Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Hawaii drought expected to worsen, rail estimate spikes upward to $8.1B, massive wind turbines planned for Oahu coastline, judge gets first look at Thirty Meter Telescope controversy, polystyrene ban advances, bonds for University of Hawaii, Maui groups plan for sugarcane lands, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Kona drought © 2016 All Hawaii News
Little rainfall and an ongoing drought suggests that Hawai‘i is in for a hot, dry summer. It’s also stoking concerns that the islands will experience a busy fire season. Hawaii Public Radio.

It’s only May and wildfires have burned more than twice as much land in Hawaii as they did in all of 2015. More than 60 percent of the state is experiencing moderate drought conditions, and parts of the Big Island are facing extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Civil Beat.

After several unsuccessful attempts, the University of Hawaii says it expects to finally begin whittling down its massive repair backlog now that lawmakers have agreed to let UH float revenue bonds that would be repaid in part with tuition. Star-Advertiser.

Oahu

Honolulu rail’s federal partners say they estimate the transit project won’t be completed until December 2024 — about five years behind the original schedule — while costing $900 million to $1.2 billion more than local rail officials’ latest price estimate. Star-Advertiser.

The city Department of Transportation Services would operate and maintain the Honolulu rail line, not the semi-autonomous Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, under a plan that Oahu voters might be asked to approve this fall. Star-Advertiser.

City officials are considering their next move with Honolulu’s rail project after federal officials informed them Wednesday that the construction could ultimately cost taxpayers up to $8.1 billion. Civil Beat.

Local businessman Colbert Matsumoto, who was recently appointed to the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation board by Mayor Kirk Caldwell, has significant financial interests in several properties along the future rail line. Civil Beat.

Republican Rep. Gene Ward announced Monday that he is seeking his 10th term, ending conjecture that he would leave his seat representing Hawaii Kai to run for the state Senate against incumbent Sam Slom in the Aug. 13 primary. Civil Beat.

Today, almost every school in the state has at least one homeless student, the state Department of Education reports. By far the hardest hit communities are on Oahu's Leeward coast, where 754 students don't have a permanent place to live. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaiian Electric Co. customers on Oahu saw an uptick of more than a dollar in their electrical bills in May, following a smaller increase in April. Star-Advertiser.

Massive wind turbines could end up floating in deep ocean waters off Oahu’s shores under proposals to bring more renewable energy to the island. Associated Press.

A federal agency is reviewing three proposals from two companies who want to build floating wind farms in waters off Oahu. Hawaii News Now.

As a federal grand jury considers corruption and abuse of power allegations involving the police chief and his county prosecutor wife, they spoke exclusively to Always Investigating about key episodes that started it all. KHON2.

Demanding more staffing and better working conditions. Local 5 union members of the Hale Nani Rehabilitation and Nursing Center began a 3-day strike Monday outside the facility in Mo'ili'ili. KITV4.

Hawaii chef Andrew Le is opening a second Honolulu location of his modern Vietnamese restaurant, The Pig & The Lady, at The Howard Hughes Corp.’s Ward Village in Kakaako. Pacific Business News.

Hawaii

The retired Big Island judge overseeing a contested case hearing for the Thirty Meter Telescope project said Monday she wants a fresh look at the issue. Associated Press.

The Thirty Meter Telescope contested case hearing started in Honolulu on Monday with a show of opposition from a standing-room-only group of Native Hawaiians who oppose the $1.4 billion project. Star-Advertiser.

Even as a judge called Monday for a fresh start in considering whether to let a huge telescope project on Mauna Kea proceed, protests and legal maneuvering pointed to a rocky road to a key hearing in June. Civil Beat.

A divided County Council on Monday advanced a bill banning polystyrene takeout containers starting in 2018, but only after a heated discussion about potential health hazards and environmental damage from the breakdown of the containers. West Hawaii Today.

A plan for a commercial gravel crushing operation off of Hualalai Road is drawing fire from neighbors. West Hawaii Today.

Residents participating in a public review of the draft Hamakua CDP bristled at a proposed land use map for Hakalau Point that appears to favor residential development over open space preservation. Big Island Video News.

A memorial dedicated to the four Hawaii Police Department officers who gave their lives in the line of duty was unveiled Monday during Police Week ceremonies at the Hilo police station. Tribune-Herald.

A case about some cabbage on the highway in Hamakua made it all the way to the Hawaii Supreme Court, which reversed a Waimea judge’s decision on May 9. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

A group spearheading a voter initiative for legislation to take over sugar cane lands and turn them into organic farms has gathered around 11,500 signatures and turned them into the Maui County Clerk's Office for verification, Community Farmland Council spokesman Bruce Douglas said Saturday. Maui News.

Findings of a nearly two-year long tagging and tracking study of tiger sharks off Maui and Oʻahu will be unveiled during a press conference later this week, with new information to be released on shark behavior around the Valley Isle. Maui Now.

Free informational sessions are being offered through June 19 for Maui residents interested in purchasing an affordable home at the new Kamalani residential community in north Kihei. Maui News.

Maui County, state and private groups have launched a campaign to raise awareness of the threats of wildfires and drought. Maui News.

Kauai

The Kauai County Council recently trimmed $350,000 from the proposed fiscal year 2017 budget. The proposed budget, which begins July 1, is about $190 million. After Thursday and Friday discussions, council members came up with $355,160 in cuts, said Yvette Sahut, legislative assistant. Garden Island.

Kauai Police Chief Darryl Perry cited national statistics during a short ceremony where Hawaii’s fallen law enforcement officers were honored before the ranks of Kauai Police Department officers and members of the 87th Recruit Class. Garden Island.

Malama Kauai is offering 25 paid agriculture internships for exploring careers in farming this summer through two organizations, AmeriCorps and Alu Like, and they’re only open to Kauai residents. Garden Island.

The risk of contracting rat lungworm disease on Kauai is small, according to the state Department of Health — there has only been one documented exposure to the parasite in the last few years, and it was a visitor to the island. Garden Island.