Monk seal murders keep piling up in the Isles, with rewards offered but few leads.
The senseless crimes committed against this endangered endemic species have most recently captured the attention of The New York Times Magazine, which will feature “Who’s Killing The Monk Seals?” in Sunday’s edition.
The aggressive red magazine cover with bold black lettering portrays the silhouette of a seal bludgeoned in the head — the fate too many have suffered in Hawaii, especially of late.
The story’s author, Jon Mooallem, says the word “assassination” came to mind when he was reporting the piece. It’s an accurate description of an indefensible act.
I’ve been writing about monk seal murders for the past few years along with my former colleagues at The Garden Island newspaper and other local media.
Here’s to hoping the Times piece brings broader awareness of the issue that results in stopping this trend.
Read the NYT story online by clicking here.
— Nathan Eagle
A monk seal rests on a rock at Kaena Point in June 2012. (Photo by Nathan Eagle.)
Maui County officials are closing all Lahaina beaches from Mala Wharf to Canoe Beach on Maui after a government contractor broke a 20-inch sewer force main on Tuesday.
County officials are urging Lahaina residents to use water sparingly, including showering and flushing the toilet, in order to reduce sewage overflow.
Repair work is expected to last into the evening, according to a post from Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa.
UPDATE: The pipe was fixed as of Tuesday night. No beaches are believed have been impacted, but remain closed over night as a precaution, according to Arakawa.
(Photo: Flickr, marada)
— Sophie Cocke
Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources is seeking help in finding the culprit or culprits who ripped off solar panels and damaged property at MacKenzie State Recreation Area in the Puna district of the Big Island last weekend.
The solar panels powered new composting toilets.
Some of the items that were stolen are part of a sewage containment system and not of much value to those that have taken them because of the specialized nature of the parts.
It is not yet known how long it will take to find replacement parts and components of the stolen and damaged facilities.
Hawaii County Police Department and DLNR DOCARE enforcement officers are investigating. Estimates on the value of items stolen are pending. Anyone with information about the theft of items is asked to call the DOCARE branch office in Hilo at (808) 974-6208.
- Sophie Cocke
Nearly 14 percent of all the electricity consumed on Oahu, the Big Island and in Maui County combined came from renewable energy sources in 2012, according to a press release from Hawaiian Electric Co.
The utility says the achievement signifies that it is well on its way to meeting its 2015 requirement of 15 percent clean energy by 2015. In 2011, the utility derived 12 percent of its energy from renewable energy sources.
Added rooftop and utility-scale solar photovoltaic facilities on all islands, more wind energy on Oahu and Maui and increased geothermal energy production on Hawaii Island all contributed to this progress.
Ultimately, HECO must achieve 40 percent renewable energy by 2030 or face fines.
— Sophie Cocke
Gov. Neil Abercrombie has appointed Darrell Young to the post of deputy director for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.
Young replaces Michelle Kauhane who was fired from the position in December.
Kauhane, who set off a political firestorm in February when she released a secret recording of a meeting between her, the attorney general and Abercrombie’s chief of staff, held shortly before her dismissal, has also moved on. She will head the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement. Robin Danner, the organization’s founding president and CEO, plans to step down this year.
Young is currently the director of communications and acting deputy director for DHHL. He officially assumes the deputy position on May 1, according to a press release from the governor’s office.
From the press release:
Prior to becoming acting deputy director, Young worked as chief of staff for former Honolulu City Councilman Nestor Garcia since 2003.
Young also worked as a housing information officer for the Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawaii from 2001-2003 and a management executive for the Hawaiiana Management Company, Ltd. in 2001. In addition, he was a government affairs representative for Tesoro Hawaii Corporation from 1995 to 2000 and worked for Aloha Petroleum, Ltd. from 1988 to 1995.
Young is an active member of the community, serving on the Waikele Community Association board of directors since 1996 (as president since 2010) and a member of the Champions at Waikele Neighborhood Committee since 1994. He also served on the Waipahu Neighborhood Board from 1995 to 1999.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Ind., and is a graduate of Kamehameha Schools.
Young is a resident of Waikele and has been married for 22 years to his wife, Jamie. Together, they have two sons, Carson and Zachary.
— Sophie Cocke
A new report by University of Hawaii researchers has found that a seawater air conditioning system for Waikiki could provide energy savings to area businesses and residents.
