Report by Outings Chair

by Diane Ware, Outings Chair

Critical Habitat
The Moku Loa Group has submitted comments in support of proposed critical habitat for three endangered plant species in the Kona area. The proposed areas include seven units totaling approximately 18,766 acres (7,597 hectares) on the island of Hawai‘i. The three species (Bidens micrantha-ko’oko’olau; Menzoneuron kavaiense-uhiuhi; and Isodendrion pyrifolium-wahine noho kula) occur in the same lowland dry ecosystem and share the same threats from development, fire, and nonnative ungulates and plants.

Approximately 55 percent of the area being proposed as critical habitat is already designated as critical habitat for other plants and the Blackburn’s sphinx moth. Of the total acreage identified, 64 percent is located on state lands.  Some of the state lands are earmarked for development.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may recommend that development projects offset habitat loss by acquiring, restoring, and managing other suitable habitat in perpetuity. We are hopeful that developers will respect and place value on conserving this rare native dryland ecosystem and support the Service’s and/or County’s recommendations.

Waikaku’u South Kona Property
The Moku Loa Group supports the acquisition of Waikaku’u Ranch by the County Land Fund. In May 2013, Judge Ibarra ruled that permitting the development of the property violated the Kona Community Development Plan and failed to uphold the county’s constitutional duty to protect natural resources. The natural resources of Waikaku’u Ranch include native mesic forest, the watershed created by this old-growth forest, and the ocean below. Sierra Club members have documented ‘ohi’a with 3′-4’ diameters, hapu’u i’i, ala’alawainui, ie’ie and kopiko on the property.  This type of dense understory is crucial for native birds and for the future release of ‘alala. The last wild ‘alala were found in the South Kona McCandless Ranch area, less than 10 miles from this property.

Mauna Kea Forest Restoration Project
The Group has volunteered several weekends of reforestation, seed collection, and green pod collection for the Mauna Kea Forest Restoration Project, which seeks to expand bird habitat for the endangered palila. According to an article in Biological Conservation (2012) authored by Paul C. Banko, et al., the palila population has decreased 79% between 2003 and 2011 due to habitat degradation by feral ungulates and prolonged drought. The only solution to the drought problem is to increase the density of mamane trees, remove mouflon sheep from the habitat, and plant in areas of low mamane regeneration. We plan to sponsor a program early next year highlighting the plight of the palila, followed by another service project.

Conservation Issues

High on the slopes of Mauna Loa, Kulani, (once known for its medium security prison) is rich with abundant native plants, birds and insects, and is threatened by invasive plants and ungulates. Our group had successfully lobbied for the inclusion of the Kulani area in the Pu’u Maka’ala Natural Area Reserve. This NAR is rated as the highest quality forest by the State and has suffered little or no logging. We provided constructive comments to the draft environmental assessment, which proposes fencing more acreage and working with partners to restore and preserve forest. The Moku Loa Group has already participated in a 3 day service trip and a hike in Kulani and looks forward to assisting in an effort to preserve this significant area for native bird, insect and plant biodiversity.

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Moku Loa Group supports the expansions to Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge proposed in the Hakalau Draft Land Protection Plan and Environmental Assessment. The areas proposed include Maulua, a Koa unit adjacent to the refuge and McCandless lands in Kona adjacent to the Kona Forest Unit. We believe the expansion will have a positive effect on the preservation and restoration of Hawaii’s endangered birds and the island’s ecosystems as a whole, It will protect high quality, bio-diverse habitat, ensure connectivity between habitats, and decrease fragmentation and invasive threats.  From an economic and conservation standpoint, it is better to preserve an intact forest such as the Koa Forest Property and concentrate timber operations on land that has already been degraded by cattle.  The proposed addition to the Kona Forest unit could be important to the recovery of the ‘alala.  According to the 2009 Revised Recovery Plan for the ‘Alala, the success of ‘alala reintroduction depends on the restoration of closed canopy forests.

