Victory for Clean Water in Kona

By Steve Holmes

For 20 years, the Kealakehe Wastewater Treatment Plant in Kona has been dumping wastewater into a hole in the ground where it was carried into the Honokohau Small Boat Harbor and out into nearshore coastal waters that went from pristine to federally listed as impaired.

Sierra Club got involved a little over a year ago and started a campaign to end the dumping. Hawaii County has now budgeted $104 million to make substantial repairs and to fund a further upgrade to R-1 reuse to allow for recycling as originally envisioned.

We are still a couple of years away from ending the illegal dumping, but with the help of champions like Councilmember Karen Eoff and Managing Director Wally Lau, the funding has been secured and the project has become a priority.

After 20 years of neglect, the aerated lagoons are being restored to full functioning and capacity. The R-1 phase will take a little longer as the environmental review is expected to begin soon and design and construction will follow, but the money is there to reach our goal.




by Bill Irwin, November 2014

So far Hawaii has been lucky in that we have not had any major disasters caused by Global Warming.  We have seen a shift in weather patterns, more frequent flash floods, some beach erosion, and a declining fish catch.  Our luck will be running out in the near future for Global Warming is affecting the oceans in ways that will impact the marine life that surrounds our islands.  Our coral reefs will become an endangered species unless we do something very soon to reverse the buildup of CO2 in our atmosphere, for CO2 is changing the chemistry of the oceans and is causing our world to warm up both of which adversely affect many forms of marine life, coral more than most.

Our coral reefs are very important to Hawaii.  They provide a habitat that is home to a wide variety of marine organisms as anyone who has gone snorkeling in Hawaii can testify to.  The reefs provide a source of food which has long been the main source of subsistence for the Hawaiian people.  They provide recreation for our people, and businesses that provide that sort of recreation to our visitors are a $304 million dollar a year source of income and jobs.  More than half of our visitors go snorkeling at least one time during their visit – our beautiful reefs are one of the draws that make our multi-billion dollar tourist industry work.   The reefs also provide protection from the full intensity of ocean waves and currents.  Without the reefs the beaches would be more susceptible to erosion and damage to shore side homes and property.  The protection they offer is worth millions of dollars every year.  The direct contribution of coral reefs to our Hawaiian economy is around $364 million a year.  And of course, that beautiful white sand on our beaches is made from coral.  Coral, along with some species of marine algae, also produce a chemical (dimethylsulphoniopropionate) which is responsible for creating the unique scent of the ocean and also functions as a seed for cloud formation.  Of course clouds bring us rain and reflect a portion of sun light back into space which helps prevent global warming.

CO2 is directly changing the chemistry of the oceans, CO2 combines with water to form carbonic acid and since it is an acid it causes the pH to fall, a process called ocean acidification.  Carbonic acid is not a strong acid nor is it much a threat to health as it is in all your soda drinks and gives them a more tart taste.  The main problem with increasing the pH of the oceans is that it makes calcium carbonate much less soluble in sea water.  There is no shortage of calcium carbonate as it is the main ingredient in white sand and is the main structural material for forming coral and marine organisms that form a hard shell such as oysters and mussels.  Calcium carbonate can also enter the oceans from runoff from the land.  A mere 0.1 point decline in pH has led to a 26% increase in hydrogen ions, the active part of acids.   CO2 in the atmosphere has now reached 400 parts per million which is 100 ppm higher than at anytime in the last 740,000 years.  At the current rate of emissions increases, which is 2.07 ppm per year, we will reach 500 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere by 2063 and if you factor in the rate of increase we could reach that level by 2050.  At 500ppm reefs are no longer able to maintain themselves as the rate of calcium uptake and coral growth is less than the normal destructive forces that coral face, reefs will begin to disappear.  Presently it is estimated that world-wide reefs are declining about 2% per year.  Some places in the Great Barrier Reef of Australia have seen a 20% decline in the past 16 years.

Coral are not the only species that will be affected by low carbonate levels caused by ocean acidification.  Crabs and other shellfish make their shells strong by calcium carbonate deposits making it difficult for baby crabs to build a shell.  Laboratory studies have shown that the Alaskan crab fishery is in danger and within the next decade may no longer be feasible.  Another important group of sea creatures that is being affected are sea butterflies, also known as Pteropods.   Pteropods are small marine plankton that have a shell formed from calcium carbonate and grow in great abundance in the southern oceans; they are adversely affected by CO2 at 450ppm.  They are important in that when they die they sink to the bottom of the sea floor where they form vast calcium carbonate deposits which are important to the world eco-system and its carbon cycle because this is one of the main means of carbon sequestration.

