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Thursday, December 07, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs December 7, 2023

Precious Monk Seal at Punalu'u
A roped off area on Punalu'u Black Sand Beach protects a monk seal who hauled onto the beach. The Hawaiian monk seal, seen here on Thursday, is considered one of the most endangered seals in the world. A seal, perhaps the same, was also seen at
 Punalu'u in November. Photo by by Karen Fukunaga 

COMMERCIAL PASSENGERS BOATS WILL COLLECT A STEWARDSHIP FEE. State Board of Land & Natural Resources plans to vote on a new chapter in Hawai'i Administrative Rules to enable the user fee, which has been mandated by the Hawai'i Legislature. The plan is for commercial operators to collect a $1 fee from each passenger or customer. The meeting will be over two days, starting Friday.
    The user fees will support Department of Land & Natural Resources' conservation, restoration, enhancement and management of Hawai‘i’s marine resources.
    DLNR reports that stakeholder and community testimony from multiple in-person and virtual informational briefings and public hearings showed support for the general concept of collecting fees from ocean users. Some commercial operators expressed concerns about the administrative and financial burdens placed on them. Since the fee is mandated by statute, it can’t be changed or waived by rulemaking. Given that, state Division of Aquatic Resources incorporated stakeholder input in designing a fee transfer system to minimize the burden on commercial operators.
    The ocean stewardship fee proposal also underwent a Ka Pa‘akai Analysis, which is triggered when agencies consider uses of public trust resources that may impact the exercise of Native Hawaiian
Board of Land & Natural Resources agenda at meetings beginning Friday include
new regulations on taking and selling of reef fish and Kona crab, and charging passengers on
commercial boats $1 each for DLNR stewardship money. Photos from DLNR
traditional and customary rights.
    DAR received three public testimonies from the analysis. Two indicated the fees would or should support community stewardship, perpetuation of cultural knowledge and practices, and reducing the negative impact of ocean tourism on cultural resources. One testimony stated the proposed rules would negatively impact a commercial operation that prides itself in sharing culture knowledge and values.

REGULATIONS ON THE TAKING AND SELLING OF MANINI, KOLI, KALA, UHU AND KONA CRAB are up for approval starting Friday, during two days of meetings of the state Board of Land & Natural Resources. All the fish are considered important herbivorous reef fish. State Division of Aquatic Resources says the regulations were crafter by science-based and stakeholder-informed regulations.
    "Manini, kole, kala, and uhu are important food fish targeted by fishers for recreational, subsistence,
cultural, and commercial purposes. These fish play an important role in Hawaii’s nearshore waters. Pāpa‘i kualoa (Kona crab) is targeted by some noncommercial fishers and a small-scale commercial fishery."
The proposed new rules are:
    Increase the minimum length for manini (Convict Tang) from five to six inches;
    Establish a new minimum length of five inches for kole (Goldring Surgeonfish);
   Establish a new noncommercial bag limit of four kala (Bluespine Unicornfish) per person per day;
    Establish new restrictions on the commercial harvest and sale of kala;
    Increase the minimum length for large-bodied uhu (Parrotfish) species from twelve to fourteen inches;
   Establish a minimum length of ten inches for all other uhu species;
   Establish a new noncommercial bag limit of two uhu per person per day; 
   Establish restrictions on the commercial harvest and sale of uhu;
   Extend the current closed season (May-August) for pāpa‘i kualoa (Kona Crab) to May-September;
    Allow the take of female pāpa‘i kualoa.

Uhu is one of five fish species up for regulations in taking and selling at Friday's
Board of Land & Natural Resources. Photo from Environment Hawai'i.

