Monday, December 9, 2013

Hawaii eyes undersea mining, Honolulu transit deputy worked for winning bidder, Maui preps for GMO fight, state ends year in the black, state struggles with new safety check rules, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Humpback whales
NOAA whale watching ship and humpbacks, courtesy photo
A scientific study says humpback whales in the North Pacific should be looked at as at least five distinct populations, rather than just a single species undergoing recovery. The study, including genetic analysis, goes against the traditional way humpback whales have been counted as one group in evaluating their recovery as an endangered species. The study comes at a time when a Hawaii group is petitioning to remove humpback whales in the North Pacific from the endangered species list. Star-Advertiser.

With the return of the wintering whales to Hawaii, officials from the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary are reminding the public to keep a safe distance from the protected and endangered animals. Maui Now.

An unprecedented era of undersea mining deep in the Pacific Ocean is poised to begin, University of Hawaii researchers say, and they aim to help protect the region's biodiversity once that mining starts. Companies and countries around the world have secured at least 12 mining exploration claims across a vast swath of ocean several hundred miles south of Hawaii called the Clarion Clipperton fracture zone, according to a UH news release. Eventually, they could scrape the sea floor in those areas for manganese, copper, cobalt, nickel and other resources. Star-Advertiser.

Brown Water Advisories following heavy rain are not to be ignored or taken lightly, according to Watson Okubo, the monitoring and analysis section chief of the state Department of Health’s Clean Water Branch. Garden Island.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie said Hawaii ended the most recent fiscal year $844 million in the black. The governor said in a statement Friday the administration has worked diligently to stabilize and grow Hawaii’s economy. Associated Press.

Five weeks into the new program, auto mechanics and vehicle owners are reporting lengthy delays and confusion surrounding the way vehicle inspections are now conducted and documented. The Hawaii Department of Transportation, working with the county motor vehicle departments, rolled out the program Nov. 1 and simultaneously upped the fees for car and truck inspections to help pay for it. Civil Beat.

The two youngest members of the U.S. Senate are co-sponsoring a bill aimed at lowering college costs that includes withholding federal funds from schools that don't meet affordability and quality standards. Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Brian Schatz of Hawaii are planning to introduce the legislation this week. The two are still paying off their college loans. Associated Press.

Oahu
The man who is second in command of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation was until earlier this year a vice president with CH2M Hill, the company that recently edged out other bidders for a $46.1 million engineering contract for the Honolulu rail project that HART is overseeing. But HART officials say Deputy Executive Director Brennon Morioka had no involvement with the agency's decision to award the contract to his former employer. Civil Beat.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell has a hefty household income when you factor in his city salary, his paid position on a local bank board of directors, his state pension and the paycheck his wife pulls down. Caldwell earns nearly $130,000 a year as mayor, but also gets paid between $200,000 and $299,999 thousand as a director of Territorial Savings Bank. He also has between $400,000 and $499,999 worth of stock in the company. Civil Beat.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell will be taking questions from the public Monday in a virtual town hall meeting. Hawaii News Now.

A hui of North Shore community members gathered near Laniakea Beach on Sunday to protest the state Department of Transportation's proposal to stop traffic snarls and safety problems in the area by blocking off access to a strip of land along Kame­ha­meha Highway that beachgoers use as a parking lot. Star-Advertiser.

Dozens turned out at Laniakea Beach Sunday to protest the state's plans to barricade the beach's parking lot. And many said the Department of Transportation's proposal to install concrete barriers and shut down the parking lot will worsen the community's already severe traffic problems. Hawaii News Now.

Regardless of what the state eventually decides to do about the volume of visitors stopping to see the turtles basking on the shores of Laniakea Beach on Oahu's North Shore, a group of volunteers continues to watch over the reptiles. Malama na Honu, translated as "care for the turtles," is a nonprofit group created in 2007 to protect Hawaiian green sea turtles, a threatened species protected by federal and state laws. Star-Advertiser.

For the past decade, Waimanalo homeowner Tom Grande has battled the city to try to get a large mound of fill material removed from the hillside just above his residence and in the middle of a dam inundation zone. But Grande, an attorney, thus far has been unsuccessful, and his legal fight has exposed what he says is a troubling gap in the law dealing with dumping of fill on agriculture land. Star-Advertiser.

More wealth shifts to Oahu neighborhoods. Four Oahu ZIP codes crack top 10 wealthiest in Hawaii for the first time. Pacific Business News.

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Democrat representing Hawaii's 2nd District, will be the keynote speaker at Hawaii Pacific University's graduation ceremonies Dec. 18. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

The economy hasn’t always cooperated, nor has the County Council, but as he finishes his fifth year in office, Mayor Billy Kenoi sees more in his win column than he’s lost. Kenoi, who first took office Dec. 1, 2008, and entered his second four-year term Dec. 5, 2012, likes to recount a laundry list of accomplishments. West Hawaii Today.

Forest land boasting one of the largest old-growth koa stands is up for grabs in Hamakua. Known as the “Ohana Sanctuary” by its current owners, the land consists of 3,127 acres of largely untouched forest near Akaka Falls. And it fetches a hefty price of $22 million. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

The Maui County Council on Friday may have ruined the county's opportunity to purchase 186 acres in Launiupoko for a long-envisioned coastline parkway by failing to take a vote on the deal as an end-of-the-month deadline loomed. Maui News.

Some environmentalists and farmers on Maui appear poised for a conflict on a bill to add more regulations on those using pesticides commercially, including businesses involved in producing genetically modified organisms. Star-Advertiser.

Maui County could be joining Hawaii and Kauai counties in creating an ordinance to regulate pesticides and genetically modified organisms by commercial agricultural companies. Maui News.

Current executive assistant to the mayor and former Maui County Council Chairman Danny Mateo was appointed by the Maui County Council on Friday to be the county clerk. Maui News.

Maui Economic Opportunity's paratransit system has, again, come under fire for delays in service, said riders at a meeting last week at the nonprofit. Maui News.

Kauai

Seed companies bolster Keiki Toy Ride gifts. Garden Island.