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Ka`u News Briefs Friday, March 28, 2014

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`Ohelo plants pop up in an area of Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park where volunteers cleared invasive Himalayan ginger through ongoing Stewardship at the Summit program. Photo from NPS
THE STATE SENATE COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE has given unanimous support to the reappointment of Richard Ha to the Ag Board. Ha, owner of Hamakua Springs Country Farms, supports geothermal energy as a way to lower electricity bills and genetically modified crops as a tool for farmers to create food security in Hawai`i.
      Testimony from Ka`u reflected the statewide trend supporting Ha’s renomination. 
      John Cross, manager of Ka`u lands for the Olson Trust, testified, “You cannot find a more fitting person for this position on the Ag Board. I, along with Mr. Edmund C. Olson and his Trust subsidiaries, strongly support Mr. Ha's nomination.”
Michelle Galimba
      Ka`u rancher and Ag Board member-at-large Michelle Galimba wrote, “Richard is a thought and action leader in the agricultural community. His interest in and advocacy for clean energy initiatives are invaluable.”
      Randy Cabral, orchard manager of Royal Hawaiian Orchards, wrote that Ha “has been a successful farmer for over 35 years and a strong supporter of small farmers. In addition, he is very much involved with various community organizations.”
      Chris Manfredi, former president of Ka`u Farm Bureau and current president of the statewide Farm Bureau, wrote that Ha’s “widely shared opinions on peak oil, alternative energy solutions and profitable (read sustainable) farming are above reproach. He’s just a smart, selfless, innovative, progressive and experienced farmer who understands, respects and knows how to interpret science and technology.”
      Former Ag Department chief Russell Kokubun, of Volcano, testified, “Hamakua Springs is a working model for successful agriculture, and Richard has always demonstrated his willingness to share his experience and knowledge with anyone who wishes to engage. Having known Richard for over 30 years and having served with him on the BOA, I can say unequivocally that he is an honorable person who has a deep commitment to Hawai`i. which is reflected in his dedication to the agricultural industry in our state.”
Russell Kokubun
      Jeff McCall, of Wood Valley, said Ha is a “longtime farmer and a great representative of Hawai`i agriculture – very innovative and forward thinking.”
      Lynn Hamilton, of Pahala, wrote that Ha “sees food security as a priority and understands the connection of agriculture and energy. Lowering food cost for both the farmer and the customer is most important. The state is fortunate to have such a qualified person willing to give his time and talents to his fellow citizens.”
      Much of the testimony opposing Ha’s reappointment mentioned his support of GMOs. Hawaiian activist Walter Ritte, of Moloka`i, wrote that the board “is already over-populated with GMO supporters and is losing credibility as a neutral body. This is the same trend that is happening at the national level of the ‘revolving door.’”
      This and other testimony is available at capitol.hawaii.gov. Bill number is GM598.
      Ha’s nomination now goes to the full Senate for a vote.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

KAU’S SEN. RUSSELL RUDERMAN, who had launched an email campaign fighting Richard Ha’s renomination to the state Ag Board, said that, after a meeting with Ha, “we left laughing and shaking hands and vowing to work together” on areas of common ground, including food security and renewable energy. Ruderman told Tom Callis, of Hawai`i Tribune-Herald, that he was concerned Ha would support biotech over organic agriculture, but he now supports Ha’s renomination.
      Ha has written on his blog at hahaha.hamakuasprings.com that he is in favor of organic, hydroponic, conventional, big farmers and small farmers, saying, “We need to find ways to coexist.”
      See hawaiitribune-herald.com.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

Mina Morita
MINA MORITA, CHAIR OF HAWAI`I PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION, will continue in her position “on a holdover basis beyond June 30, 2014 when her term ends,” Gov. Neil Abercrombie has announced. “We are at a very critical juncture in developing our clean energy future, and the Public Utilities Commission needs stability to continue to address many of the important regulatory issues before it,” Abercrombie said. 
      The decision follows reports that Abercrombie would perhaps replace her after she and fellow commissioners Michael Champley and Lorraine Akiba rejected two proposed 20-year contracts between `Aina Koa Pono and Hawai`i Electric Light Co. AKP planned to build a refinery above Pahala to make biofuel for HELCO from feedstock grown in Ka`u.
      Addressing accusations that Morita and her husband have illegal vacation rentals on conservation property, Abercrombie said, “At the present time, Chair Morita has business before the Board of Land and Natural Resources, which must be addressed. She will continue to serve in the position while these issues are being resolved.”
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