Waikaku`u, an old growth rainforest on the southern slopes of Mauna Loa, provides critical watershed services to the village of Miloi`i and the springs that support Kona’s abundant ulua fishery. Our group provided testimony at the Hawaii County Board of Appeals regarding a planned unit development that threatens the thousand year-old `ohi`a /kopiko forest.
Kahuku, a three-thousand-acre parcel that was once part of the proposed Hawaiian Riviera resort, is prized by local residents and fishermen for the access to Manuka via Road to the Sea in south Kona. The group has supported the county purchase of the land utilizing funds from the Open Space (2%) fund, and Legacy Lands funding, which were approved in May. The pristine anchialine pools in extensive water cracks along the coast are host to rare and unique organisms adapted to the brackish water. The very extensive cave system on the mauka slopes provided water for the ancient Hawaiian village along the coast as well. Biologically, lava tubes in this area  display greater diversity and more novel species than lava tubes in other areas studied.
An article highlighting Sierra Club’s support is at this link:
The Ka`u Calendar News Briefs, Hawai`i Island: Ka`u News Briefs May 17, 2012

Geothermal proposals by HELCO, state officials and private developers to expand development on Hawaii island have  aroused the concern of local residents and group members, regarding the proximity  of the development to rural communities, the absence of H2S standards for vulnerable populations, and the lack of evacuation planning, noxious H2S venting, well blowout, numerous emergency declarations, and resident relocations.  The group is reviewing Sierra Club’s geothermal policy to reflect two decades of experience with the renewable power generation.

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Donna Buell – Treasurer of the National Sierra Club Board of Directors visits with Roberta Brashear-Kaulfers-Hawaii Chapter Chairon the Big Island.

CHAPTER CONSERVATION COMMITTEE

Chapter Conservation Chairs Debbie Ward and Lucienne DeNaie are soliciting interest in a statewide conservation committee for

  1. Issues that cross island boundaries, such as DLNR mammal hunting rules, and more.
  2. Envision/propose legislative action that have multi- island impacts, such as invasive sp, GMO labeling
  3. Taking initiative on statewide policy issues, such as  land use,  agriculture /open space, energy
  4. Training, as needed on environmental law, strategies, and resources
  5. Others as suggested

We propose to set up an informal working group, with members identified by island, interests, expertise. Members would prioritize issues and identify working group members, involve Capitol Watch members/champions, and interact with Hawaii Chapter Excom members.  We propose to meet by conference call for specific issues, and consider meeting quarterly before ExCom meetings (some members may be on both committees), and report to Excom with action items quarterly.  If you, or people you know, are interested, please contact Debbie Ward at dward@hawaii.edu.

The Conservation Committee recently provided a letter of support to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture regarding the release of a bio-control agent to reduce the reproductive efficiency of the strawberry guava, which is invading the native forests on all islands, and imperiling the watersheds.

CONSERVATION REPORT

Moku Loa Group Conservation Committee
by Debbie Ward

Moku Loa Group members are actively contributing testimony for numerous current controversial project proposals, including Aina Koa Pono biofuels, the Kaloko Makai development above the Kaloko Honokohau NP, Kahuku Village at historically significant Pohue Bay, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park’s management plan, Hu Honua biofuels, and Papaikou beach access.

Mauna Kea management was the issue that brought Sierra Club and other petitioners to the Intermediate Court of Appeals in November.  Marti Townsend of KAHEA represented the petitioners, and UH attorney Lisa Munger claimed that the comprehensive management plan “does nothing.”  The arguments are online at http://www.courts.state.hi.us/courts/oral_arguments/archive/oaica30397.html

MLG member Debbie Ward is a petitioner in the BLNR contested case hearing regarding the proposal to build one of the world’s largest telescopes on the undisturbed northern plateau of Mauna Kea. She reports that the testimony phase has ended, and the Hearing Officer will make a recommendation to the BLNR early next year. The Conservation Committee meets every fourth Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. for potluck and 6 p.m. for meeting at the Kea`au Community Center.

