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Thursday, January 26, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023

Ke Ola Pu'uhonua is a new cultural garden sponsored by nonprofit Uhane Pohaku Na Moku O Hawaii, Inc. on the grounds of Punalu'u Bakeshop in Na`alehu. A blessing and presentation of hula and cultural demonstrations took place on Saturday, Jan. 21.
 See more below. Photo by Laurie Roush-Ortega
THE PROPOSED NEXAMP NA'ALEHU SOLAR FARM DREW COMMUNITY MEMBERS Thursday evening to Nā'ālehu Community Center. More than 30 attended and many spoke up asking questions about location, management of the land and the amount of savings planned for those who sign up to receive up to 15 percent in savings on their Hawaiian Electric bills.
    Location is makai of Hwy 11 near Kamaoa Road on a 20 acre site that as part of a 190 acre parcel of Class D agriculture land. The solar farm would serve about 500 households and 20 nonprofits according to Nexamp's Business Development manager Mike Billet, of O'ahu.
     A representative of the Carpenters Union asked what legislative permits would be needed to proceed with the project. 
Solar panels would be 15 feet above ground and
move to tilt toward the sun. Photo from Nexamp
    Billet said the project would need approval from the Public Utilities Commission and is going through the state Department of Land & Natural Resources' State Historic Preservation Division process that involves assessing impacts on any historic, cultural and archeological sites. 
    With those approvals and a successful final negotiation with Hawaiian Electric for a 20 year contract, Nexamp would move forward with permitting for construction. Nā'ālehu Solar would be operative in 2025.
    Billet said the company prefers to hire local contractors and subcontractors and would provide ongoing employment for maintenance of the solar farm. 
    While Billet said that the 15 ft. tall posts with solar panels would be hidden from views from Hwy 11, several people with land adjacent and on hillsides above the site objected to the location. A woman said she owns 14 acres next to the site and doesn't want it by her. Billet said it might be possible to move the 20 acre solar site from being close to property boundaries within the 190 acre property in order to address concerns of the neighbors. 
    A resident who lives about 1200 feet in elevation, above the site, said that he and neighbors would have the solar farm in their view plane. He called it "industrial solar" and said that solar farms are not recommended in the Kaʻū Community Development Plan. Another man said the site should be industrial like the old sugar mill lands.
    A Waiohinu man said he opposes the project being located on ag land, even though it is Ag D, a state classification ranking it as poor for production. Another woman asked whether the site being unused for ag during 20 year solar farm contract with Hawaiian Electric, would fare well for future agriculture. Billet
Concerns were expressed about siting the Nā'ālehu Solar
 away from homes and views. Photo from Nexamp

said that there is a possibility of planting native crops or other farming around the solar panels as well as on the rest of the parcel. He said some solar farms include productive agriculture on their grounds.              Another woman said she is concerned about big trees being chopped down for the project, saying some are at least 100 years old and it would take a long time to grow them back, should the project be abandoned after its 20 year commitment.
    The question of electric bill savings to local residents came up, with one man saying that he would hope that Lower to Moderate Income families, which the project is mandated to serve, would receive more than 15 percent savings on their electric bills. He called a 15 percent savings "shallow."
    Another said he can't get approval for Hawaiian Electric to buy power from his rooftop solar because Hawaiian Electric is maxed out accepting it in his neighborhood. Would Nexamp's contract with Hawaiian Electric make it harder for people in the area to sell their rooftop electricity to Hawaiian Electric? Billet noted that Nexamp would be improving infrastructure for the grid, which could allow Hawaiian Electric to use more solar from the area.
    A man who said he was an engineer at the sugar mill in Pahala, which closed in 1996, noted that the sugar factory produced back up for power for Hawaiian Electric - burning the sugar cane waste - the bagasse for electricity. He said he approves of the solar farm and other energy producers like windmills for backup. He also said he worked for the Navy on nuclear ships and said that solar is a lot better than nuclear.
    Another man said he already has solar on his house, but supports Nā'ālehu Solar for the community. "One thousand solar panels is better than one smokestack. I'm in, because it's clean energy."
    Other topics included safety of the lithium batteries to be installed on the solar farm. If they were to catch fire, could the fire be stopped? Billet said there is NEST, the Nexamp Energy Storage Team that
Agriculture could possibly surround the solar panels,
according to Nexamp. Photo from Nexamp
works on safety. One man asked about the environmental cost of using lithium batteries, given how they are manufactured. Billet noted that the batteries would provide "smoothing" for the ups and downs of producing electricity and also could act as a microgrid for the area during outages. He said he believes that the best option for the environment overall is solar with batteries. In the future that could change with the invention of better energy options.
    Several asked whether Nexamp's solar panels would soon be obsolete. Billet said they are the latest development, using a single access tracker, "already using tomorrow's module." One man noted that an advancement allows the heat of the solar panels to be harvested for extra electricity.
    One man asked whether the solar panels will be made in America? Billet said Korea and that components come from all over the world but that Nexamp prefers to source from the U.S. He noted new federal incentives to buy parts made in the U.S.
    Regarding the 20-year term of the contract with Hawaiian Electric, Billet said 20 years is a common contract, given the likelihood that innovations will create less expensive electricity sources in the future. He also said without the kinds of community solar proposed by Nexamp, Hawai'i may not reach its goals of becoming energy self-sufficient.
    Nexamp is planning another community outreach in April. With questions, contact naalehusolar@nexam.com. Billet said the company website will be updated at https://www.nexamp.com/naalehu-solar.

