Malama O Puna Annual Report 2003

Projects, Programs and News

A Facelift for Lava Tree State Park: Lava Tree State Park has suffered from neglect due to under funding and under staffing for many years. The weeds took over, and newcomers thought they belonged there. After a huge albizia branch fell through the pavilion roof the State chopped down the most dangerous trees, killed the weeds and sprayed for coqui frogs. MOP then offered to restore the park by cleaning up the debris and replanting in the species native to the area. So far over 70 trees have been planted. There are too many people, businesses, groups and agencies to thank for work already done, but you know who you are. MAHALO NUI LOA!

Wai ‘opae Tidepools: Now Protected

Under Our Wing: What do the Friends of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, Ka‘ohe Homesteads Community & Farm Watch, Big Island Invasive Species Committee and Pahoa Weed & Seed have in common? They are all functioning under MOP's nonprofit status until they can get their own. This process is called "umbrellaing". When a new group starts, they have to raise funds in order to file as a non-profit, but they can't offer donors a tax deduction because they are not yet official. This makes for difficult start-ups unless they have a rich patron. This Catch-22 is your federal government at work. We help cut through the red tape so that these groups can start doing their thing and helping our community. Already our "ducklings" have:

Palms Planted at Pahoa Neighborhood Facility: We spent years urging the Department of Parks and Recreation to do proper pruning of the Fern Trees, but they paid no heed to us or to certified arborist Mike Kraus. They continued to "top" them, using non-vertical cuts which increase the trees' susceptibility to insects and diseases. As predicted, the trees sickened and the insects administered the coup de grace. Then the trees were cut down. For six years we kept asking for replacement trees to shade the parking lot. Finally the Department planted only six Manila palms. We felt that wasn't enough and asked permission to plant more, which was granted, our volunteers put Fishtails in the medians between the Manilas. Then the Department found a Royal Poinciana and asked us to plant that too, so we did. It now graces the entrance to the parking lot. We eagerly await the first blooming.

Heavy Metal 2003 and Solid Waste Issues: This year our Heavy Metal clean up once again targeted white goods on Apa‘a St., (the Pahoa "dump road"). Working with Ka‘ohe Homesteads Community & Farm Watch we jammed three tons of metal into a Matson container (mahalo to Matson, who also gave us a $1,000 donation}. We also filled 24 large trash bags with other rubbish, which went to the transfer station. We have also reported abandoned and derelict vehicles on our roadsides and arranged for them to be removed. We provided community service workers to help clean up the debris from the drug houses demolished across from Pahoa Cash & Carry. We have also provided input to the County for the proposed revision of the ordinance which deals with solid waste issues. We have written scripts for TV spots and we are part of a think tank, Coalition for Litter - free Environments And Neighborhoods (CLEAN}, which is looking at proactive and creative ways to address the problem and change bad habits and attitudes. We welcome your ideas.

Uluwehi Native Tree Arboretum: We didn't accomplish as much as we wanted to on this project, due to lack of funding (three different grant proposals were turned down). However, we did what we could to move this forward anyway. We divided the parcel into none one-acre sections, each one representing a phase of work, and did detailed mapping (noting landforms, existing trees, etc.) of the first one-acre phase. Iopa Maunakea (aka Bruddah Kuz), his father Alex, Arboretum Director Mark Franklin and friends surveyed the entire 9 acre parcel, found the pins and our rear boundary. This information is absolutely required by potential funders, and now that we have it we might be more successful in 2004. A really big mahalo to them for an important job we could not otherwise afford. We also destroyed a bunch of junk trees (cecropia, melochia and melastoma). We got a good deal on a Sears 12x8 metal tool shed. A student intern, Talena Adams, came to us for the summer and did some propagating for us. We received donated plants from the DLNR Tree Nursery and the Forest Team class at HCC, Which we will outplant when they get a little bigger. Please volunteer for this fun project.

Caring for Our Land: We are pleased to announce that MOP now has a regular column in the monthly (soon to be bimonthly) Puna News. This is an important major outreach for us because it is a free paper with a broad circulation in our district. We can really get the word out about the environmental issues with which we are involved. We have had 8 articles, the two latest of which are included in this web site. So far we have had a lot of very positive feedback on our articles, including phone calls from folks on the mainland. We intend to continue this successful educational project. If you have any suggestions for future articles, call Rene at the office (954-9254) and talk story, or send an E-mail to contact@malamaopuna.org.

Exceptional Trees: We continue to nominate trees to the Hawai‘i County's "Exceptional Tree Program"

Advocacy & Watchdogging

Aviation Noise & Nuisance: We wrote Sen. Dan Inouye opposing his secretive repeal of the Helicopter Tax. We also asked the FAA not to allow chopper pilots to fly below 1,500 feet except in emergency situations.

Oneloa Onsen: David Matsuura made a presentation in January to the Puna Coast Advisory
Committee, which our President, Rene Siracusa, attended. It was the usual hogwash plus (1) that the Final EIS would be ready in 4 months (i.e. April) and it would be at least a year to get all the permits, (2) he expects a lot of litigation (he expects right), (3) rezone the makai end for commercial , (4) realign the road by destroying the wetlands, (5) destroy the protected mangos to widen Pohoiki Road, and other totally unacceptable things. But all has been quiet and we suspect that he cant find $$$. We'll keep alert.

Insinger's Illegal Seawall in Kapoho: Despite testimony by the Planning Dept. and Rene, the Planning Commission ruled that the after-the-fact shoreline certification could stand and the setback remain. They did, however rule against Insinger on the Shoreline Management Area violation and set a small fine.

HB1509: We testified in favor of legislation which would create historic preservation zones to save
archaeological sites from development. It passed.

Pahoa Regional Park: We have attended the Town Meetings which elicited input on what we, the
community, want in this newly acquired 56 acres. A skateboard park is a high priority. We are working with Mainstreet Pahoa, the Department of Parks & Recreation and Councilman Safarik to make it happen.

Sand Hill: We raised red flags about the destruction occurring to this 78 acre coastal site by dirt bikers, building structures, destroying the pu'u, etc. The County is now offering them a Hilo venue in exchange. Let's hope this resolves the problem.

Scenic Corridor Overlay Zones: We testified at the County Council in favor of this useful tool which would allow beautification along our roads despite the zoning of abutting parcels. It passed.

County Budget Hearings: When we testified we noted some "discrepancies" in the budget: fund
balances from previous years had not been added in to the totals for the Geothermal Relocation and Asset Funds ($2 1/2 million); $75K Beautification Fund balance from last year unspent. Why not?

Council Bill 98: We testified in support of a $44K appropriation to add additional busses to the Hilo-Pahoa route. It passed.

Council Bill 101: We testified in support of amending the Native Forest Tax Bill to reduce minimum size from 5 to 3 acres and clarify some vague wording. It passed.

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park Expansion: Last year we submitted testimony in support of the acquisition of private lands (with endangered species and prehistoric sites) for park expansion, in order to guarantee protection from development. It passed this year.

Puna Regional Circulation Plan: We were invited to sit on this advisory committee and reviewed the proposals from 3 wanna-be consultants. One of them wanted to widen Government Beach Road (its mango trees had just gotten protected). We raised concerns about basing studies on traffic counts taken at non-peak hours and times of month.

Kea‘au Recycling Project Strategic Planning: We are attending workshops and meetings about improving the recycling center and expanding the services to other locations. This is a work in progress.

State Parks: We attended a meeting on McKenzie and Lava Tree needs, such as restrooms, sinks, ADA compliance, more staffing, paint, etc. Sen. Russell Kokubun has invited Rene to sit on a joint legislative-community panel.