Tree snail population in sharp decline; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will help to remove invasive species

University of Hawaii researchers report that native Hawaiian tree snails on Molokai have dropped in population by 85 percent since 1995. Rats appear to be the culprits.

Zoologists from UH have been studying species in four ohia trees in a Kamakou Preserve meadow near the mountain summit since 1982. Between 1983 and 1995 the population in this area increased from 19 to 195 snails.

The Nature Conservancy started a rat-poisoning program after the precipitous drop in snail populations in 1995, but snails continued to disappear. The recent forest fire that burned portions of Kamakou Preserve could have devastated the endemic Molokai tree snail population but it didn’t appear to reach the 4,000-foot meadow.

Federal money will help to remove invasive species

To help save native plants from invasive species, U.S. Senators Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye announced yesterday three coastal programs in Hawaii will receive $220,000 from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Funding will be provided to the Molokai Land Trust to restore 20 acres of coastal plant habitat on the island’s north shore at Anapuka in the Mokio parcel. Workers will be hired to remove invasive kiawe in coastal dunes between ‘Ilio Point and Mo‘omomi. North Molokai has some of the best remaining native coastal habitat in the state and removal of invasive kiawe will allow native plant communities to expand back into these areas. This technique has been used successfully at The Nature Conservancy’s Mo‘omomi Preserve to increase native plant cover.


Fire and tsunami warnings attract attention

The National Weather Service in Honolulu has issued a Red Flag Warning for fire on Molokai in effect until 6 p.m. today.

An earthquake of 7.9 magnitude on the Richter scale hit the Samoa Islands region yesterday morning. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Honolulu downgraded the Tsunami Watch to a Tsunami Advisory.

Based on all available data, a major tsunami is not expected to strike the State of Hawaii. Nevertheless, Kamehameha Schools announced yesterday it will close its Molokai Preschool as a precautionary measure in response to the earthquake. The proximity of the campus to the shoreline prompted the closure. All other schools remain open.

Zappacosta estate hits snag with appeal to Molokai Planning Commission

By David Lichtenstein

A divided Molokai Planning Commission accepted the appeal of Steve Morgan regarding the Zappacosta exemption from special management area permits.

It took five hours of oral arguments, deliberations and executive sessions at the Mitchell Pau’ole Center yesterday to determine that Morgan’s appeal deserves further consideration. The commission must now schedule a contested hearing to consider the merits of whether or not an SMA assessment and permit needs to be sought on this 20,000-square foot single-family dwelling planned for 6.5 acres south of Papohaku Beach.

A motion from Commissioner Lori Buchanan sought to dismiss the appeal on legal and procedural grounds. Attorney Jane Lovell, representing Maui County Planning Department Director Jeff Hunt, made a strong case for the dismissal. She argued that Morgan was appealing a decision of the planning director when in fact it was the planning commission that decided to exempt the application from the SMA process. She also said Morgan needs to be appealing this to the 2nd Circuit Court, not the planning commission. Lovell said that since Morgan was not involved until after the initial decision was made, he is not a party to this and has no standing. She also questioned the timing, saying that Morgan missed the required deadlines to appeal.

Only Commissioner John Sprinzel voted along with Buchanan to dismiss the appeal. Commissioner Napua Leong, who voted against the exemption on April 22, made a new motion to deny the appeal’s dismissal. She said the county’s rules for appeal are too ambiguous and complicated to deny Morgan’s appeal on what amounts to legal technicalities. Commissioner Steve Chaikin, who also voted against the original exemption, said that the community was shortchanged in this process and deserves to be heard. Chaikin argued against Lovell’s conclusion that the planning commission, and not the planning director, made a decision in this matter.

Although not an attorney, Morgan must now draft findings of facts and conclusions of law on this matter to present before a contested hearing takes place. Afterward, Morgan said this could have gone either way and was glad the commissioners could see beyond the legal hair splitting. Luigi Manera, project manager representing the Zappacosta family in this matter, was visibly upset after the ruling and refused comment.

Team Bradley wins Na Wahine O Kei Kai canoe race for fifth straight year

Team Bradley won its fifth consecutive Na Wahine O Ke Kai women’s canoe race yesterday.

Team Bradley Ka Mana O — with crew members from Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Hawaii and Australia — took first place by completing the 41-mile course from Hale O Lono Harbor across the Kaiwi Channel to Duke Kahanamoku Beach, Waikiki, in 5 hours, 25 minutes, 16 seconds.

Waikiki Beachboys battled Team Bradley the entire race, and finished second in 5:26:38. It was the best finish ever by the Waikiki Beachboys in a Na Wahine O Ke Kai race.

Hui Lanakila placed third in 5:31:14, and Outrigger Whitsunday of Australia was fourth in 5:43:47. Outrigger of Hawaii finished fifth in 5:47:51.

Team Wahoo won the masters 40 and older division; Kailua won the masters 50-and-older, and Outrigger won the koa canoe division. A record 87 crews from around the world participated in the race.

Girls volleyball defeats Seabury Hall, Kaahumnu Hou to stay perfect

The Molokai girls volleyball team remained undefeated after a pair of victories this weekend over Seabury Hall and Kaahumanu Hou.

On Friday night, at Seabury, the Farmers won in four sets, 25-23, 19-25, 25-18, 25-14. Junior Kalei Adolpho led the team with 15 kills and four blocks. This is the second time this season Molokai has defeated Seabury in four sets.

Kailana Ritte-Camara added eight kills for Molokai, as did Kalei Vaivai, who also had 16 digs. Kawena Puhi had 22 assists. According to head coach Matt Helm, the Farmers were tentative at the beginning and maybe a little unnerved by the packed house cheering for Seabury Hall. The Spartans built a 15-5 lead on their way to winning the second game. But when Molokai saw its perfect season slipping away, the team came back strong in the third and fourth games.

Results from Saturdays match at Kaahumanu Hou were not immediately available. With the victories, the Farmers are now 10 and 0. The Farmers play St. Anthony at home Friday and Saturday at the Barn.

Saint Damien Boy Scout troop prepares for trip to Belgium, Rome

As momentum builds toward the canonization of Father Damien on October 11, Hawaii’s Lieutenant Governor James Duke Aiona held a press conference yesterday to announce the plans for the Saint Damien Boy Scout troop. The troop will be traveling to Belgium where they will participate in a Hawaii celebration and an event for thousands of scouts from across Europe. In Rome, they will attend the canonization at the Vatican, join a separate audience with Pope Benedict XVI, stay in a monastery, attend the Hawaii welcome festivities and visit historic sites.

In preparation for the trip, the scouts have been studying Italian, Dutch, journalism, photography, cinematography, video editing, and Belgian and Italian customs and courtesy, among other subjects. They will also share their experiences with thousands of students from Hawaii, the U.S. mainland and abroad through blogging and social networking sites.

High surf advisory; Na Wahine O Ke Kai canoe race Sunday

The National Weather Service in Honolulu has issued a high surf advisory for north facing shore of Molokai and Maui and the west facing shores of Molokai. This is in effect until 6 a.m. Saturday. Surf is expected to rise to 12 to 15 feet on north facing shores and eight to 12 feet on west facing shores.

It will be interesting to see if this new swell helps or hurts the women competing in this year’s Na Wahine O Ke Kai Canoe Race slated for Sunday. The six-women crews will launch from Hale O Lono harbor at 7:30 a.m. on their way to Oahu. Typically, the winning teams finish in just over five hours, depending on the conditions. As many as 85 boats have competed in this major outrigger canoe race in past years. The finish will be at Duke Kahanamoku Beach in Waikiki.