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GOV. JOSH GREEN DEFENDED HIS EMERGENCY PROCLAMATION TO FAST TRACK HOUSING, particularly villages for homeless people. His statement issued Thursday says, "The proclamation allows for exemptions from certain processes that typically delay projects in order to expedite construction of low-impact kauhale, or tiny home communities." Green said, "We amended our homelessness emergency proclamation to reflect guardrails that will ensure we don't have to choose between our kuleana to culture and land, and our responsibility to the people who are most vulnerable in our communities.
     "My intention in signing the emergency proclamation was always to protect sacred sites, iwi kūpuna and the environment – while building kauhale and working towards aggressively ending chronic homelessness and unsheltered suffering statewide. To do this, we must take bold but thoughtful action."
A groundbreaking for a Kona Kauhale, with permanent and temporary
housing for the homeless, was held on Thursday with Mayor Mitch
 Roth and Gov. Josh Green. Photo from the Mayor's Office
    Signed during his State of the State Address Monday, the initial emergency proclamation contains the same language as previous proclamations in effect from 2015 to 2020, that allowed for expedited construction of kauhale – including Pu'uhonua o Wai'anae, a project that was 100-percent community-driven, said the statement from the governor's office. "Past proclamations had no rules or processes guiding how projects would qualify, or how basic considerations of life-safety, the environment, culture, or other considerations would be addressed." 
     James Koshiba, Governor's Coordinator on Homelessness, said, "The Governor has amended the proclamation to make it clear that this process is required, and his Administration is crafting rules to outline how that process will work. The proclamation does not signal a free-for-all, for developers. Construction projects designed to serve and house the houseless are deeply unprofitable and are unattractive to for-profit developers."
     The governor's statement noted that fewer than one dozen projects were built during the 2015 to 2020 Emergency Proclamation period, largely led by County or State governments, using public funding. "In only a few instances did private nonprofit developers attempt to build, because the process is costly and difficult, even with the exemptions."
    The amended emergency proclamation expires March 20, 2023, the same end date as the original document signed earlier this week.
    A groundbreaking was held in Kona Thursday for a Kauhale for permanent and temporary housing, with Green and Mayor Mitch Roth attending.

To read comments, add your own, and like this story, see facebook.com/kaucalendar. See latest print edition at kaucalendar.com, in the mail and on stands.

KE OLA PU'UHONUA IS A NEW CULTURAL GARDEN, sponsored by nonprofit Uhane Pohaku Na Moku O Hawai'i, Inc. on the grounds of Punalu'u Bakeshop in Nā'ālehu. A blessing and presentation of hula and cultural demonstrations took place on Saturday, Jan. 21. The non-profit is led by cultural practitioner Kawehi Ryder and Kumu Hula Debbie Ryder of Halau Hula O Leonalani, based in Nā'ālehu. On hand for the blessing were former Mayor Harry Kim, Ka'u's County Councilwoman Michelle Galimba and Punalu'u Bakeshop owner Duane Kurisu, along with members, friends and family of the Halau. The opening of the grounds to the public is expected in March.

