(Environment Hawai`i editor Patricia Tummons has been reporting on Wespac since 1994. This commentary reflects her personal view. The photo shows the nameplate on the door of Simonds' personal office suite at the 2012 CCC meeting at the Mauna Lani resort.)
Enough is enough.
Enough travel, at taxpayer expense, to exotic destinations on the flimsiest of excuses.
Enough “complimentary” upgrades to swank hotel suites and first-class cabins. The bills may not reflect it, but someone (the taxpayer) is still paying.
Enough extravagant parties where no one will say who is footing the bill. C’mon, at least try to look like you’re sharing in our pain.
Enough with using federal funds to purchase the allegiance of people in underprivileged communities, in Hawai`i and across the Pacific, whom you then use to advance your own political agenda.
Kitty Simonds, I’m talking to you and your enablers:
- Folks at the National Marine Fisheries Service who are so worn down by your constant badgering that they no longer put up a fight;
- The members of the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council, who find it easier to float in your wake than to ask uncomfortable questions – about council expenditures and projects, about compensation, about your very suitability for the post you hold. The last two council members who challenged you – Peter Young and Laura Thielen – were not thanked for their efforts;
- Your large retinue of advisors, who provide the council with a scrim of scientific respectability.
Efforts by the Hawai`i County Council to outlaw aerial hunting of mouflon and sheep on Mauna Kea have been struck down by U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright.
Following a short hearing in Seabright's courtroom on April 8, he issued an order that will protect the state of Hawai`i and any of its contractors from prosecution by the county for violation of the ordinance adopted last year and intended to stop the aerial shoots.
Seabright found that a court-sanctioned agreement in 1998, specifying state actions to comply with an order to protect the endangered palila bird (Loxiodes bailleui), gave the state immunity against any efforts by county prosecutors to enforce the ordinance or a state law that prohibits shooting wildlife in flight -- a law that, in its 20 years of existence, has never been enforced.
The Environmental Protection Agency has entered into a consent decree with the group opposing the operation of a biomass-fueled power plant in Pepe`ekeo, on the Hamakua Coast of the Big Island.
The consent agreement was filed with the Honolulu federal court on March 8. It calls for the EPA to issue a decision responding to the petition of Preserve Pepe`ekeo Health and Environment that was filed in August 2011. The petition asked the EPA to find that the plant’s operation will violate the Clean Air Act and to void the permit to operate issued by the Hawai`i Department of Health.
Under terms of the consent decree, the EPA is to issue a finding on the petition within 30 days – that is, by April 8.
Read the consent decree here:
An error in the Commerce Appropriations Act for 2013 could curb the catch of bigeye tuna by Hawai`i-based longline vessels just as the high-demand holiday season starts up.
As readers of Environment Hawai`i may recall, in November 2011, Congress exempted the longliners from the catch limit of 3,763 metric tons imposed on them by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. It did this by allowing portions of their catch of bigeye to be attributed to U.S. territories in the Pacific – American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. That quota exemption expired on December 31, 2012.
When Congress passed the 2013 appropriations act in March, it inserted language apparently intended to push the date back a year, to the end of this calendar year. However, the final language in the act amends the wrong section of the earlier legislation – referring to Section 113(b)(3) – instead of Section 113(c) of the original bill.
In the days when Sen. Daniel K. Inouye chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee, it is unlikely such an error would have made it out of the committee draft. Now, however, Hawai`i fishermen have no such staunch ally on the key committee. Mike Tosatto, administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service office in Honolulu, said his agency was aware of the glitch before the bill passed Congress.
If Congress does nothing to fix the error by the time the longliners meet their WCPFC quota, they will either have to stop fishing for bigeye or will have to set their lines in the more distant waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean, where catches of tunas are regulated by the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission.
There is one more scenario: the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council could amend its fishery management plan for the Western Pacific region to allow for assignment of bigeye catches to the territories, the Secretary of Commerce could approve the amendment, and the implementing regulations would have to take effect.
The likelihood of that happening before the end of the year? Go fish!
The Hawai`i Department of Transportation has been notified by the U.S. Department of Justice that it may soon be indicted for criminal violations of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Endangered Species Act.
On December 20, DOJ attorneys informed the Department of Transportation that its lights are causing unlawful takes of birds, sea turtles, and moths protected by the two laws. According to a memo to the state’s chief procurement officer from state attorneys, “Although counsel for DOJ stated that the investigation is statewide, the priority is on O`ahu, where DOJ claims a considerable number of wedge-tailed shearwaters … have been supposedly injured by DOT lights.”
The DOJ has told the state that it can enter into a plea agreement or face a criminal trial.
