Piiholo South well deal dead for now

WAILUKU – With mutual allegations of insincerity flying, the County Council Water Resources Committee on Tuesday decided to allow its resolution about exploring the possibility of acquiring the Piiholo South water well to expire.

However, committee Chairman Mike Victorino said he plans to revive the idea when the new council convenes in January.

Zachary Franks, co-managing director of Piiholo South, originally proposed selling his well to the Department of Water Supply, but he did not like the way the county responded. Tuesday, he asked the council to allow its resolution to expire.

“It was a complete failure,” he said.

He charged that Council Member Wayne Nishiki had introduced the resolution “with the primary, though unstated, purpose of derailing Kula Ridge. Prior to its introduction, Piiholo South, towards whom the resolution was putatively aimed, was not even notified by Mr. Nishiki of the resolution’s existence, let alone consulted with regard to its substance.”

When he did learn the framework of a proposal, he said it was “a disproportionate and unfair deal” that would have had Piiholo South “hand over” 95 percent of its well for free. That, he told, the committee “could never happen.”

Nishiki is not a member of the committee, but he usually attends its meetings. He was not present when Franks made his statement, but he came in later and accused Franks of not sincerely wanting to deal with the county. “As far as I am concerned, he can go back to the Mainland,” Nishiki said.

Public hearings set for Na Wai Eha water withdrawal applications

PAIA – The state Commission on Water Resource Management will hold two days of hearings starting Wednesday on competing applications for withdrawal of water from Na Wai Eha, the surface water collection system that serves Central and South Maui.

During earlier proceedings, the commission received applications from existing users to continue withdrawing water pending a final commission decision on allocating the water resource. Most of the applications have been challenged because there likely will be less water allocated by the commission than the total of present withdrawals, even before applications for new uses are considered.

Starting at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Paia Community Center, the commission will hear testimony from users to justify the reasonable and beneficial uses they intend for water.

The commission staff will present a new map, which graphically represents the users’ locations and the ditches and gates where they seek to draw off the water. Commission staff member Roy Hardy said the map should help sort out exactly which applications are in conflict.

Two commissioners, Neal Fujiwara and Sumner Erdman, will conduct the hearings.

Zip into the future

Mike Atherton’s employees call him “Coach” for good reason. Since he bought Maui Tropical Plantation in 2006, the affable entrepreneur has been overseeing a comprehensive game plan to re-energize the 26-year-old attraction.

“We’ve painted the buildings, pruned the trees, spruced up the landscaping, basically given the grounds a complete makeover,” Atherton said. “I’m an outdoors, hands-on guy; I get as dirty as my gardeners do, and I love it!”

A native of Stockton, Calif., Atherton comes from a distinguished family. His maternal great-grandfather was Benjamin Holt, founder of the Caterpillar equipment company. His paternal great-grandfather, the Rev. Isaac Warren Atherton, was a missionary in the Hawi-North Kohala area of the Big Island from 1878 to 1880. His paternal grandfather, Warren Atherton, was an attorney, judge and politician who’s best known for authoring the G.I. Bill.

Atherton and two partners have owned and operated Jesus Mountain Coffee Co. in Nicaragua for 30 years. They acquired the Coffees of Hawaii plantation on Molokai in 2002, and Atherton came to Maui three years later, seeking land to start a similar venture there.

“At the time, C. Brewer & Co. was shutting down and selling all its assets, including Maui Tropical Plantation,” Atherton recalled. “The plantation was an agri-tourism attraction that had been open since 1984, so it had a lot of established growth. It also had a big parking lot, a store, a restaurant, dedicated employees and a good reputation. It was perfect; it just needed some tender loving care.”

Armed with enthusiasm and fresh ideas, Atherton and his hui bought the 60-acre plantation and the surrounding 1,940 acres.

An Almanac of Extreme Weather

THE news from this Midwestern farm is not good. The past four years of heavy rains and flash flooding here in southern Minnesota have left me worried about the future of agriculture in America’s grain belt. For some time computer models of climate change have been predicting just these kinds of weather patterns, but seeing them unfold on our farm has been harrowing nonetheless.

My family and I produce vegetables, hay and grain on 250 acres in one of the richest agricultural areas in the world. While our farm is not large by modern standards, its roots are deep in this region; my great-grandfather homesteaded about 80 miles from here in the late 1800s.

He passed on a keen sensitivity to climate. His memoirs, self-published in the wake of the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, describe tornadoes, droughts and other extreme weather. But even he would be surprised by the erratic weather we have experienced in the last decade.

In August 2007, a series of storms produced a breathtaking 23 inches of rain in 36 hours. The flooding that followed essentially erased our farm from the map.

Measuring rain at the wettest spot on earth

Editor’s note: On Dec. 3 the Kaua‘i Museum celebrates its 50th anniversary. Museum leaders have chosen 50 stories from exhibits, collections and archives of the museum to share with the public. One story will run daily through Dec. 3.

LIHU‘E — Recording rainfall is the job of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Water Resources Division.