HAWAI`I DEPARTMENT OF LAND & NATURAL RESOURCES is accelerating forest protection to secure water supply. More than 140,000 acres of forest lands in Hawai`i are now being managed to conserve Hawai`i’s forests through funding provided by Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s “The Rain Follows the Forest” Watershed Initiative. That number will increase to more than 480,000 acres by the time projects currently funded are completed.
DLNR's The Rain Follows the Forest program conserves
forests to secure water supply.
      The administration’s goal, announced is to double the acreage of protected watershed forests in a decade. Abercrombie said, “My administration is supportive of the state Legislature’s consideration of a funding source for the watershed protection.”
      Abercrombie has proposed in his supplemental budget $11 million for watershed protection in fiscal year 2015, as a continuation of his New Day plan to steward Hawai`i’s natural resources.
      Forests protect Hawai`i’s fresh water sources as Hawai`i’s climate becomes hotter and drier. “Changing climate and species invasion are threatening Hawai`i’s fresh water supplies,” said Dr. Tom Giambelluca, a professor of geography at University of Hawai`i at Manoa who specializes in Hawai`i’s climate. “Forests are a major part of the water equation because they intercept water from the clouds and reduce direct runoff. The types of forests also matter,” he said. “A forest of invasive strawberry guava trees can evaporate 27 percent more water than native `ohi`a forests. When the native forests are replaced by more water-thirsty invasive species, large amounts of water can be lost over millions of acres.”
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

Jo Caron
AT AN ECSTATIC DANCE WORKSHOP Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Ocean View, Jo Caron guides participants exploring the Five Rhythms of Gabrielle Roth. No dance experience is necessary. $35 suggested donation. Call 443-6993 to register and for directions.
 
GREEN SAND COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION has invited Ha`ao Springs & Mountain House Agricultural Water Cooperative to give an informational presentation on its project.
Invasive Himalayan ginger
Photo from NPS
      At Green Sand Community Park on Saturday, April 12 at 2 p.m., Bill Savage, member and director on the co-op, will discuss bringing irrigation water from mauka to makai. Ka`u’s Council member Brenda Ford will be in attendance, and light pupus and beverages will be served. 
      For more information, see haaosprings.org or call 936-0141.
VOLUNTEERS CAN HELP PROTECT the Hawaiian ecosystem from invasive, non-native plant species through Stewardship at the Summit programs in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. Stewardship at the Summit begins at 9 a.m. and ends at noon on April 5, 12, 18, 23 and 30; May 9, 17, 23, and 30; and June 6, 13, 20, and 27. Meet project leaders Paul and Jane Field at Kilauea Visitor Center at 9 a.m. Wear sturdy hiking shoes and long pants. Bring a hat, raingear, day pack, snacks and water. Gloves and tools are provided. No advance registration is required, and there is no cost to participate, but park entrance fees apply. 
      Within the last year, volunteers have restored more than 15 acres of native rainforest within the national park. Countless Himalayan ginger, faya, strawberry guava, and other invasive, non-native plants that threaten the native understory near the summit of Kilauea volcano have been removed. In their place, once-shaded `ama`u and hapu`u tree ferns have re-emerged, and pa`iniu, kawa`u and other important native plants are returning to the stewardship plots.
      “We welcome first-time visitors, repeat volunteers and residents alike. It’s always a fun and rewarding way to spend a few hours,” said volunteer project leader Paul Field. “We supply the tools, you supply the energy to help keep the beautiful Hawaiian rainforest intact and thriving.”

SUPPORT OUR SPONSORS AT PAHALAPLANTATIONCOTTAGES.COM AND KAUCOFFEEMILL.COM. KA`U COFFEE MILL IS OPEN SEVEN DAYS A WEEK.





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