The Attorney General’s office, representing the DOT, filed a request with the state procurement office on January 22, seeking authority to engage the services of a law firm with experience in this area at a cost of up to $150,000, without going through the competitive bidding process. (To read the AG's memo, click here.)
Susie Yong, a dear friend and longtime office administrator, has died. She passed away the night of January 10 at her home in Hilo.
Susie had just turned 63. We celebrated our birthdays together just last week. Although her “official” birthday was in March, she was actually born, in China, in January.
Her work at Environment Hawai`i was part-time. She also worked, full-time, at Abundant Life, a natural food store in downtown Hilo.
Susie is survived by two daughters and three grandchildren, all living in Massachusetts. She had been planning to visit them in March.
We often spoke of the many things we still hoped to accomplish in this life. A trip to Paris, finding more time for her sketching, going back to China – all were on Susie’s bucket list.
Those of you who have called our office may remember Susie as the ever-courteous and accommodating voice. She was that, and so much more.
We grieve for her loss.
Malaekahana, targeted for large-scale development.
(Photo: Leslie Kuba)
Commission Approves Ko`olau Loa Plan Despite Questions Over Housing Figures
Anyone reading the Ko`olau Loa Sustainable Communities Plan has good reason to be puzzled. Population projections and growth trends seem to shift on a whim, giving residents little reason to place their trust in the Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting, the plan’s author.
Perhaps the agency’s new director, George Atta, will set things right. In the meantime, reporter Teresa Dawson reports on all that’s wrong.
Also in this issue:
- We deliver our findings after a year-long investigation into a meeting of the nation’s fishery managers at the Mauna Lani resort (you'll also want to check out the commentary on Kitty Simonds and Wespac in the column on the left side of this page);
- We report on the findings of fact approved by the Land Board in the contested case over the Thirty Meter Telescope;
- Our regular Board Talk column leads off with the puzzle of why the state is writing off a debt of nearly a quarter-million dollars, the legacy of a $600-a-month revocable permit;
- In our “New & Noteworthy” section, read about the feral cats caught red-handed in `ua`u nests and the federal judge’s order that gives the state the green light to continue its aerial hunts of sheep on Mauna Kea.
MORE THAN ONE THIRD OF HAWAI`I LONGLINE CATCH IS DISCARDED
If you’re not alarmed by the fact that the Hawai`i longline fleet is catching more lancetfish than ahi, you’re just not paying attention. And yet the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council presses ever onward, seeking to develop bigeye fisheries in areas of the Pacific Ocean that are under even greater fishing pressure than the waters around Hawai`i.
Our round-up of highlights from the recent Wespac meeting continues with updates on the council's petition to de-list the Hawaiian green sea turtle, its concerns over accidental hookings of false killer whales, and its attempts to interfere with the expansion of the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. (Photo shows a reefer vessel in Pago Pago harbor, waiting to unload its cargo of tuna.)
Also, in an exclusive you'll read only here, check out the special earmark -- oops, "congressionally designated item" -- giving nearly $3 million to help Hawai`i longliners deal with (read: circumvent) international quotas on bigeye tuna catches. (An update to this appears to the left, in our EH-Xtra column.)
And if you’re not worried about climate change, you’re in good company. As we report our April issue, state agencies don’t seem to be bothered by the prospect of rising seas – bothered enough, at least, to do any serious planning to address it. Our report this month, which looks at Department of Transportation projects, is the first in what will be an occasional series examining the state’s vulnerability to rising sea levels and storm surges.
Finally, if you find all of this discouraging, take heart by considering the progress being made to restore some of Hawai`i’s most threatened dry forest ecosystems. It’s an uphill and uncertain struggle, to be sure, but you have to give a shout-out to the dedicated folks on the front lines.
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Judge Halts Work at `Aina Le`a and Orders Supplemental EIS
Questions over the legality and legitimacy of the `Aina Le`a development on the western side of the Big Island have now come twice before Judge Elizabeth Strance.
The first time, she sided with the developer, finding that the state Land Use Commission had dealt with it unfairly and had violated its constitutional rights.
The second time, she looked a bit more skeptically on the claims of the developer. In the end, she determined it had tried to pull the wool over the eyes of the Hawai`i County planning director by failing to disclose an agreement that substantially changed the scope of the environmental impact statement prepared for its project.
Our cover article is one of three this month that look at controversial land development projects in Maui and Hawai`i counties. How these play out will have enormous consequences for the most fundamental pillars of the state’s land use regulations.
This month's issue also includes articles on invasive species and the Hawaiian Electric Company's feed-in-tariff program.
Our regular “Board Talk” column details state Land Board discussions regarding a proposal to exchange private land for the industrial complex at Sand Island, proposed amendments to a development agreement for renewable energy at Campbell Industrial Park, and management issues at Kealakekua Bay.
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