The yearly trip to the summit of Wai‘ale‘ale was a source of high and perilous adventure ever since the task was first attempted over 100 years ago.

It first tackled by the survey’s District Engineer W.F. Martin in 1910. He trekked up the 5,080-foot mountain and placed a 50-gallon, galvanized can in the clearing overlooking Wailua. Four months later J.E. Mendes found it overflowing. So, in 1911, D.E. Homer carried a container that would measure 124 inches of rainfall up the jungle trails to the mountain’s summit — and it, too, was too small.

W.Y. Hardy tried next. He installed a 300-inch gage in 1915 and it overflowed. Next he put in a 600-inch gage which lasted a couple of years and in wet years was found to be overflowing. The history books fail to mention the party of local men that went along to carry the gage guided by Hulu Taniguchi, a cowboy at Gay & Robinson’s Makaweli Ranch. The trail would disappear just days after passing through.

Then in January 1920, District J.E. Stewart, Ben F. Rush, then chairman of the Board of Harbor Commissioners, and Hardy took the 990-inch gage up the mountain. It worked all right until it buckled and started leaking from being tipped over to empty. Max H. Carson, the next district engineer, solved that difficulty in 1928 by installing a 900-inch, reinforced container that could be drained through a valve in the bottom.

The next gage installation in 1938 was a day-to-day recording device that had to be split into 50 pound packs for the journey, the last leg on foot from the ranger’s station over the tundra-like summit. Hubert W. Beardin, an experienced mountain-climbing member of the survey force on Kaua‘i, dropped dead of a heart attack 300 feet from the summit.

Earth’s carrying capacity is an inescapable fact

Physicists understand the mathematics of exponential growth. They, along with the rest of us often ignore its consequences, including the first law of sustainability: “Neither population growth nor consumption can be sustained indefinitely.”

Sustainability is a buzzword about environmental balance, recycling, energy and food production. It is a simple concept that brings a sense of environmental virtue if we feel that we are living “sustainably.” We know what it is but maybe can’t quite define it.

The report “Our Common Future” — also known as the Brundtland report (1987) from the World Commission on Environment and Development of the United Nations — defined sustainability as “meeting the needs of today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” This definition of sustainability says nothing specifically about the environment, but a clean environment better meets those needs, and it is not only we humans that have needs.

Sustainability is related to carrying capacity, which is the maximum load that a given environment can support without detrimental effects.

The Corrosion of America – NYTimes.com


If you had a leak in your roof or in the kitchen or basement, you’d probably think it a good idea to have it taken care of before matters got worse, and more expensive.

If only we had the same attitude when it comes to the vast and intricately linked water systems in the United States. Most of us take clean and readily available water for granted. But the truth is that the nation’s water systems are in sorry shape — deteriorating even as the population grows and demand increases.

Aging and corroded pipes are bursting somewhere every couple of minutes. Dilapidated sewer systems are contaminating waterways and drinking water. Many local systems are so old and inadequate — in some cases, so utterly rotten — that they are overwhelmed by heavy rain.

As Charles Duhigg reported in The Times last March: “For decades, these systems — some built around the time of the Civil War — have been ignored by politicians and residents accustomed to paying almost nothing for water delivery and sewage removal. And so each year, hundreds of thousands of ruptures damage streets and homes and cause dangerous pollutants to seep into drinking water supplies.”

There is, of course, no reason for this to be the case. If this were a first-class society we would rebuild our water systems to the point where they would be the envy of the world, and that would bolster the economy in the bargain.

Water conservationists of the year honored

PO’IPU — Damage from heavy rains and floods and the resulting repairs were the basis for the selection of this year’s Outstanding Water Conservationists by the Kaua‘i Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

Rodney and Karol Haraguchi, Hanalei Valley taro farmers, were selected as the East Kaua‘i SWCD honorees for their outstanding work in conservation and protection of the Hanalei Valley water resource, said Ted Inouye, representing the East Kaua‘i SWCD.

The presentation was made before the 49th annual Hawai‘i Water Works Association convention, Thursday, at the Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i Resort & Spa.

Hamakua well breaks down

by John Burnett

Temporary well may bring turbid water

If county water users in the Honokaa area notice a difference in their tap water — such as murkiness or chlorine odor or taste — it’s because the pump at the Haina well has broken down and an alternative well had to be tapped.

“As of this morning it failed fully, so we have zero output,” Keith Okamoto, the county’s Water Quality Assurance Branch chief, said Thursday afternoon. “… More than likely it’s something to do with the motor.”

It’s not the first pump breakdown at the Haina well, the only county well serving Honokaa, Ahualoa, Kalopa, Pohakea, upper Paauilo and Kukuihaele. Hamakua residents were placed on a 25-percent water restriction in August 2007 following a pump failure.

At that time, the county had to truck in water from Paauilo. Okamoto said the county has been doing the same thing since early this week, when it became apparent that the Haina pump was failing again.

“Every several years we do have some problems with that well,” Okamoto said. He said that Honokaa water users shouldn’t have noticed any difference in water quality or pressure as of Thursday afternoon.