THE FAMILY SELF-SUFFICIENCY PROGRAM WELCOMES NEWS APPLICANTS, reports the County's Office of Housing & Community Development. The agency has released the story of a family who has completed the progress of becoming less dependent on welfare assistance and rental subsidies to move up the economic ladder.
    Richard Spencer said, "Without this program, I doubt we could have reached this point." He and his wife, Akalina, along with their six children are the most recent graduates of the program. Their milestone achievement "follows five years of hard work and dedication," says the county statement. The graduation also came with the disbursal of the Spencer ʻohanaʻs escrow account that topped $27,700.
    The federal Department of Housing & Urban Development's Family Self-Sufficiency Program was created in 1990 to enable families to achieve financial independence and eventually move out of public housing or off Section 8 assistance.
Richard Spencer and wife Akalina completed the Family
Self-Sufficiency Program. Photo from County of Hawai'i

.   The voluntary program is open to Section 8 participants and has two main features: Case management/ coaching services and a financial incentive. The program typically lasts five years, though families may complete it earlier or request an extension of up to two years for good cause.
    Under the Family Self-Sufficiency Program, participating families work with a service coordinator to identify their financial and employment-related goals and to access a range of support services that help in achieving their goals.The financial incentive kicks in when a family sees an increase in its household income. Like all families in the Section 8 program, Family Self-Sufficiency Program participants pay rent based on a percentage of their household income. That means as a familyʻs income increases, rent payments follow suit.
    However, when families in the Family Self-Sufficiency Program see an increase in income, the portion of that extra income that would have otherwise gone to rent instead goes into an interest-bearing escrow account. Meanwhile, the Department of Housing and Urban Development continues to pay the full housing assistance payment.

    Upon successful completion of the Family Self-Sufficiency Program, the family is free to use their saved funds for any purpose. Some common uses are to start a new business, repair credit, reduce debt, buy a home, or pay for education.

    The Spencers said their savings will be used first to pay down debt. After that, the family plans to move toward homeownership through Office of County Housing & Urban Developmentʻs Homeownership Option Program.
    While the Spencers admit the program was "tough" and they had some doubt early on if they would be able to succeed, they said they encourage anyone participating in the Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) Program to apply for the Family Self-Sufficiency Program.
    "We tell all of our friends. We tell everybody," says Akalina. "This is definitely a program that I would recommend."
    Since late 2020, the Office of Housing and Community Development has helped 28 families successfully graduate from the Family Self-Sufficiency Program, each exiting with an average savings of $10,300.
    "Congratulations to the Spencer ʻohana, and all those in the community who have committed to this program that inspires and empowers individuals and families to make positive change in their lives," said Housing Administrator Susan Kunz. "The County of Hawaiʻi Office of Housing & Community
Development is proud to administer this program that helps local families make progress toward economic independence and self-sufficiency."
    Any Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) Program participants who is interested in applying for the County of Hawaiʻi Office of Housing & Community Development's Family Self-Sufficiency Program their caseworkers or email Jenny Suefuji at fsshopinfo@hawaiicounty.gov.

    Informational meetings are also held every second Wednesday of the month at the Office of Housing & Community Development's Hilo office at 1990 Kinoʻole Street. In Kona, informational meetings are held every other month at the Office of Housing and Community Developmentʻs office in the West Hawaiʻi Civic Center, Building B.
    The County of Hawaiʻi Office of Housing & Community Development is responsible for the planning, administration, and operation of all County of Hawai'i
housing programs. "Our Mission is to provide for the development of viable communities through decent housing, suitable living environments and expanded economic opportunities," says its statememt.
    More information on the Office of Housing & Community Development and its programs can be found online at www.housing.hawaiicounty.gov. To receive news alerts and OHCD's quarterly newsletter, click here. You can also connect with OHCD on Facebook and Instagram.

PĀHALA TOWN LIGHTED CHRISTMAS PARADE on this coming Saturday has drawn at least 30 groups to participate, as well as County Council member Michelle Galimba, Mayor Mitch Roth and other dignitaries, according to Chair of the Committee Shai Lopez-Castaneda. He released a map of the parade which takes participants from the grounds of the Mac Nut office on Pikake Street up Pikake Street, right onto Kamani Street, down to Kaʻū Hospital and to Pāhala  Community Center. It ends with picture-taking with Santa and his Buddies, some arts and crafts and light refreshments until 8:30 p.m.

    The parade honors Eddie Andrade who has retired from hosting the renowned Pāhala Christmas Parade with his family for more than 40 years.
    Pāhala Town Lighted Christmas Parade is co-hosted by County Department of Parks & Recreation.