According to the findings of the report, while SWAC may be more costly than other efficiency/conservation options, its ability to provide an uninterrupted supply of cool air gives it a solid advantage over the use of more intermittent renewable energy technologies (such as wind and solar power) for air conditioning purposes. For Waikīkī, where demand for air conditioning is constant, SWAC has the potential to decrease the cost of air conditioning and reduce the amount of harmful emissions that are released as a by-product of generating electricity from fossil fuels.
The researchers compared the seawater air conditioning system to other forms of energy:
The report does warn that releasing water from an outflow pipe positioned too close to the ocean’s surface could cause algal growth.
Meanwhile, a long in the works plan to build a seawater air conditioning system to cool downtown Honolulu plods along.
— Sophie Cocke
The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is falling down on its responsibilities to administer homesteads to Native Hawaiians, according to a recently released state audit.
The assessment says the commission fails to hold lessees accountable for delinquent loans, is not focusing enough on the thousands of Hawaiians who remain on the waiting list for plots and that rising loan obligations and delinquencies pose a solvency risk.
According to the audit:
The commission has not fulfilled its fiduciary responsibilities to prudently mitigate overall loan risk and impartially administer the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA) on behalf of all beneficiaries, having instead favored one class of beneficiaries— lessees—over those on a growing waitlist for leases and an unknown number of people who have yet to apply. As of June 30, 2011, there were about 9,200 beneficiary leases and nearly 26,200 applicants seeking leases.
Read the full audit here.
— Sophie Cocke
Earth Day is this Saturday, and what better way to celebrate than to malama da aina?
Plastic Free Hawaii, a program of Kokua Hawaii Foundation, is teaming up with community partners to host Windward beach cleanups on three beaches this Saturday, April 20th from 9:30am to 11:30am. The cleanups will be followed by a music festival and fair at Sea Life Park.
For more information, check out Kokua Hawaii Foundation’s website or email email@example.com.
— Alice Terry
The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative has ranked second nationally in the amount of solar installed per customer in 2012, according to an annual survey conducted by the Solar Electric Power Association.
The ranking marks a major leap for the small utility, which didn’t even score in the top 10 during the past few years. In 2010 and 2011, KIUC ranked twelfth.
Meanwhile, Hawaiian Electric Co.’s utilities on Oahu and Maui maintained their strong presence in the rankings.
On Oahu, HECO came in fourth in the amount of solar installed per customer and is ranked tenth in the total amount of solar installed in 2012. Maui Electric Co. ranked sixth in the amount of solar added per customer.
Hawaii Electric Light Co. on the Big Island ranked twelfth.
Check out the rankings here.
(Photo: ProVision Solar)
— Sophie Cocke
The repeal of the Public Land Development Corporation cleared its final hurdle in the Legislature today.
House Bill 1133 is now headed to Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s desk. He has indicated that he won’t oppose the legislation.
State House lawmakers voted to accept the Senate amendments to the bill. The two chambers were hung up on what to do with PLDC personnel. The Senate deleted a provision that called for transferring the employees to the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Sierra Club celebrated the vote. Hawaii Director Robert Harris released this statement:
“With this vote, the Hawaii legislature took a strong step towards restoring public trust and transparency in our governmental process. People deserve to have a meaningful voice in what happens to the special places in their community. Back-room deals, political cronyism, and rampant development should not be a part of Hawaii’s future.”
Read the rest of Sierra Club release here.
— Nathan Eagle
The jaws of a large shark pop out of the water just feet from a local angler’s kayak off of western Oahu in video captured by the fisherman.
Isaac Brumaghim had hooked a tuna on Sunday when a shark challenged him for the catch.
“I swear I could hear the shark’s jaws chomp closed,” said Brumaghim, who believes the predator was either a tiger shark or Galapagos shark.
What the footage does not show, however, is that after the tuna, or kawakawa, had shaken free of his hook, the shark devoured the fish and swam in a circle around Brumaghim before swimming off.
“It was as if the shark was taunting me,” Brumaghim said. “It gave me the heebie-jeebies.”
Check out the still photos.
— Sophie Cocke
Hawaii has dropped in the ranking of availability of locally-produced food, according to Vermont-based local food advocacy group Strolling of the Heifers’ 2013 Locavore Index. Hawaii came in at no. 13 for availability and consumption of local food, down from no. 5 the previous year.
