Chamber of Commerce seeks support for senate bill to fund improvements to the Molokai Irrigation System

To improve the Molokai Irrigation System, Senate Bill 1358, to allow the issuance of up to $3 million in general obligation bonds, passed the State Senate Monday on first reading.

The Kualapuu Reservoir holds water for the Molokai Irrigation System and other users on the West End.

The Kualapuu Reservoir holds water for the Molokai Irrigation System and other users on the West End.

The bill was then referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture
and the Senate Committee on Water and Land, which will hold a public hearing on the issue tomorrow, Jan. 31, at 2:45 p.m. in conference room 229 of the State Capitol.

Sen. J. Kalani English, who represents Molokai and Lanai in the State Senate, was one of the senators who introduced this bill.

Testimony on this measure can be accepted up to 24 hours prior to the hearing. Click this link to submit testimony.

The bill states, in part: “Sufficient funding is needed to maintain and improve Hawaii’s irrigation systems. The increasing incidences of water droughts and the extended length of those droughts, particularly on Molokai, which is constantly plagued with drought conditions, makes repair and maintenance of irrigation systems necessary for agricultural production and food sustainability. The purpose of this Act is to provide additional funding needed for the Molokai irrigation system.”

The Molokai Chamber of Commerce is urging the public to support this bill. “With the passage of this measure to better utilize the capacity of the Molokai Irrigation System, the Molokai Agricultural Community will be able to increase production and directly benefit the local Molokai community,” Chamber President Rob Stephenson wrote.

“Agriculture is an essential part of the Molokai economy and for it to continue to be a sustainable economic engine we need to come together and support this and other measures that strengthen our Agricultural Community,” Stephenson continued.

This is part of a large ongoing effort to improve the MIS. In February of 2012, Governor Neil Abercrombie authorized $1,250,000 in state capital improvement project money to be spent on the MIS for planning, design and construction to replace an above-ground concrete flume with an underground pipeline, installation of a new hydropower plant and structural stabilization of an access bridge.


Community bids ‘aloha’ to Aunty Annette Pauole-Ahakuelo

Courtesy of Sust’ainable Molokai

Annette Pauole-Ahakuelo was a special individual who was a key person at the Sust’aina ble Molokai conference in 2009 and integral to the start up of the Sust’ainable Molokai non-profit organization. Her presence, passion and kindness motivated our community and her light will be dearly missed.

Annette Pauole-Ahakuelo

Annette Pauole-Ahakuelo

Annette Mililani Chieko Pauole-Ahakuelo, 65, passed away on Monday, Dec. 17, 2012 at The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu. Annette was born on February 19, 1947 in Hoolehua to Robert and Helen Pauole.

Annette grew up on Molokai and was a proud graduate of Molokai High School in 1965. After high school she moved to California where she worked for Levitz Furniture of the Pacific, which was one of the largest furniture retailers in the nation. This opened the door for her to return to Hawaii and work for the well-known, family-operated furniture store, C. S. Wo & Sons on Oahu. She became the Warehouse Operations Manager and Special Projects Coordinator.

When Annette moved back home to Molokai with her more than 30 years of experience in retail, operations, and business management, she was the perfect candidate to serve as the Molokai Small Business Specialist for the County of Maui – Office of Economic Development – Kuhao Business Center. In this capacity, Annette used her leadership skills, business acumen, engaging demeanor, and special brand of aloha to not only put her clients at ease, but also empower them to build their own successful enterprises.

Her clientele included people of all ages, from school children to kupuna. She ascertained what was needed in her community and provided it through various projects, workshops, and programs. Whether her client was a farmer, artist, inventor, value-added food producer, or someone with just an idea, Annette drew on the strengths of her clients encouraging them to dream, be realistic, and acquire the skills they lacked in order to succeed.

She transformed the face of the community and strengthened the island’s economy, having directly inspired more than 100 business start-ups on Molokai. In 2007, she was awarded the Hawaii Financial Services Champion of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

In addition to this, Annette was an active Realtor Associate and served as a private design consultant for a number of years. She volunteered her design and planning skills to help organize a number of community events such as the annual Business Expos, agricultural fairs, and the Sustainability Conference. Annette left an indelible imprint on her island community. She is dearly loved and will be greatly missed by the many lives she has touched.

Annette is survived by her husband Clarence Ahakuelo, daughter Michelle (Quentin) Brown, grandson Ivan (Elizabeth) Pauole, twin sister Beverly (Dale) Pauole-Moore, sisters Irene (Charles) Kaahanui, Roberta “Cookie” Helm, Melinda Talon, brother Stanley “Mickey” (Nadine) Pauole, many nieces and nephews, cousins and extended ohana.