Update on Pohakuloa
by Cory Harden

Regarding the Army’s modernization plan for Pohakuloa, we commend them on several counts: Acknowledging the U.S. takeover of the Kingdom of Hawai`i; including a thoughtful description of the spiritual and cultural significance of Pohakuloa; mentioning old military sites, and holding this open house and public hearing.

However, we have many concerns:

  • Is this the only place in the world this training can be done? Why was Pohakuloa the only place considered?
  • Why does the EIS say there’s no danger from depleted uranium? Only a few fragments of DU spotting rounds were found at Pohakuloa, but there may be 2,000. Where are they?
  • Why did DU air monitoring, as planned last year, have air filters with pores that were ten times too large?
  • Why is it too dangerous to hunt for DU in the impact area—but safe to send bulldozers to crush lava for a one- by two-mile battle course?
  • Is the training once done at Makua coming to Pohakuloa? Makua training brought fires that consumed thousands of acres in the past thirteen years. At Pohakuloa, the weeklong fire last year (not caused by the military) showed what could happen in a tinderbox area with no County water.
  • Pohakuloa is a significant cultural area with almost 500 reported archeological sites. But archeological studies and historical consultation aren’t complete, so the public can’t review them.
  • The EIS says wildlife would “temporarily leave the area during periods of loud noise and disturbance, but may return.” How would you fare if, every few months, you were chased out of your home?

And we ask again: Why is there so much money for new military projects, and so little for cleaning up hazardous old sites?

CONSERVATION UPDATE 12/2010

by Diane Ware
Aquarium Reef Fish Collection Ever wonder where all this (Tangs) have gone?  Moku Loa Group Board has decided to advocate for more regulation and a possible moratorium on the collection of aquarium reef fish for export (a number of them endemic) until such time as taking these fishes can be documented to be sustainable to the ecosystem and humanity.  Pete Hoffmann has put forward to the County Council a resolution that will do just that; and we will be testifying in support.  There is currently a permit process and report of takes (over 700,000/year), but no meaningful regulation to ensure these fish will not be depleted or will be here for the next generation to contribute to the eco-tourism economy.  We were alerted to this issue by Rene Umberger, a dive operator from Maui who spoke before our council and the recent news that some 600 fish were dumped in trash cana at the Honokohau Harbor.  More info: http://www.forthefishes.org.

Preserving Important Conservation and Native Forest Ecosystems
.  `O`oma reclassification from State Conservation to Urban zoning is still under consideration by the LUC after several public hearings.  The Group opposed this reclassification of coastal land just south of Ke`ahole Airport for a 1200-unit residential and 300-unit commercial spaces.  This land has important natural and cultural resources with open space and view planes worthy of protection. We are losing thousands of acres of important conservation land to development.  Other issues involved are viability of development adjacent to the airport and its noise, preserving water quality, lack of provisions for an overwhelmed infrastructure, negative impacts on long-time residents.

We are currently trying to work with private land owners logging or wanting to log koa and/or sandalwood on up to 20,000 acres of conservation- and agriculture-zoned land north of Hilo and in South Kona.  Any ideas for helping to facilitate preservation will be appreciated.  Contact Diane Ware (967-8642) or Cory Harden (968-8965).

MOKU LOA CONSERVATION UPDATE 6/2010

by Debbie Hecht

In the past year the Moku Loa Group has made comments on various conservation issues facing our island.

We have sent comments in support of:

Integrated Resources and Solid Waste Management – the Path to Zero Waste. It was reported in the Hilo Tribune that the amount of trash entering the Hilo landfill has declined in the past year. Implementation of this plan will continue to expand recycle/reuse centers and keep organics and hazardous waste out of the landfill. Moku Loa Group is implementing zero waste at events with compost bins for food waste and plates and implements from Sustainable Products.