The ranking of all 50 states is based on several factors including access to farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture initiatives (CSAs). The ranking also takes into account the number of “food hubs” that help farmers distribute their produce to customers. Results were adjusted on a per capita basis.
In the full Index, Hawaii is purported to have 88 farmers markets, 22 CSAs, and zero food hubs.
Vermont came in at no. 1, followed by Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota and Iowa. The lowest-ranking states were Nevada, Arizona, Lousiana, Florida and Texas.
Although it’s not completely clear why Hawaii dropped in the ranking from 2012, Index coordinator Martin Langeveld notes on their website that the metrics the Index uses has changed and will continue to change from year to year. For example, food hubs were not included in the 2012 Locavore Index data. Hawaii was noted as having 85 farmers markets and 135 CSAs that year.
— Alice Terry
A bill that Hawaii’s Department of Health says would go far to combat pollution flowing into Hawaii’s coastal waters, rivers and streams has been abruptly killed by lawmakers.
House BIll 903 passed the Ways and Means Committee last week by a vote of 9 to 1. But two days later, the committee called a new hearing and reversed itself. Twelve senators voted to hold the bill. Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland was the sole senator who opposed the move.
The bill would have given the health department more authority and resources to combat runoff, including sewage from residential cesspools that is suspected to flow straight into waterways when it rains.
“The Legislature dealt a huge blow to water quality improvement in the state,” said Gary Gill, deputy director for Environmental Health for the Department of Health.
Gill said he didn’t know why the bill, which was part of the governor’s legislative package, was killed.
“All I know is that the Ways and Means Committee reconsidered their original vote to pass with amendments and the Ways and Means Chairman announced that some senators had spoken to him, raising concerns,” he said. “And so they reconsidered it and took another vote.”
Sen. David Ige, chair of the Ways and Means Committee, could not be immediately reached for comment.
Groups including Alexander & Baldwin, the General Contractors Association of Hawaii, the Land Use Research Foundation and the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation, submitted testimony in opposition to the bill.
After heavy rains, government officials often issue brown water advisories warning residents to stay out of the water “due to possible overflowing cesspools, sewer manholes, pesticides, animal fecal matter, dead animals, pathogens, chemicals, and associated flood debris.”
Gill said that HB 903 would have helped alleviate this pollution.
— Sophie Cocke
Babies born in Hawaii in the wake of the Fukushima meltdown were more likely to suffer from a developmental disorder than babies born the previous year, according to a recent study. Nuclear isotopes wafting over the Pacific Ocean from the crippled reactors appear to have caused far-reaching health risks that we are only beginning to understand.
Children born in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington between one week and 16 weeks after the meltdowns began in March 2011 were 28 percent more likely to suffer from congenital hypothyroidism than were kids born in those states during the same period one year earlier, a new study shows. In the rest of the U.S. during that period in 2011, where radioactive fallout was less severe, the risks actually decreased slightly compared with the year before.
Substantial quantities of the radioisotope iodine-131 were produced by the meltdowns, then wafted over the Pacific Ocean and fell over Hawaii, the American West Coast, and other Pacific countries in rain and snow, reaching levels hundreds of times greater than those considered safe.
After entering our bodies, radioactive iodine gathers in our thyroids. Thyroids are glands that release hormones that control how we grow. In babies, including those not yet born, such radiation can stunt the development of body and brain. The condition is known as congenital hypothyroidism. It is treatable when detected early.
The original study was published in the Open Journal of Pediatrics, though scientists first discovered the link between nuclear fallout and congenital hypothyroidism after the 1986 meltdown in Chernobyl.
Photo credit: Joe Rubin, Civil Beat
Hawaii is making waves with a three-day conference on climate change in the Pacific Islands hosted by the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Center for Pacific Island Studies. The conference, entitled “Waves of Change: Climate Change in the Pacific Islands and Implications for Hawaii,” is free to the public.
Participants are representing a broad range of places including the Solomon Islands, Palau, Samoa, Tonga, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Hawaii. The three-day conference at the University of Hawaii, Manoa began Thursday and lasts through Saturday.
The discussions are exploring the environmental, social, cultural, political, economic and legal impacts of climate change.
Our own Joe Rubin interviewed John Marra, a featured speaker at the conference and the Honolulu-based climate services director for NOAA and the East-West Center. You can check out that video here. It’s a discussion on the potential impacts of climate change in Hawaii that’s well worth a watch.