Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Navy dolphins to train off Hawaii, Tulsi's pick a head-scratcher, state tops in nursing homes, Ormat wins geothermal bid, rail company sells to Hitachi, Wailuku Stream diversion altered, Coco Palm decision deferred, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

bottlenose dolphin courtesy U.S. Navy
Bottlenose dolphin with tag, courtesy U.S. Navy
A Navy plan to fly four bottlenose dolphins to Hawaii from San Diego in March for sea mine training and research drew some criticism but was approved by the state Board of Agriculture on Tuesday by a 5-2 vote. The dolphins will be used March 10-31 out of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on a training "mobility evolution" measuring the animals' response and medical condition during the transit and use, the Navy said. Star-Advertiser.

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is turning to a political neophyte to lead her operations in Washington, D.C. On Tuesday, the Hawaii Democrat announced that she has picked Kainoa Ramananda Penaroza to serve as her chief of staff, making him the third person to hold the top position in the two years she has represented Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District. Civil Beat.

Members of the Hawaii Senate and House of Representatives have filed concurrent resolutions seeking an exemption for Hawaii from a provision in the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (the Jones Act) requiring that all vessels be built in the United States. The resolutions also ask that Alaska, Guam and Puerto Rico be exempt.Hawaii Independent.

Hawaii lawmakers are working through requests to dole out $30 million to five state agencies that are running out of money to meet immediate needs. The Attorney General’s Office, Department of Human Services, Hawaii Health Systems Corporation, the Governor’s Office and the State Public Charter School Commission have asked the Legislature for emergency appropriations to see them through the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. Civil Beat.

Hawaii has a higher percentage of top-rated nursing homes than any other state in the country, according to a newly revised rating system by the federal government that includes tougher standards for evaluating long-term care facilities. Eighteen of Hawaii's 46 nursing homes, or 39 percent, received five stars, the highest score under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services system. Star-Advertiser.

The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Karl Rhoads, unanimously passed a measure Tuesday that would protect journalists from having to disclose their confidential sources under certain circumstances. Civil Beat.

Opinion: Forty years after passage of the state’s first law regulating lobbyists, requiring them to publicly register, identify their clients, and disclose what they spend to influence the legislative process, the agency charged with administering and enforcing the law is suffering a major crisis of confidence. Civil Beat.

It could get a lot harder to smoke traditional and electronic cigarettes in Hawaii, especially for young people. State lawmakers are considering raising the legal smoking age from 18 to 21 for traditional and electronic cigarettes. They're also considering banning both forms of smoking in the state's parks and public hospital system. Associated Press.

The group challenging Hawaii Rep. Calvin Say's qualifications is asking why the chairman of the special House committee investigating the matter shared evidence with Say's attorneys. Associated Press.

State Rep. Bob McDermott is suing the University of Hawaii over access to a survey being given to public school students participating in the controversial Pono Choices sexual education program. Star-Advertiser.

The state Senate has confirmed Randall Iwase's appointment to lead the Public Utilities Commission. Iwase has been the commission's acting chairman since his nomination in January. Associated Press.

Hawaiian Electric Co. is sending out letters to potential solar customers saying their rooftop systems won't be approved until the state Public Utilities Commission rules on HECO's request to decrease the rate it pays for energy from home solar systems. HECO sent the letters last week to Hawaii island customers in neighborhoods with high solar penetration and will follow soon with similar letters to applicants on Oahu and in Maui County. Star-Advertiser.

An estimated 18,000 current and former members of the Hawaii Medical Service Association had their personal information stolen during a cyberattack on Anthem Inc., a Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan that serves residents in 14 states. Star-Advertiser.

The state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs encourages the 18,000 HMSA members who may have sought treatment in one of the 14 mainland states where Anthem Inc. operates, and Anthem members who have moved to Hawaii, to visit anthemfacts.com following the company’s security breach. Associated Press.

