Channel: The Kaʻū Calendar News Briefs, Hawaiʻi Island
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Ka`u News Briefs Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The one home destroyed by fire Monday in Green Sands subdivision was vacant at the time. Photo by Daryl Lee
GREEN SANDS SUBDIVISION RESIDENTS are back in their homes and the fire that burned through the area is now 80 percent controlled, according to the county fire department.  The fire burned more than 15 acres, destroyed one vacant home and came close to burning other homes. At one house, flames reportedly spread under the floors and singed the house posts. A number of  residents are without water after the fire melted surface pipes that run along Ka`alu`alu Road from county meters near Hwy 11.
     The fire was apparently started by someone attempting to burn rubbish, who called the fire department to say the fire had raged out of control. Volunteer, county and Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park firefighters as well as private contractors with heavy equipment and water tankers helped to quiet the runaway fire, which was driven by strong winds. Helicopters were employed to drop water onto the fire.
Aftermath of the fire that destroyed this vacant home. Photo by Daryl Lee
     According to a county civil defense statement issued this morning, emergency personnel are working to extinguish the fire and will remain on scene throughout the day. All highways and major roadways remain open.  However, some roads within the subdivision are closed and limited to local traffic only.
    Due to the damage to residential water systems in the Green Sands Subdivision, a water tanker will be available at the Green Sands Park until 1 p.m. this afternoon for potable water needs. The Wai`ohinu water spigot is also open and operational for water needs. "With the improvement in fire conditions along the Ka`alu`alu Road residents who would like to repair their water lines and systems are approved and encouraged to do so," said the statement from Civil Defense.   
     The Red Cross has closed its shelter at Na`alehu Community Center with about two dozen people having reported there early Monday evening but leaving once roads were re-opened.
      Hawai`i County Red Cross Disaster Manager Barney Sheffield was quoted in the Hawai`i Tribune Herald saying, “the fire department did an amazing job. It’s really incredible we didn’t lose more houses with all the wind we had out there.” See hawaiitribune-herald.com.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

HAWAIIAN ELECTRIC INDUSTRIES shareholders failed to approve the company’s proposed merger with Florida-based NextEra Energy at a meeting yesterday. While approval requires 75 percent of shares, only 70 percent voted in favor of the merger.
Connie Lau
      Shareholders authorized the company to seek additional votes and reconvene on June 10 for another approval attempt. HEI President and CEO Connie Lau said 90 percent of votes received favored the merger, but the number of voters did not meet the minimum required by state law.
      The company is trying to reach out to investors who hold shares through mutual funds, pension plans and banks to gain additional favorable votes.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

MARCO MANGELSDORF, DIRECTOR of Hawai`i Island Energy Cooperative and president of ProVision Solar, explains why an energy co-op may be better than a private utility company on Hawai`i Island.
      “Imagine an electric utility company that’s not beholden to far-flung shareholders and instead is directly responsible to its local customers,” Mangelsdorf says. “Imagine that utility company being owned and controlled by the ratepayers, with its board of directors democratically elected from the community. Think one electric meter, one vote. Finally, imagine an electric company that actually sends its customers a check from time to time once certain financial objectives are reached.
      “Hard to imagine? It shouldn’t be because this has been the experience of residents of Kaua`i for more than 10 years since Kaua`i Island Utility Cooperative came into existence and purchased that island’s electric utility from Connecticut-based Citizens Communications Company in 2002.
      “Such a cooperative could be the future for Big Island residents as well, if we were to have the opportunity to convert Hawai`i Electric Light Co. to a member-owned and member-controlled co-op.
      “The Hawai`i Island Energy Cooperative came into existence earlier this year in response to the proposed purchase of Hawaiian Electric Industries by Florida-based NextEra Energy. HIEC, along with 28 others, is an intervenor on the HEI-NextEra merger docket before the Public Utilities Commission.
      “Now that the procedural schedule was decided, information requests and testimony will be flying as the commissioners, the consumer advocate and their staffs put together a body of knowledge and evidence that will allow a determination to be made on the fundamental question before them: Will NextEra’s proposed acquisition of the largest corporation in the state be in the public’s best interest?
Marco Mangelsdorf
      “While HIEC has taken the position of being neither for or against the purchase, there is the case to be made that it’s in the best interest of Big Island residents to consider the establishment of an energy cooperative. The goals and potential benefits include:
  • Local, democratic control of one of the most critical infrastructures and public institutions on the island, providing for direct ownership by the customers it serves, and direct election of the board of directors that governs the utility; 
  • Community-based and community-chosen priorities would serve as the basis for the co-op to work for the sustainable development of the island through policies accepted and supported by its members; 
  • Potentially lower electricity costs through tax-exempt status, access to lower cost financing, elimination of a return-on-equity component in electric rate structures, promotion of education, markedly improved energy efficiency programs and the accelerated adoption of appropriate alternative technologies; 
  • Greater energy independence and sustainability through a comprehensive and integrated approach to all energy-consuming sectors on the island. 
      “The fate of the merger will be determined in the months to come as the record is filled with facts, figures and testimony as the applicants and intervenors play out their strategies. The public and pundits also will weigh in at PUC-organized meetings across the islands. If the commissioners ultimately determine the transaction to be in the public’s best interests, approval of the deal very likely will be subject to stipulations and agreements that act as conditions to modify the purchase as proposed.
      “Whether the required changes and regulatory conditions will be acceptable to the HEI and NextEra boards will depend on how substantively and materially the proposed deal would be altered.
      “If and when the circumstances warrant the consideration of an energy cooperative taking root on Hawai`i Island, HIEC will be there at the table, raising our hand, ready to make a serious and credible pitch to allow us the extraordinary opportunity to demonstrate what can be done on our island on many different and innovative levels.”
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

