Environment

News stories regarding Molokai’s outdoor environment

Brush Fire Threatened Home

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

Six brush fires blazed on Molokai last week, five of which were small but deemed of suspicious cause on Tuesday, Sept. 27. A larger fire burned 10 acres near the Molokai Airport two days later, coming dangerously close to a home.

On Tuesday around 5:45 p.m. Molokai firefighters responded to four separate brush fires, all around 200 to 300 yards apart, along the Maunaloa Highway near the Seventh Day Adventist Church.  A fifth small fire was found one mile up the highway near Kamakou Forest Preserve Road.

According to the Maui Fire Department, the largest fire was 20 by 50 feet in size.…

More Rooftop Solar Coming for Molokai

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

By Catherine Cluett Pactol

Molokai is at the forefront of the country’s renewable energy future, and residents got a chance to talk story with their utility company, Maui Electric, ask questions and share what’s important to them last week.

With more than 100 Molokai customers waiting to install rooftop solar, photovoltaic (PV) challenges took a front seat at the discussion. Those residents had filed applications under the Net Energy Metering (NEM) program — which pays customers the retail electric rate for excess energy generated from their panels — before the program was discontinued to new applicants last October.

Jamie Cook, Maui Electric’s director of renewable energy projects, said 107 applicants are currently waiting in the queue to be approved — the same number that were waiting in March of this year.…

Ferry Shutdown Imminent

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

By Catherine Cluett Pactol

The Molokai ferry, operated by Sea Link of Hawaii, Inc., is on the verge of ending its services.  Claiming falling ridership, loss of revenue and increased operating costs, company President and Captain Dave Jung has filed a request for shutdown with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). He said if the request is not granted, he will be forced to declare bankruptcy.

“Ridership has really gone down in last year,” said Jung, pointing to cheap air flights scooping up their passengers. “Today we’re lucky if we get 20 people a run.”

The 100-foot, three-story boat can hold up to 150 passengers, and Jung previously said in 2013, the service suffered $108,000 in losses and then $288,000 in 2014.…

Coastal Cleanup Removes Tons of Trash

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Coastal Cleanup Removes Tons of Trash

A collective, multi-organization effort to removing marine debris from Molokai’s north shore this summer resulted in removing 16 tons of litter from the island. Volunteers from Department of Land and Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy, National Park Service and Sustainable Coastlines work to collect rubbish. Photo courtesy of Hawaii DLNR

DLNR News Release

Scattered across an expansive coastline of valleys, sea cliffs, boulders, and beaches, is a problem that affects everyone.

“It doesn’t matter the name you give it, marine debris, ocean litter, coastal trash, or where it came from,” said Molokai’s James Espaniola of the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).…

Third Time a Charm for Mo`omomi Cleanup

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

Third Time a Charm for Mo`omomi Cleanup

Kama Han, center left, and Mac Poepoe work to cut off fishing gear while Kahi Pacarro, center, and young assistants look on during the Mo’omomi beach cleanup. Photo by Leo Azambuja

By Léo Azambuja, Special to The Molokai Dispatch

Molokai residents and volunteers picked up thousands of pounds of trash in the third annual Molokai Cleanup at Mo`omomi Beach Aug. 13. It was a considerable increase in weight collected compared to both previous cleanups at this pristine beach on the island’s northwest coast.

“This year, there was way more (trash),” said Kahi Pacarro, executive director of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, the nonprofit organization that put the event together.…

NextEra Electric Merger Rejected

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

By Catherine Cluett Pactol

A $4.3 billion merger deal between Hawaiian Electric Companies and Florida-based NextEra Energy was rejected last week by the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Many Molokai residents, along with others around the state, had raised concerns about the merger and what it could mean for Hawaii’s energy future. Commissioners of the PUC shared many of those concerns in the decision they issued last Friday.

Commissioners based their rejection on two major factors: whether the merger was in the public interest, and if the utility company was fit and able to perform the service currently offered. The PUC identified five major areas of concern: 1) benefits to ratepayers; 2) risks to ratepayers; 3) Applicants’ clean energy commitments; 4) the proposed Change of Control’s effect on local governance; and 5) the proposed Change of Control’s effect on competition in local energy markets.…

Preventing Zika Infection on Molokai

Friday, July 8th, 2016

By Catherine Cluett Pactol

Mosquito-borne viruses are making headlines lately, and while Zika hasn’t yet made an appearance in Hawaii, the state has been identified as one of the country’s higher risk areas for the disease. According to Dr. Lorrin Pang, an MD with the Hawaii Department of Health’s Maui District Health Office, Zika has reached “crisis proportions” in many countries, and he visited Molokai to educate residents on the disease and preventative measures.

Zika, pronounced “zeeka,” is a virus carried by mosquitos and while many viruses carry nasty symptoms, Pang said 80 percent of the time, a Zika-infected person won’t even know they’re sick.…

A Bird in the Hand: Volunteers band shearwater shorebirds

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

A Bird in the Hand: Volunteers band shearwater shorebirds

Photo by Catherine Cluett Pactol

By Catherine Cluett Pactol

As dusk fell on the Mo`omomi coastline, silhouetted birds began to swoop over the shore and across the grasses and native plants of the dunes. Donning their headlamps, a dozen biologists, conservationists and volunteers stood by, waiting for the birds to settle. Then, in the pitch blackness and gusty wind, the group broke into small teams and vanished into the darkness.

Brandishing their flashlights and tools, the teams searched the ground for piles of sand and holes that would indicate a burrow. The inhabitants pf the holes are Wedge-tailed Shearwater, or `Ua`u kani, an indigenous shorebird with gray-brown and white feathers, a long, hooked beak and a wingspan of more than three feet.…

35 Years of Agriculture

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

35 Years of Agriculture

A recent Hawaii Dept. of Agriculture (DOA) land use study shows dramatic changes in agriculture land use in the last 35 years, both on Molokai and statewide. Most of Molokai’s agriculture is in the Ho`olehua area, on DHHL, state and Molokai Ranch land. According to the DOA report, the largest ag land users in 2015 — farming about 2,300 acres — are seed companies that primarily lease from Molokai Ranch. Prior to 1980, many Ho`olehua homesteaders leased their land for pineapple production, while some of that land today is being used to grow diversified crops like sweet potatoes, dryland taro, vegetables, macadamia nuts, bananas and papayas, according to the study.…

Unresolved Solar Applications Pile Up

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

 

More than 100 applications to install rooftop solar on Molokai remain pending at the hands of Maui Electric, according to a company representative. This delay as been reprimanded by Public Utilities Commission (PUC) Chair Randall Iwase, who issued a statement last week expressing dissatisfaction in the holdups on Molokai to approve and connect new rooftop solar.

“I am disappointed with several recent events that affect new renewable energy projects in the Hawaiian Electric Companies… which may also work against the goals of lowering electric rates for all customers and achieving 100 percent renewable energy by 2045,” he wrote.

In February of last year, Iwase and the president of Hawaiian Electric Companies (HECO) signed a letter of agreement stating in part that “the policy is that the HECO Companies have an affirmative duty to interconnect a potential customer pursuant to existing statutory requirements, commission orders, and the utility’s tariff where that project does not affect circuit or system level security and reliability.”

Iwase said he believes HECO and subsidiary Maui Electric may not be upholding their end of the agreement.…