Honu`apo Coastal Community Park Resources Management Plan. The Group supported this plan which includes native plant and estuary restoration, a Wilderness camp that will accommodate Ala Kahakai trekkers, and a cultural center. We have also offered our volunteer \assistance in restoring habitat.

Kahauale`a Natural Area Reserve (NAR) Expansion – This proposal has succeeded and a new extension of 5,795 acres has been added to the Kahauale`a NAR in the Puna District of Hawai`i. This new NAR area is adjacent to the Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park; NAR designation will facilitate management of the native ecosystems found in that region, and strengthen the protection of the areas already protected in the Kahauale`a NAR.

2% for Land Issue – The Save Our Lands Citizen’s Committee and consistently over one hundred people have testified before the Hawai’i County Council and the Charter Commission to keep the Land Fund at 2%. The Hawai`i County Council has suspended deposits to the Fund until July of 2011. We suspect they will not be resumed if the economy is still depressed.

A 2% Land Fund Charter amendment was proposed to the Charter Commission. Voters will see the ballot measure at not less than 1% (2 million) to be deposited to the land fund IF this measure is passed by voters in November. We intend to propose a 2% Land Fund Charter amendment to the County Council in the near future. If passed by the County Council, this would mean that there would also be a 2% Land Fund amendment ($4 million per year).

Remember, in 2006 63% of us voted to save Hawai`I County’s treasured places. Voters would get to choose between a 1% or 2% Land Fund. We need your help again! NOW is the time to make your wishes known before the County Council and at the polls in November. Want more information? Call Debbie Hecht (989_3222, or email (hecht.deb@gmail.com).

Moku Loa Group has opposed:

O`oma reclassification from State Conservation to urban rezoning. The Group opposed this reclassification of coastal lands just south of Ke`ahole Airport for a 1200-unit residential and 300-unit commercial space. This land has important natural and cultural resources with open space and view planes worthy of protection. We are losing thousands of acres of important conservation land to development. Other issues involved are viability of development adjacent to the airport and its noise, preserving water quality, lack of provisions for an overwhelmed infrastructure, negative impacts on long-time residents.

Construction of a Connections Charter School over the Kaumana Caves. This proposal included buildings and septic systems directly over the underlying historic cave system, habitat of unique cave species and high preference by educators and visitors for its accessibility. MLG comments on the draft EIS led the school to relocate their buildings to preserve the cave.

KOA LOGGING?

by Cory Harden

An Oregon real estate company that has filed for the protection of bankruptcy court owns 5,00 acres of land above Hilo containing some koa. Most of the land is zoned conservation, so it is unlikely they would get through all the legal requirements to cut koa. But 300-odd acres are zoned agriculture; and there it would be easier to cut. They may do logging and build a mill. They sound environmentally friendly, but Sierra Club is setting up a meeting with them to discuss sustainable approaches.

CONSERVATION REPORT

by Cory Harden

Depleted Uranium
There may be DU at Pohakuloa. A recent Army letter refers to the depleted uranium (DU) discovered on U.S. Army ranges at Schofield Barracks and the Pohakuloa Training Area. And the Schofield weapon system that contained DU may also have been used at Pohakuloa. The Army is conducting an evaluation of Schofield, Makua and Pohakuloa in cooperation with the State Department of Health, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and other State and Federal agencies.
However, no airborne radiation from Pohakuloa has been detected by Kona citizens with their own radiation monitors, assisted by Dr. Lorrin Pang. Dr. Pang is head of the Maui Department of Health, but is assisting with the DU issue as a private citizen.
And no radon, a decay product of DU, has been detected blowing off Pohakuloa, according to Halstead Harrison, a Washington State atmospheric scientist also volunteering his time.
Still, since the Army denied use of DU in Hawai`i for years before the Schofield discovery, the current DU evaluation warrants close scrutiny.

