Big Island groundwater tested for radiation

Hawaii state health officials have sent samples of Big Island groundwater for testing after the release of radiation from Japanese nuclear power plants last month.

West Hawaii today reported Friday health officials took samples from Waimea’s groundwater supplies to be sent to the mainland for testing.

Results are expected next week or early next month.

County officials are to ask the Board of Water Supply to approve a contract change that would allow for in-house lab tests for radiation or to request tests from the lab contractor.

Big Island groundwater tested for radiation – Hawaii News – Staradvertiser.com

Water wars? Thirsty, energy-short China stirs fear

AHIR JONAI, India >> The wall of water raced through narrow Himalayan gorges in northeast India, gathering speed as it raked the banks of towering trees and boulders. When the torrent struck their island in the Brahmaputra river, the villagers remember, it took only moments to obliterate their houses, possessions and livestock.

No one knows exactly how the disaster happened, but everyone knows whom to blame: neighboring China.

“We don’t trust the Chinese,” says fisherman Akshay Sarkar at the resettlement site where he has lived since the 2000 flood. “They gave us no warning. They may do it again.”

About 500 miles east, in northern Thailand, Chamlong Saengphet stands in the Mekong river, in water that comes only up to her shins. She is collecting edible river weeds from dwindling beds. A neighbor has hung up his fishing nets, his catches now too meager.

Using words bordering on curses, they point upstream, toward China.

The blame game, voiced in vulnerable river towns and Asian capitals from Pakistan to Vietnam, is rooted in fear that China’s accelerating program of damming every major river flowing from the Tibetan plateau will trigger natural disasters, degrade fragile ecologies, divert vital water supplies.

Lanai water group will continue meeting

WAILUKU – Members of the Lanai Water Advisory Committee said they will continue to meet and comment on local water issues, even after officials said the county would no longer recognize the group.

In a letter to committee members last month, newly appointed county Water Director Dave Taylor said the group’s input had been valuable but that there was no longer a need for them to meet, because the Lanai Water Use and Development Plan, which they had been tasked with reviewing, had been sent to the Maui County Council for approval.

“LWAC members are free to meet and talk about water issues as community members, but not in the official capacity of members of the LWAC holding an officially recognized meeting,” he wrote.

But committee members said their mandate from the county was to monitor the implementation of Lanai water policies – and that they intended to finish the job.

“We do not agree that you have the authority to unilaterally alter the scope of our responsibilities – duties which we have faithfully carried out for well over a decade,” wrote committee Chairman Reynold “Butch” Gima in a reply to Taylor. “Protecting Lanai’s ‘most precious resource – water’ (as you noted in your letter) does not end with the production of a draft plan, it is a continuous effort.”

$44M for water plan proposed

Arakawa budget targets infrastructure projects
By ILIMA LOOMIS – Staff Writer (iloomis@mauinews.com)
WAILUKU – The county would budget nearly $44 million on water infrastructure projects, an increase of more than $20 million from current spending, under Mayor Alan Arakawa’s proposal for 2012.

Department of Water Supply Director Dave Taylor told council Budget and Finance Committee members Thursday that he knew the plan was ambitious, but the projects being proposed were considered his department’s highest priorities. He pledged to bring to the water department the same system for planning and managing capital improvement projects that he used as wastewater chief to get that division’s infrastructure work on track.

He said his department could be turned into a “machine” to churn out capital improvement projects.

“I don’t know if I’m going to catch up this year, but I have no doubt if we have this conversation two years from now, you’re going to say, ‘Wow. You’re a CIP machine.’ “

Council members expressed some confidence in Taylor based on his record of handling sewer projects for the county. But they remained daunted by the sheer amount of money being requested for water infrastructure and doubted the department’s ability to complete all the projects.

Providing Relief for Molokai Homestead Farmers

By Rep. Mele Carroll

This session I introduced House Bill 1483, which directs the Department of Agriculture (DOA) to provide water to Molokai Irrigation System users who lease tracts of land at a reduced rate. It also requires the DOA to forgive past due water bills for the provision of irrigation water for Molokai homestead farmers.

With this challenging economy, the hardship of our Molokai homestead farmers is real and I feel that we need to provide some relief to our farmers so they can continue to economically survive during these most trying times.
House Bill 1483 was advanced by the Committee on Hawaiian Affairs on Feb. 4, and will now advance to Joint House Committees on Agriculture and Water, Land & Ocean Resources for consideration.