Cultural practitioners teach keiki at the new Ke Ola Pu'uhonua.
Photo by Laurie Roush-Ortega
    Cultural practitioners teaching keiki and the community include Uncle Chucky Leslie for Lawai'a, net making. He is often called the  Last Traditional Opelu Fisherman. Kupuna Linda Saffery shares the skills of a Lauhala and Makaloa master weaving. Kupuna  John (Bully) Davis teachers coconut weaving. Kupuna Waltah Wong shows skills of a Traditional Hale Builder and Kupuna Meheula shares traditions as Floral, Lei
    These practitioners are some of the cultural experts who will be at the Pu'uhonua in March with its opening. A Live Traditional Keiki Hula show is expected to perform twice a month on Saturday at noon,
Duane Kurisu, Harry Kim and Kawehi Ryder
Photo by Julia Neal

with dates to be announced.
    The slogan of Ke Ola Pu'uhonua is "A Living Cultural Refuge embracing Humility, Reverence and Disciplien with Aloha of the Spirit." The stated mission is "to provide Native Hawaiian Cultural Practices to all youth, their families and the community to create living environments integrating Mauka to Makai opportunities for places of learning and healing through the concept of Pu'uhonua, place of refuge."
    The organization's statement says, "We have experienced that the development of heritage based life skills can perpetuate economic success and independence with a sense of family for individuals."
    Planning for Ke Ola Pu'uhonua includes a walk for the public to experience places of: Hawaiian Food Plants; 'Aumakua Ancestral Forest; Lawai'a - Fisherman's Environment; La'au - Medicinal Plants; Kukui Grove - candlenuts; Plumeria Garden - flowers, foliage and lei; Hawaiian Antiquities Mo'olelo - Storytelling; and Makahiki Games - Hawaiian Games.
    For more information, email leionalani47@hotmail.com. Call 808-238-5633.

Halau Hula O Leionalani, under direction of Kumu Hula Debbie Ryder, during the blessing of the new cultural
garden, Ke Ola Pu'uhonua on the grounds of Punalu'u Bakeshop. Photo by Julia Neal

To read comments, add your own, and like this story, see facebook.com/kaucalendar. See latest print edition at kaucalendar.com, in the mail and on stands.
St. Jude's Hot Meals are free to those in need on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until food runs out, no later than noon. Volunteers from the community are welcome to help and can contact Karen at pooch53@gmail.com. Location is 96-8606 Paradise Circle Drive in Ocean View. Those in need can also take hot showers from 9 a.m. to noon and use the computer lab from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Free Meals Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are served from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Nā'ālehu Hongwanji. Volunteers prepare the food provided by 'O Ka'ū Kākou with fresh produce from its gardens on the farm of Eva Liu, who supports the project. Other community members also make donations and approximately 150 meals are served each day, according to OKK President Wayne Kawachi.

Volcano Evening Market, Cooper Center, Volcano Village, Thursdays, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., with live music, artisan crafts, ono grinds, and fresh produce. See facebook.com.

Volcano Swap Meet, fourth Saturday of the month from 8 a.m. to noon. Large variety of vendors with numerous products. Tools, clothes, books, toys, local made healing extract and creams, antiques, jewelry, gemstones, crystals, food, music, plants, fruits, and vegetables. Also offered are cakes, coffee, and shave ice. Live music.

Volcano Farmers Market, Cooper Center, Volcano Village on Sundays, 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., with local produce, baked goods, food to go, island beef and Ka'ū Coffee. EBT is used for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly Food Stamps. Call 808-967-7800.

'O Ka'ū Kākou Market, Nā'ālehu, Wednesdays, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Contact Nadine Ebert at 808-938-5124 or June Domondon 808-938-4875. See facebook.com/OKauKakouMarket.

Ocean View Community Market, Saturdays and Wednesdays, 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., corner of Kona Drive and Highway 11, where Thai Grindz is located. Masks mandatory. 100-person limit, social distancing required. Gate unlocked for vendors at 5:30 a.m., $15 dollars, no reservations needed. Parking in the upper lot only. Vendors must provide their own sanitizer. Food vendor permits required. Carpooling is encouraged.

Ocean View Swap Meet at Ocean View makai shopping center, near Mālama Market. Hours for patrons are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Vendor set-up time is 5 a.m. Masks required.

The Book Shack is open every Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the Kauaha'ao Congregational Church grounds at 95-1642 Pinao St. in Wai'ōhinu.