Another problem our coral reefs face is the warming of the oceans also caused by our over-production of CO2.  Coral have two methods of feeding, they can capture small planktonic prey with their tentacles, and they have an algae growing amongst their tissues which provide them with carbohydrates.  The coral/algae relationship is a symbiotic relationship in that both receive benefits from the relationship, the coral receive the majority of their nourishment from the algae and the algae receive a safe place to live, CO2 which they need for their photosynthesis activity, and some fertilizer in the form of urea which most animals produce as a waste.  The algae are very sensitive to sea temperature and UV radiation from the sun.  They don’t like warm water, if sea surface water temperatures get into the 84-86 degree range this can cause the algae to die off.  As the algae start to die the coral expel them from their tissues and since the coral tissue are colorless the white structure of the calcium carbonate coral show through.  This whitening of the coral is called ‘coral bleaching’.  With the loss of their major food supplier the coral begin to weaken and become susceptible to diseases that affect coral which is the major cause of coral death in coral bleaching events.  The coral/algae relationship is so sensitive to rising temperatures that even a 1-2 degree temporary rise above the normal seasonal temperature can cause some coral bleaching; the surface temperature doesn’t even have to reach the 84-86° level.

Hawaiian reefs are in decline, a few locations that are more removed from human contact such as Molokini are holding their own.  One of the worst areas are the reefs along Maui’s west coast, these reefs saw 25% loss in coral cover in 12 years from 1994-2006.  Perhaps the hardest hit was Maalaea Reef which was about 50-75% cover in 1993 then declined to only 8% cover by 2006.  The principal causes of Maui’s problems are from over-development of the nearby shore which causes excessive run-off which brings with it sediment which can cause the death of coral and nutrient enrichment from fertilizer and sewerage discharge which cause the invasive macroalgae to bloom in great numbers.  Over fishing on the reefs has also reduced the numbers of herbivore fishes which also allows for the overgrowth of the macroalgae, something the coral can’t handle so their numbers decline.  Reefs that are closed to fishing show much less invasive macroalgae.  The same problems of reef decline due to development are beginning to show in the reefs on the west coast of the Big Island and are only going to get worse unless more care is taken.

Maalaea Reef West Maui:  Extensive coral bleaching with invasive macroalgae

The health of the reefs on the Big Island, which are mostly located on the Kona coast, is a mixed story.  Some are doing well, others are showing marked declines; reefs south of Keahole Point are for the most part holding their own or even expanding, of the reefs north of Keohole Point 7 of 9 reefs are showing significant declines.  The further south you go the healthier the reefs.  The area north of Keahole Point is the area of West Hawaii where the majority of hotels, golf courses, and housing development is taking place and the sediment and fertilizer run-off from this activity is causing a problem for coral health.  South of Keohole point is one of the least populated areas of Hawaii and most of the population is more inland from the coast.  The reefs off Puako seem to have the most serious problems.  In the 1970’s coral cover was at 80%, then declined to around 50% cover by 2003, by 2011 it was down to only 34% cover, a loss of over 50% of the coral since the 70’s.

The waters off the Kona coast are also warming up.  Mean water temperatures for west Hawaii waters was 79.5° in 2012.  In the period 1999-2005 we saw a rapid rise in temperature of 1.8-2.7° following a period of El Niño warming of the Central Pacific, from 2006- 2011 saw a decline back to normal levels, 2012 saw an increase of 0.39°.  Several reefs got into the danger zone of 82° during the late summer of 2004 and 2005.  In checking the temperature at Kawaihae in Oct. 2013 was showing 85° – the point of wide-scale coral bleaching.  I think the temperature was inside the harbor area so was elevated and is not typical for the surrounding areas but does show that our waters can get to a temperature that will no longer support the growth of coral.  The long term trend shows warming ocean waters, we have now reached the point that another El Niño period could cause the temperature of our waters to rise into the zone that would cause large scale die off of our coral.  In other words, we are at the tipping point – further rise in ocean temperatures or increases in CO2 could cost us the loss of our coral reefs – something we cannot let happen.

Global warming is also causing another problem that will greatly affect Hawaii; the rising temperature is causing glaciers and ice caps at the poles to melt causing the sea level to rise.  If the same trend continues we could see a 39 inch rise in sea level by 2100 which would be a tremendous problem for our coastal cities, Honolulu in particular.  Since most of our tourist infrastructure of hotels, beaches, and shopping are located on the ocean front most all of this will have to be relocated and rebuilt which is going to be very expensive.  An expense our children and grand-children will have to bear.   See the link on the projected sea level rise for some maps of what the future of Honolulu might look like.