Sens. Schatz and Hirono and Rep. Gabbard
represent Ka`u in the U.S. Congress
HAWAI`I’S U.S. CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION introduced legislation to reinstate Medicaid eligibility for Compact of Free Association migrants, which represents Ka`u’s large Marshallese population. 
      In 1996, Congress passed a law that made migrants from Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands ineligible for federal Medicaid dollars. Each year, the state spends an estimated $30 to $40 million to provide health care to these families. By making all COFA migrants eligible for Medicaid, the Restore Medicaid to Compact of Free Association Migrants Act requires the federal government to honor Compacts of Free Association and share the cost of providing health care. Restoring Medicaid eligibility for these compact migrants has been a priority of Hawai`i leaders for more than a decade.
      “In the history of our country, many migrant groups have had growing pains, and it is our duty as a nation of migrants and immigrants to welcome new people and their families to our communities,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono. “We must live up to the promise we made, and the federal government should pay its fair share to meet those commitments. Both Republicans and Democrats supported legislation to restore Medicaid eligibility to COFA migrants in the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform legislation that passed the U.S. Senate but died in the House. I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pursue this goal and uphold the promises we made in these Compacts.”
      Sen. Brian Schatz said, “Providing health care to compact migrants is not only a legal obligation, it is a moral obligation. Hawai`i has spent millions on health care for migrants to comply with the Compacts of Free Association. Our legislation will restore federal Medicaid funding so that the costs of providing critical health care to migrants is shared by the state and the federal government.”
      Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said, “This bill will right a wrong that has gone on for far too long. The federal government made a promise to these individuals, and it must uphold that commitment and provide Medicaid to COFA migrants from Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands.”
      The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, which passed the Senate earlier this year and was signed into law, continued Medicaid eligibility for COFA children and pregnant women.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

Nene feeds on naupaka kahakai. NPS photo by Janice Wei 
A MEETING FOR Red Cross volunteers and those interested in becoming volunteers takes place tomorrow at 7 p.m. at HOVE Road Maintenance Corp. office. For more information, call 929-9953. 

HAWAI`I VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK is expanding its 35th annual Cultural Festival to include biodiversity this year. At this free two-day festival, visitors of all ages will discover how native Hawaiians, as keen observers, lived closely to the land by embodying I ka nana no a iike principles that continue today. The Biodiversity and Cultural Festival will offer hands-on science and cultural exhibits, food, art and entertainment, plus the opportunity to meet individuals and organizations at the forefront of conservation, science and traditional Hawaiian culture. Explorers of all ages can enjoy the festival and “graduate” from Biodiversity University by participating in a variety of activities. The festival runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. No advance registration is required for the festival.


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

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