A Celebration of Life service for Annette took place at the Lanikeha Community Center in Hoolehua last Saturday.

New agreement gives community blessing for Safari Explorer to dock at Kaunakakai

The 36-passenger Safari Explorer can be seen cruising along Molokai's south shore following an agreement signed Wednesday between Un-Cruise Adventures and members of the Molokai community.

The 36-passenger Safari Explorer can be seen cruising along Molokai’s south shore following an agreement signed Wednesday between Un-Cruise Adventures and members of the Molokai community.

Anger and protests over a small cruise ship have given way to compromise that will allow the people of Molokai to better manage the tourist industry here.

Months of negotiations have concluded with an historic agreement between American Safari Cruises (recently renamed “Un-Cruise Adventures”) and concerned members of the Molokai community that will allow the 36-guest Safari Explorer ship to continue docking at Kaunakakai Harbor.

Dan Blanchard, CEO and President of Un-Cruise Adventures, was at the Kaunakakai Wharf Wednesday morning to sign the agreement. “This agreement comes after many months of negotiations and is a positive step forward in our relationship with the island and its community,” said Blanchard.

A final meeting Nov. 2 at Kulana ‘Oiwi between Aha Kiole O Molokai and the State Department of Land and Natural Resources, along with the Department of Transportation Harbor Division, helped set the terms of this agreement. DLNR Chairman Bill Aila, who took part in Wednesday’s signing event, also attended the Nov. 2 meeting.

“It is an outcome of community sitting down with business talking openly and honestly about each other’s needs,” Aila told KITV.

The cornerstone of this agreement limits small cruise boats to visit Molokai once per week with a maximum of 36 passengers. It also requires Un-Cruise Adventures to use only local vendors and businesses to support its visits.

Because Kaunakakai Harbor is a commercial port, the DLNR and DOT only have limited jurisdiction to regulate such cruises under the small boat harbor rules. Aha Kiole has suggested petitioning the state for new administrative rules that will create greater restrictions. These new proposed rules could limit off-shore anchoring and visits to places like Mo’omomi on the north shore.

Aha Kiole determined that limited cruise vessels would be acceptable to Molokai based on community surveys and moku meetings it conducted on this issue over the past year. By limiting the size and frequency of vessels, it was concluded that visitors would have minimal adverse impact on the ocean and island resources.

“We hope this agreement helps lay groundwork for best management practices for tourism,” said Blanchard.

Long-time Molokai protester and political activist Walter Ritte was also satisfied with the agreement. “Molokai wanted to determine their own tourist future … and we did!” he wrote. “Protesting can help communities!”

A video will be produced and shown to all visitors explaining the concerns Molokai residents have about tourism. It will address environmental and culturally-sensitive issues for visitors, including the fear of outsiders buying and developing Molokai land for future use.

Protestors entered the water and successfully blocked the Safari Explorer from docking at Kaunakakai on Nov. 26, 2011 following several land-based protests. The initial concern was that this new boat had failed to follow Molokai protocol in seeking permission to visit.

In reaction, the U.S. Coast Guard created a security zone around the harbor to allow the lawful docking of the Safari Explorer. This resulted in even more protests of both the boat and the need for the increased law enforcement presence on Molokai.

With this new agreement, the Safari Explorer will continue to visit Molokai until April. “We look forward to our return next season in November,” said Blanchard.

High winds knock out power on Molokai and Maui

A tree that had fallen across power lines near the construction for the new Kawela Bridge had to be removed Sunday morning.

A tree that had fallen across power lines near the construction for the new Kawela Bridge had to be removed Sunday morning.

High winds across Maui County over the weekend kept crews from Maui Electric Company busy on Maui and Molokai.

A tree fell across electrical lines near Kawela Bridge on Kamehameha V Highway at 8:42 a.m. Sunday cutting off power to customers in East End Molokai.

The sudden loss of electrical power caused by the fallen tree set in motion an automatic load shed procedure, which turned off power to customers in Hoolehua and Kualapuu to protect the electrical system.

Approximately 400 customers in Hoolehua and Kualapuu were affected for an hour and power was restored at 9:40 a.m. East End, which included about 900 customers, was brought back on-line at 10 a.m.