Navy Expansion
Hearings are set in August concerning expansion of Navy operations in two million square nautical miles of airspace, ocean and islands stretching from Hawai`i Island through Papahanaumokuakea (Northwest Hawaiian Islands). Marine life will be impacted by sonar and detonations; expended missiles, torpedoes, mines and ammunition; sunken hulks, buoys and parachutes.
Meanwhile, past Navy use of Pearl Harbor has made it a giant Superfund site with about 750 contamination areas, including radioactive waste in sediment from nuclear-powered ships. Almost five million gallons of low-level radioactive waste was discharged into the harbor in the 1960s and 1970s.
Public speaking was forbidden at the September 2006 hearings on the current expansion. Speakers are allowed three minutes apiece in the next round. The Hawai`i Island hearing is Wednesday, August 29, at Waiakea High School, 155 W. Kawili St., Hilo. Open house starts at 5 PM; then a Navy presentation and public comments run from 6 to 9 PM. Written comments accepted until Sept. 17, 2007. The EIS website is http:www.govsupport.us/navynepahawaii/EIS.aspx.

Stryker
October hearing dates concerning the Army Stryker expansion will soon be announced. A court order directed the Army to thoroughly evaluate Stryker locations other than Hawai`i. The percentage of military land in Hawai`i is already five times greater than in Alaska and Colorado . . . and the Stryker will cause greater environmental impacts in Hawai`i than the other possible locations, Alaska and Colorado. But Hawai`i rates higher in factors favorable to the Stryker.

Wherever it goes, the Stryker will degrade the environment, because of the enormous training area it requires.
The Stryker expansion is going forward while almost eight hundred military sites in Hawai`i are left in hazardous condition. And recent revelations include two thousand steel drums of radioactive waste dumped in the ocean near the islands, and eight thousand tons of chemical munitions dumped in shallow seas off O`ahu years ago.

Citizens risked arrest to speak publicly at the first round of hearings in early 2007. Like the Navy, the Army prohibited public speaking. So citizens used their own sound systems to speak. In Hilo, almost one hundred people showed up and spent three hours raising concerns about the Stryker. Public speaking will be allowed at the next round of hearings. Written comments will be taken till October 30, 2007. The EIS is at http://www.sbct-seis.org/.

Cruise Ships
What was the brown water gushing out1 and yellow sea foam around1 Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America in Kailua-Kona August 1? What caused feces, poop, and brown swirls2 that afternoon in the sea off Old Kona Airport?
We’ll never know if there was a health hazard, since Department of Health did not sample the water till the next day.
The brown water could have been mud washing off an anchor and chain, said NCL. Or material stirred up from the sea bottom, said DOH. . . . but as of 2005, the anchorage used by cruise ships has been 130 feet deep. No explanations were reported on the yellow foam and feces.
Do we need stronger oversight of cruise ships? Yes! Please call your Congressional representaves in support of the Federal Clean Cruise Ship Act. Sen. Akaka (935-1114); Sen. Inouye (935-0844); Rep. Abercrombie (808) 541-2570; Rep. Hirono (935-3756).

1 Kailua-Kona resident Jewel Moore, quoted in West Hawai`i Today, August 2, 2007.
2 Kailua-Kona resident Lenore Hunter, quoted in West Hawai`i Today, August 2, 2007.

Superferry
Watch for no Environmental Impact Statement for Kawaihae’s Pier 4, which will serve Superferry . . . or a narrowly focused EIS that is concerned only about pier construction and not the broad impacts of pier users like Superferry. Superferry impacts may include whale strikes, spreading of invasive species and overcrowding of harbors and recreation areas.
An EIS should be triggered by use of Federal highway funds and State Harbor funds for Pier 4. But officials offer nothing more than vague promises that all applicable permits will be addressed. If you support an EIS for Pier 4, please contact Patrick Tom with Highways at Hwy.Stip.Projects@hawaii.gov, and Fred Pasqua with Harbors at fred.pascua@hawaii.gov