The Molokai Irrigation Ditch was created for the homesteaders to be used for agricultural purposes, per an agreement made between the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, the homesteaders and the Department of Water Supply. That agreement called for sufficient water be given to the homestead farmers to be used for their farming. As the years have progressed, the federal mandate that homesteaders be given two-thirds of the water allotment has seemingly lost its strength or forgotten altogether.

Paradise Ranch owner speaks up

LIHU‘E — A controversial permit to fence off the easiest access to Lepe‘uli, known as Larsen’s Beach, was surrendered last month. But Paradise Ranch may still go ahead and fence off the access to protect the conservation district land next to this secluded North Shore beach.

The lateral access to Lepe‘uli runs parallel to the beach and guarantees an effortless walk down from a 140-foot elevation. However, the lateral access is on private property, and there are already two county-owned trails that guarantee access to Lepe‘uli.

Following the permit’s withdrawal, community members who had opposed the fence immediately cried victory. But before they were able to finish their victory lap, ranch workers placed two metal posts resembling a fence foundation at the entrance of the trail, prompting further outcry from those trying to preserve the access that goes through private property.

Paradise Ranch owner Bruce Laymon, however, said the metal posts are not fence posts.

Over the years, ranch workers have put up quite a few land demarcation posts, establishing the boundaries of the land Laymon leases from landowner Waioli Corporation, a private non-profit organization. But those posts keep being vandalized.

Tired of replacing the boundary demarcations, Laymon said he decided to install metal posts to indicate the property limits.

Lack of Attention to Farming Is Catching Up With India

BAMNOD, India — The 50-year-old farmer knew from experience that his onion crop was doomed when torrential rains pounded his fields throughout September, a month when the Indian monsoon normally peters out.

For lack of modern agricultural systems in this part of rural India, his land does not have adequate drainage trenches, and he has no safe, dry place to store onions. The farmer, Arun Namder Talele, said he lost 70 percent of his onion crop on his five-acre farm here, about 70 miles north of the western city of Aurangabad.

“There are no limits to my losses,” Mr. Talele said.

Mr. Talele’s misfortune, and that of many other farmers here, is a grim reminder of a persistent fact: India, despite its ambitions as an emerging economic giant, still struggles to feed its 1.1 billion people.

Four decades after the Green Revolution seemed to be solving India’s food problems, nearly half of Indian children age 5 or younger are malnourished. And soaring food prices, a problem around the world, are especially acute in India.

Globally, floods in Australia and drought in China have helped send food prices everywhere soaring — on fears the world will see a repeat of shortages in 2007 and 2008 that caused food riots in some poor countries, including Egypt.

U.N. warns China drought could pressure wheat prices

A record drought in China’s major wheat producing areas threatens to push world food prices beyond their current high level, the United Nations warned in a report Tuesday, adding to growing concern about how the rising cost of food is affecting the poor around the globe.

China, the world’s largest wheat producer, consumes almost all of what it grows and keeps roughly 55 million tons in reserve. But the prospect of a failed winter wheat crop might prompt the country to import grain on a scale that could put further stress on world prices, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization warned.

The FAO’s world food price index, a composite indicator of the cost of a basket of goods, is at its highest level since it was introduced in 1990. Wheat prices have roughly doubled since mid-2010, according to International Monetary Fund data.

Rainfall has been more than 30 percent below normal since October across five northern provinces that account for about two-thirds of Chinese wheat production, the FAO reported. Shandong province, China’s second-largest wheat-growing area, has had less than half an inch of rain since September and is heading for its worst drought in 200 years, according to reports from China’s official news agency.

Water means money

WAILUKU – The decision on whether Upcountry residents get more county water meters ultimately lies with the county’s fiscal policymakers, acting Department of Water Supply Director Dave Taylor said Wednesday.

“Not to kick the can to you guys, but it’s really a fiscal policy question,” Taylor said during his confirmation hearing before the Maui County Council’s Policy Committee. “Only the council can decide how much this is worth to pursue. We really can’t make that decision for the council.”

Following the recommendation of committee Chairman Riki Hokama, the panel voted 9-0 to recommend adoption of a resolution approving Mayor Alan Arakawa’s appointment of Taylor to head the county’s water department.

On Wednesday, the committee also unanimously recommended approval of John D. Kim as the county’s chief prosecuting attorney. Council members noted that Kim had received universal support during his Jan. 25 confirmation hearing.

Acting Corporation Counsel Pat Wong also had his nomination heard last month, but action on his appointment was deferred then and on Wednesday.

The Policy Committee grilled Taylor on numerous operational and policy questions, including the county’s Upcountry water meter list. That list has more than 2,000 people waiting for water meters, some for at least a decade.