Channel: The Kaʻū Calendar News Briefs, Hawaiʻi Island
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Ka`u News Briefs Sunday, May 10, 2015

Preserving Ka`u's agricultural lands was the topic of a Ka`u Community Development Plan focused discussion yesterday.
Photo by Geneveve Fyvie
STRATEGIES FOR PRESERVING KA`U’S AGRICULTURAL AND COASTAL LANDS for this and future generations were center stage at public meetings on the Ka`u Community Development Plan yesterday at Na`alehu Community Center. 
      One objective of the CDP is to preserve prime and other viable ag lands and enhance viewscapes that exemplify Ka`u’s rural character. The CDP identifies urban areas that preserve surrounding ag lands and establishes firm urban growth boundaries. It prohibits rezones that would increase residential density in agricultural areas. It also guides expansion of lands held in public trust, including ag conservation easements.
      One of the challenges identified for farmers and ranchers is limited land tenure. County planner Ron Whitmore reviewed planning tools designed to help farmers come up with leases or ownership strategies for land security. Included were strategies to put farmers in a position that would be secure enough to allow banks to lend money for farming enterprises.
Ka`u CDP calls for using ag lands for ag.
      Several members of the coffee industry were present, including growers who built Ka`u Coffee farms at Moa`ula and Pear Tree over the last two decades but find themselves with no long-term leases where their coffee is grown. The land is currently for sale. Should the land be sold and subdivided with housing allowed, high prices could preclude most Ka`u Coffee farmers from buying their plots though some have said they would like to buy their farms.
      Hawai`i Farm Bureau President Chris Manfredi brought up the idea that Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions on farm property could preserve substantial acreage for agriculture with houses built by new owners on only a small area of the land.
      Whitmore mentioned a possible planning tool where ag properties could accommodate small farms, with parcels leased out, without the possibility of building houses on them. This could keep farmland out of the speculative housing market with leases secure enough to allow financing for ag.
      Another option would be to seek private and public funding to buy ag land to preserve it under some kind of ag park or cooperative arrangement.
      Whitmore explained that any existing agricultural lot of record is already zoned for a farm dwelling, farm labor housing, farm buildings and such structures as mills and commercial kitchens for manufacturing of farm products. Ag parcels are also available for alternative energy projects, ag tourism and open area recreational use.
      He said oversight for tax breaks aimed at keeping land in agriculture needs to be improved as does the method by which the county ensures that farm dwellings on farmlands are being used by farmers rather than gentleman estates.
      Regarding proposed land use changes on ag properties coming before government decision makers, Whitmore said that the “decision is based on what the current owner pitches” and that it is very difficult to hold them to it once permission to subdivide or otherwise allow additional housing on the land is granted.
      Another idea put forth was to look closely at state-owned parcels to establish ag parks.
      Ralph Lowell brought up the idea of issuing temporary dwelling permits, when needed, for farm labor.
      Whitmore noted that there is a large excess of buildable lots for housing in Ka`u, including the Pahala area. He said the reason to plan for concentrating housing in existing settlement areas includes affordability – infrastructure such as water and electricity are already developed there.
      Manfredi asked why more land was not planned for urban use in Pahala in the proposed CDP draft. Whitmore said planners did not see a demand for more and said that planners’ studies show that infilling could accommodate future needs. Manfredi said he could envision more land needed for housing in the long term and noted that it was recommended in the CDP draft to delete land along Hwy 11 on the Volcano side of Pahala from the General Plan for urban expansion.
     Whitmore presented maps showing existing agriculture in Ka`u. The entire draft Community Development Plan is available at libraries, community centers and online at kaucdp.info. Public comment online and by mail is welcomed.
      At another Ka`u CDP Focused Discussion this Tuesday at Discovery Harbour Community Center at 10 a.m., the topic is a proposed development there.
      See more on the Ka`u CDP draft meetings on ag and the coastline in tomorrow’s Ka`u News Briefs.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

DO YOU OWN NON-INDUSTRIAL PRIVATE forest land and want to restore on it to native forest habitat for threatened and endangered species? The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has federal funds to help landowners do this, and they are encouraged to apply. 
      NRCS partners with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to engage local and regional stakeholders in science-based collaborative, community-driven land management activities. Specifically, the partnership will focus on planning, prioritization, implementation and monitoring of non-industrial private forest lands. Funds are now available, as DLNR was Hawai`i’s first recipient of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.
      “We are very excited to partner with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to protect Hawai`i’s native forests,” said Suzanne Case, DLNR Chairperson. “These forests are critical to Hawai`i’s economy because they capture and supply our fresh water. Forests prevent erosion that muddies our coral reefs and fisheries and protect the native plants and animals unique to our islands.”
      “Now that the watershed boundaries have been identified, we look forward to this partnership in protecting and improving healthy forests across the islands,” said Bruce Petersen, NRCS Director for the Pacific Islands Area.
      Through the Farm Bill, funds are being provided from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Through EQIP, there will be an application, evaluation and ranking process to address resource concerns such as improving surface water, improving ground water quality, reducing soil erosion and increasing native forest habitat for threatened and endangered species.
      The deadline to apply for the RCPP Healthy Forest initiative is June 5. Only agricultural producers in the watershed partnership areas may apply for this RCPP Healthy Forest Initiative. Land enrolled in this initiative must meet EQIP eligibility.
      For more information, see www.pia.nrcs.usda.gov.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

Sen. Brian Schatz
A BIPARTISAN RESOLUTION RECOGNIZING contributions of tourism to the United States passed the Senate. Introduced by Sen. Brian Schatz and others, the resolution supports goals of National Travel and Tourism Week and acknowledges the important role travel and tourism play in boosting the U.S. economy. One out of every nine jobs in the U.S. depends on travel and tourism, and the industry supports 15 million jobs across the country. Schatz is a co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Tourism Caucus. 
      “Tourism and travel gives us the chance to share Hawai`i’s natural beauty and culture with the rest of the world,” Schatz said. “It’s not only a great way to share Hawai`i’s vibrant culture, it’s one of the most important sectors of our local economy, creating good jobs and supporting thousands of small businesses. I’m proud to join my colleagues to recognize the important role our visitor industry plays, and I look forward to continue working on policies that promote travel to Hawai`i and boost our local economy.”
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

SENIOR ID CARDS ARE AVAILABLE tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Pahala Housing Center and 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., Nā‘ālehu Community Center. For ages 60 and over. Call 928-3100 for more information.

KA`U RESIDENT DICK HERSHBERGER brings Hawaiian Volcano Observatory founder Thomas Jaggar to life every this and every other Tuesday during A Walk into the Past at 10 a.m., 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. Participants meet at Kilauea Visitor Center for a short walk to the Whitney Vault in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park.

See kaucalendar.com/KauCalendar_May2015.pdf.
See kaucalendar.com/Directory2015.pdf and

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