What we need to do

Hawaii’s reefs face problems from two fronts.  The global warming problem caused by too much reliance on fossil fuels producing too much CO2 is a global problem.  We all contributed to this problem and one person cannot turn this around, we all must do our part to cut our reliance on fossil fuels.  The other problem is local in origin and that is the run-off of pollutants, fertilizer and sediments from the land.  We alone are responsible for that and are the only ones who can correct that problem.  Global warming is a serious problem and is a threat to our reefs and fishing, we cannot afford to let this happen.  Start by encouraging our law-makers to take stronger action to not only cut back on CO2 but try to eliminate it.  Let them know that you know it will be a difficult process but that you will support them in this effort and that you want to see a faster conversion to alternate energy sources for Hawaii.  Individually we each have to look at our life style and try to be more energy efficient.  The good news is that cutting back on our CO2 footprint will save us money and enrich our lives; it is even a good investment.  A solar hot water heater should be the first step as you can save on your electric bill and increase the value of your home, if you are a little bit handy with plumbing you can even make your own.  The same goes for adding solar panels to your house, the savings on the electric bill and tax credits will more than pay for the system and it is an investment that will make your home more valuable when the time comes to sell.  The biggest polluter of our air and oceans is you car.  The electric car is the future of our transportation, might as well move to the future as soon as you can – don’t buy another new, gas powered car!   If you just have to buy something now and are not ready to go electric then buy a used gas hog – don’t take the responsibility of putting another gas-hog on the road.   If you buy a solar charging station for your electric car you can drive the rest of your life for free.  No more gas bills for a lifetime, you can save a lot of money there and save our reefs at the same time!

The other problem of local, land based pollution entering the ocean which is causing a real problem for our reefs as the decline of west coast Maui reefs and the reefs north of Keahole Point on the Big Island shows.  Soil sediments cover the coral and literally smother them in a mud coating, fertilizers encourage the growth of macroalgae which coral can’t cope with so decline (see the photo of Maalaea Reef above for the effect of macroalgae on coral), and pollutants and the many chemicals we use, many are out-right poisons and none are good for the health of reefs or humans.  If you live within a mile or two of the ocean stop using fertilizers on your lawns and golf courses, grass doesn’t need that much help to grow in Hawaii and the fertilizers are causing a real problem.  Construction causes a problem with sediments as the disturbed soil is easily washed away and into the ocean.  Now that we are seeing increased rain and much more flash-flooding the problem of sediments entering the ocean is even more of a problem.  If you are doing a construction project try to do as the highway builders are doing and put run-off barriers around your project to block the flow of run-off from your project and try to get the land covered with grass, buildings, or parking lot as soon as you can – anything to stop the loss of soil from your property.  All the other pollutants you are using please dispose of them properly, when you live on an island everything you dump on the ground will eventually make its way into the ocean.  The county has programs to take in your hazardous chemicals and dispose of them properly – please take advantage of this service.

We are now at the tipping point where further increases in CO2 will cause the loss of our coral reefs, if we start taking actions to reduce our reliance on carbon based energy now we can turn it around.  We also need to look at how our actions on land are affecting coral and fish populations and take strong actions to stop that.  As it stands today, us folks living in Hawaii are the greatest danger to the health of our ocean eco-systems and we are the only ones that can save them.

In addition, I would suggest that you study the topic of sustainable agriculture even if you are not interested in farming or gardening.  Learn the principals of a sustainable lifestyle and apply that learning to your life, your job, and your work – if we are to have any kind of life for future generations building a sustainable economy, agriculture, and life style is the only solution that will actually work.

References used in the preparation of this report:

All about coral:

Coral Reef Bleaching:

Coral makes clouds to keep climate sweet:

Coral Reefs Under Rapid Climate Change and Ocean Acidification:

The economic value of coral reefs to Hawaii – on page 9 of:

Decline of West Maui reefs:

The State of Coral Reef Ecosystems of the Main Hawaiian Islands:

Long-Term Monitoring of Coral Reefs in the Main Hawaiian Islands (primarily covers the West, Big Island coast, good survey of trends in fish and coral populations):

Ocean Apocalypse – A video presentation of the many problems facing the oceans world-wide. Kind of a long and depressing presentation but if you care about the future of our oceans and Hawaii’s reefs it is recommended viewing.

