation of the Pāhala swimming pool and night-time lighting for the ball parks in both Pāhala and Nāʻālehu." 
     On the legislative front, Galimba said she has been working with Council Chair Heather Kimball on Bills 43 and 44 "to reform our agricultural real estate tax programs in order to encourage agricultural production and discourage abuse of these programs for their tax benefits. I have also been strongly supporting the creation of an Office of Sustainability, Climate, Equity and Resilience, (OSCER) proposed by Chair Kimball and Council-member Rebecca Villegas. OSCER will help our County to access federal funding to address sustainability and resilience, as well as help to coordinate our County's climate change response across departments, provide eduction and outreach, and notably, ensure that equity and fairness are taken into account as we grapple with these big issues." 
    Galimba concluded with a "Thank you for entrusting me with the responsibility of representing you, and have a safe and fun Fourth of July!" 

THE FIRST TROPICAL STORM OF THE PACIFIC HURRICANE SEASON is expected to become a hurricane on Wednesday. Off the coast of Mexico and headed west, Adrian is not expected to reach Hawai'i and is forecast to reach Category One hurricane status before dissipating. Many of the hurricanes
that originate in the Eastern Pacific near Mexico come towards Hawai'i, which is located in the Central Pacific. NOAA predicts a 50 percent chance of above-normal tropical cyclone activity during the central Pacific Hurricane Season this year, along with a 35 percent chance for near-normal activity, and only a 15 percent chance of a below-normal hurricane season. The forecast is four to seven tropical cyclones during 

this hurricane season, which began June 1 and ends Nov. 30.
    The Central Pacific Hurricane Center continuously monitors weather conditions using satellites, land-and ocean-based sensors and aircraft reconnaissance missions operated by NOAA, it National Weather Service and their partners. These observations are fed into complex computer models that run on NOAA’s supercomputers. Forecasters at the Center use that information to develop storm track and intensity forecasts and provide critical decision support services to emergency managers at the federal, state and county levels.
    This summer, NOAA is increasing its supercomputing capacity by 20 percent, allowing for more detailed, higher-resolution forecast models, advanced physics and improved data assimilation. Once implemented, the computing system will be able to perform 29 quadrillion calculations per second. The expansion will allow for forecast model upgrades for years to come, starting with the Hurricane Analysis and Forecast System.
    The Central Pacific Hurricane Center will extend the forecast range of the Tropical Weather Outlook from five to seven days this season. The seven-day outlook will provide emergency managers and communities with more time to prepare for tropical activity and creates a seamless suite of products when combined with the two-week Global Tropical Hazards Outlook from the Climate Prediction Center.
    Check for watches and warnings on the Central Pacific Hurricane Center’s website throughout the season, and visit FEMA’s Ready.gov for additional hurricane preparedness tips.

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THE LAW ALLOWING SERVICE ANIMALS TO ENTER BUSINESSES is the focus of a statement from Hawai'i Island police reaching out the public for understanding of the purpose and regulations. It describes a service animal "as any dog that is specifically trained to do work or perform tasks for the  any dog that is specifically trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other disability." 

    The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not require service animals to wear a specific vest, ID tag, or harness. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The animal’s trained work or task must be directly related to the person’s disability. An animal whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support does not qualify as a service animal under Title II and Title III of the ADA. 
    Individuals with disabilities are entitled to access any facilities, services or programs with their service animals that are open to the public, provided that the presence of the service animal does not fundamentally alter the nature of the service or program, or pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others. A service animal must be either harnessed, leashed, or tethered at all times and must not be disruptive or unsafe. In addition, a service animal must be under control of the handler and the handler should follow hygiene standards.
     For further assistance contact the following agencies: Hawaiʻi County ADA Coordinator (808) 961-8361; Hawaiʻi Disability Rights Center (808) 949-2922 and Hawaiʻi Civil Rights Commission (808) 586-8636.