Oahu

In a State of the City address that contained no surprises and just a smattering of new initiatives, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell reaffirmed his position on three contentious issues: rail, homelessness and the bicycle track along South King Street. Star-Advertiser.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell stressed the need to move forward on the Honolulu rail project with an extension of the General Excise Tax during his 2015 State of the City address Tuesday while emphasizing the progress he has made since taking office two years ago on road repaving, park rejuvenation, bike lanes and the homelessness problem. Civil Beat.

After nearly four years of trying to land a buyer for its rail assets, the Italian defense firm Finmeccanica has announced that it will sell the company that's creating the trains and operating system for Honolulu's future rail transit system to Hitachi Ltd. Star-Advertiser.

Some longtime critics of the city’s rail project have stated repeatedly that Honolulu can make major changes to how the elevated line is built without facing penalties from the federal government. But after a Tuesday meeting in Washington, D.C., with top officials from the Federal Transit Administration, City Council members Joey Manahan and Ernie Martin came away with a much different understanding of what can actually be done under a full funding grant agreement signed in December 2012. KITV4.

The administration of former Gov. Neil Abercrombie, which unveiled an H1 Freeway re paving and improvement project just days before the primary election last year, decided against including key safety upgrades that would have taken months longer to complete, Hawaii News Now has learned.

The state Ethics Commission is looking into potential conflicts of interest at the Department of Land and Natural Resources' enforcement division. A complaint filed by environmental activist Carroll Cox alleges potential misconduct by staffers with the DLNR's Conservation and Resource Enforcement Division, who do part-time security work for Sodexo, the concessionaire for the Blaisdell Center and the Waikiki Shell. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii boy Barack Obama made it official Tuesday, signing a presidential proclamation designating the Honouliuli Internment Camp on Oahu as a national monument. On hand to witness the historic event were Hawaii Gov. David Ige, Sens. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz, Rep. Mark Takai and Interior Secretary Sally Jewel. Civil Beat.

A $25 million penthouse is still available in the east tower of the Ritz-Carlton Residences Wai­kiki Beach tower, which broke ground Tuesday and is projected to open in 2017. Star-Advertiser.

Starting Wednesday, Feb. 25, coffee grown in all areas of Oahu will be placed under the same quarantine restrictions as coffee grown in Waialua on Oahu and Hawaii Island. KHON2.

Quarantine restrictions on Oahu-grown coffee have been expanded islandwide, limiting transport and shipping in an effort to prevent the spread of a coffee berry borer infestation. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

Hawaii Electric Light Co. announced Tuesday that Ormat Technologies was selected to provide an additional 25 megawatts of geothermal power to the utility. But where that power will be produced remained a secret. Tribune-Herald.

Hawaii Electric Light Co. has selected Nevada-based Ormat Technologies Inc., which operates the 38-megawatt Puna Geothermal Venture plant on the Big Island, to develop an additional 25-megawatts of geothermal energy on the island, the Hawaiian Electric Co. subsidiary said Tuesday. Pacific Business News.

Hopes for an international arrivals terminal at Kona International Airport, future bus service to Palamanui and plans for new Department of Motor Vehicles service in Waimea were highlights of a Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Tuesday with Mayor Billy Kenoi. West Hawaii Today.

Many months of paperwork and a lot of fundraising are culminating in the planned July opening of a new charter school in Naalehu. Ka‘u Learning Academy faces one of its final hurdles next week, when it seeks Windward Planning Commission approval of the Discovery Harbour golf course clubhouse as a temporary facility. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. began work Tuesday to alter its Spreckels Ditch diversion of Wailuku Stream near Happy Valley in Wailuku. Maui News.

Recognizing the need for more affordable rental housing, the Maui Planning Commission agreed Tuesday to send a letter to the Maui County Council calling for a moratorium on all new short-term vacation rental permits until more housing is available. Maui News.

There’s a big meeting about little fire ants Wednesday night at the Haiku Community Center. MauiTime.

Kauai

The seven-member Kauai Planning Commission deferred any decisions on current Coco Palms Hui, LLC plans to reconstruct and restore the Coco Palms Resort in Wailua until their March 10 meeting so they can receive more information on options to mitigate traffic impacts. Garden Island.