Alaska crab fishery in danger:

Sea Butterflies (Pteropods) are the oceans “Canary in the Coal Mine:

Southern Ocean acidification, A tipping point at 450-ppm atmospheric CO2:

Sea level rise and effect on Hawaii:

Regional Decline of Coral Cover in the Indo-Pacific:

Deoxygenation in warming oceans:

Hawaii’s Climate Change and Marine Disease Local Action Strategy:

On Sustainable Agriculture  ,

A look at the personal economics of going solar to meet your energy needs:

Hawaii– Incentives/Policies for renewables and energy efficiency:

Puna is fighting back after a triple whammy

By Cory Harden

  1. A geothermal release while residents were trapped in their homes by near-hurricane conditions and blocked roads, after trees and power lines fell. Monitors for hazardous gases went down, because the power went off and there was no backup generator. Several residents report falling asleep for hours, then feeling unwell for days afterwards. The release could have been prevented by simply shutting off the geothermal plant before the storm.
  2. Storm effects–damage to homes, blocked roads, and loss of power and communication (for weeks, in places).
  3. A quickly scheduled election that drew an unsuccesful lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union–some roads were still blocked and people were still struggling to meet basic needs.

Sierra Club supports a hard look at geothermal safety, and dealing with the invasive albizia trees that caused many of the road blockages. (Many albizias remain.)
Moku Loa group supports the efforts of activists who have intervened in the effort by the Thirty Meter Telescope corporation and the University of Hawaii to expand the industrial footprint on the unique geologic landscape and fragile habitat of endemic flora and fauna of the Mauna Kea summit area. Judicial review by the Third Circuit and Intermediate Court of Appeal are pending. Meanwhile the effects of climate change, more pronounced at higher elevations, have led to drier conditions, impacting wekiu bug populations and the water level at Lake Waiau.

The Kealakehe Wastewater Treatment Plant in Kona has been dumping sewage into a hole in the ground for twenty years where it then goes into the ocean causing pollution. A recent federal decision won by Sierra Club and other groups on Maui ruled such discharges are illegal. So, Sierra Club is looking to end the illegal discharges by Hawaii County and go back into court and force recycling of the treated effluent which has always been the plan.

The County is forging ahead with plans for a garbage incinerator, despite major concerns. It may burn material that could be recycled or used for compost and mulch. The County would have to pay if it didn’t produce enough garbage to burn–as O’ahu just paid. Risks from toxic smoke and ash would have to be dealt with.

Taxpayers would be locked into a 30-year contract for a $125 million project–probably the biggest in County history. Sierra Club continues to publicize concerns and support zero waste, and partnered with Recycle Hawai’i on candidate forums highlighting these issues


By Nelson Ho


Candidate Bios for Executive Committee Election

Candidates are listed in alphabetic order – Members should vote for 4 candidates.

Chandelle Asuncion
(none submitted)

Jim Buck
I am a long time Sierra Club member. During the 90s, I telephoned members in my district urging them to email their reps regarding bills in session that were good or bad for theenvironment. I’m a retired small business oriented CPA that is used to doing minor legal research, testifying in court and applying common sense to decision making. I’m currently an outings leader and just want to helpout wherever I’m needed and feel comfortable. I’d like to help the group start up our own website and get more involved in preserving and restoring Hawaii.

Joy Cash (AKA Sada Anand Kaur)
Began her social activism in college in 1967, in South Texas, with Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers & Anti-Viet Nam War protests. Is advocate of human consciousness, having practiced & taught yoga & meditation for over 40 yrs. Owned/managed a holistic health clinic for 10 yrs. Joined Women Occupy SD & Occupellas San Diego in in Fall of 2010. Was chairperson for major national Anti-GMO/MONSANTO action in San Diego. Is a founding member of Occupellas Hawaii Island, member of GMO Free Hawaii & active participant at Hawaii County council & committees. (including Energy & Environmental Management committees)

Nelson Ho
Nelson Ho has been a Big Island environmentalist activist since 1982. He has been in the forefront of issues like geothermal energy development in the Hawaiian Rainforest and the proper protection of the vulnerable natural and cultural resources on the top of Mauna Kea. Luckily he keeps sane by going on multi-night camping outings.

Steve Holmes
Steve Holmes is the former Energy and Sustainability Coordinator for the City and County of Honolulu. He won the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Champion Award in 2002. He was a state energy analyst in Hilo, a Park Ranger at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and Hawaii Chapter Conservation Chair of the Sierra Club.

Diana Miller
I am interested in serving on the board for Sierra Club’s Moku Loa Group. I retired from the USAF in 2004 and have lived on the island of Hawaii since that time. Currently, I work as a park ranger at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and as a substitute teacher at the local schools. I have been a member of many environmental organizations over the years to include Sierra Club, Earthjustice, Greenpeace, National Wildlife Federation and Nature Conservancy, to name a few. I am very interested helping with the preservation of our unique and fragile environment on Hawaii island.

Janice Palma-Glennie
As a Hawai`i resident for over 30 years, I’ve been deeply involved in several community-based campaigns aimed at protecting the natural, cultural, recreational, and social resources of Hawai`i island. I helped spearhead the campaigns to protect `O`oma from development — two decades of fighting which finally led to the protection 200 acres of coastal, conservation land acquired through Hawai`i County’s 2% land fund. I’m currently a Surfrider Foundation Kona Kai Ea ExCom member and have served on the ExCom of Moku Loa group in the past.

Nadine Robertson
(none submitted)

Debbie Ward
Debbie Ward is an active member of the conservation committee, and has served on the MLG excomm several times during her 32 years of membership, as chair, program chair and treasurer. Retired from UH, she farming organic fruit in upper Puna. She hopes to recruit and encourage new active members.

Fundraising Success

Fundraising Success
Mahalo to the Moku Loa Group members and shoppers who made the Maku‘u Farmers Market Rummage Sale on October 6, 2013 a success! Watch for another rummage sale in February, with more information to be posted on MLG’s website and Facebook page. We are looking for donations of household, camping, furniture, sporting goods, books, electronics, kitchen, etc. items for the rummage sale.

Conservation Update

Conservation Presentation
Hear about how the Mauna Kea Forest Restoration Project and the State of Hawaii are working to preserve and protect the habitat of the endangered palila on Wednesday, February 12 at Thelma Parker Library in Waimea (7:00 p.m). The most recent palila count is approximately 1700 birds. In the past year, the State of Hawaii and the Mauna Kea Forest Restoration Project have built fences and removed 1800 sheep from Mauna Kea. The State is finally acting to fulfill requirements of previous lawsuits. Let’s support them!

Dr. Renate Gassmann, Ph.D., DVM 1946-2013
Hawai’i conservationists recently lost a respected advocate, scientist, and activist, Dr. Renate Gassmann. She and her husband worked many years at Pohakuloa on Hawai‘i Island and Olinda on Maui with the ‘alala and other endangered birds. She was a long-time member of Maui Group Sierra Club, Audubon and Hawai’i Conservation Council. On Maui, she took birders into the TNC Waikamoi Reserve to view rare birds like the Maui parrotbill as part of the birding tour company that she founded. More recently, she participated in a number of service and hike outings on the Big Island and shared her birding expertise.

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.

Geothermal Update

by Cory Harden, Conservation Co-chair

Geothermal protections are being dismantled, new projects are forging ahead, and many risks from ongoing operations at Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) remain unabated.

For years, geothermal projects were limited to designated subzones, and county planning commissions could deny geothermal permits. But since the State passed Act 97 two years ago, geothermal wells can be drilled anywhere and counties can’t stop them.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs recently voted to invest in a consortium formed by Innovations Development Group (IDG) to bid on building a geothermal plant. Kealoha Estate offered IDG about 400 acres in Pohoiki for the plant–near the only safe ocean access in Puna.

Community protection plans have not kept pace with expansion plans. PGV’s history includes one blowout, one near-blowout, and a pentane explosion and fire. Few lessons have been learned, as an accidental release of hydrogen sulfide from PGV demonstrated this past March. Hawaii County Civil Defense emergency response teams measured the hydrogen sulfide levels at nearly 100 times higher than the levels recorded by PGV monitors. A voluntary evacuation center opened—but the evacuation route passed through a high-exposure area.

Last spring, residents reported losing sleep during 100 days of 24-hour noise from PGV’s drilling of a new well. Soon after, 25 homeowners applied for relocation assistance.

Sierra Club, with Puna Pono Alliance, has contacted DOH, Civil Defense, and County Planning, seeking ways to protect citizens from the hazards of ongoing and future geothermal operations.

Complete Streets Training

by Malie Larish, Treasurer

During my childhood in Hilo, Hawai‘i, I depended almost completely on cars for transportation.  After moving to Bellingham, Washington to attend college, I was able to meet all of my mobility needs using public transit, my bicycle, and my own two feet. I was delighted with how this car-free lifestyle connected me with the outdoors and my community on a daily basis.

When I moved back to Hawai‘i, I was chagrined to have to rely on a car so heavily again, but I was also motivated to promote the development of car-free mobility for our islands. This prompted me to attend the Sierra Club’s Complete Streets Training this past December in Minnesota.

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.


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.

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


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

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.


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

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?