After power was restored at 10 a.m., customers of Oceanic Time Warner Cable were left without cable television service until 12:30 p.m. According to a supervisor at Oceanic Time Warner, MECO will restore electricity for residential customers first before recovering service for businesses. This delay caused the additional two-and-a-half hour cable TV outage.

A statement released from MECO said the company, “thanks our Molokai customers for their patience.”

On Maui, Shortly after 8 a.m. on Friday morning, high winds brought trees down on power lines at Haleakala, cutting off power to 10 customers at the summit. Repairs were completed and power was restored at 4:15 p.m.

At about the same time on Friday morning, approximately 100 customers in Olinda lost power when trees fell across power lines on Olinda Road. Power was restored by early afternoon and shortly thereafter, another tree came down, cutting off power again to about 200 customers in Olinda and Piiholo.

MECO crews worked through the night and all day Saturday trying to keep up with the high winds and falling trees. Power was restored incrementally throughout the day on Saturday and the last customers were brought back on-line at 5 p.m.

Approximately 150 customers in parts of Makawao lost power at 6:40 p.m. Friday evening due to fallen trees and power was restored to these customers shortly after midnight.

On Saturday evening, trees came down on power lines at about 7:30 p.m. near Kailua on Hana Highway, cutting off power to 800 customers from Huelo to Hana. MECO’s Distributed Generators at the Hana Substation provided power to about 300 customers in Hana while MECO crews worked to repair the lines in Kailua. Gusty winds hampered efforts but crews were able to complete repairs and restore power to remaining customers on Sunday evening.

At about noon on Sunday, areas of Lahaina, Olowalu and Launiupoko lost power affecting about 400 customers. Power was restored at 1 p.m. A forced power outage was issued this morning in Ukumehame and from Ololwalu to Launiupoko to enable crews to safely replace four utility poles that came down late Sunday night. Work was completed and power restored to 75 customers at 4:45 p.m.

MCHC hopes to replace two departing doctors this month

This artist rendering show what the completed MCHC campus will look like. MCHC now offers medical, dental, behavioral health care, and social services to the people of Molokai regardless of their ability to pay.

This artist rendering show what the completed MCHC campus will look like. MCHC now offers medical, dental, behavioral health care, and social services to the people of Molokai regardless of their ability to pay.

In mid-December, every mailbox on Molokai received a postcard from the Molokai Community Health Center offering an “aloha” to their two departing doctors, Dr. Traci Stevenson and Dr. David Liu.

Dr. Liu, who also served as medical director of Molokai’s only federally qualified health center, left in December. Dr. Stevenson — who arrived in February of 2011 as an osteopathic specialist — plans to leave Jan. 20.

The postcard reassured Molokai residents that it will “continue to provide high quality medical services during this time of transition, and that there will be no gaps in services caused by the departure of these two providers.”

MCHC Executive Director Desiree Puhi said she has been “actively recruiting” new doctors and has even made offers to secure two new doctors by Jan. 20. Puhi could not release the names but said both doctors were born and raised in Hawaii and will live on Molokai if they accept the contract offers.

Not living on Molokai was one of the problems with Dr. Liu. His contract as medical director was not renewed, in part, said Puhi, because he was commuting weekly from his home on Oahu and only stayed on Molokai Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Puhi said it was “worth a try” to work with an off-island doctor but admitted that the health center, “needed someone who is part of the community, sharing the responsibility and the passion.”

Dr. Stevenson is leaving because her husband was offered a job in Sonoma, Calif.

“It’s unfortunate both are leaving at same time,” said Puhi. “That’s the way business is for community health centers across the nation. We can’t compete with Queens (Health Center) and mainland health centers.”

Besides the turnover with physicians, the MCHC also is experiencing other growing pains as it transitions into its new and expanded facility. In July 2009, MCHC purchased the 5.9-acre old Pau Hana Inn, allowing it to consolidate all its services in one location, known as the Oceanside Center. This required major renovation of the existing structures and retrofitting them to meet the standards for a modern medical facility.

Delays in receiving the $1 million grant-in-aid from the State of Hawaii also slowed down the transition to the new facility. A concern about the duplication of medical services between the MCHC and Molokai General Hospital also slowed down the completion of phase two of the renovation project.

As a federally qualified health center on an island designated as a medically underserved area, the MCHC faces regular challenges. the U.S. Public Health Service designated Molokai as an area with health professional shortages in primary care, dental care and mental health. The MCHC offers all these services but is working to improve its overall quality.

Patients have complained that the MCHC has regular breakdown in follow-through with prescriptions, lab orders and referrals. A Quality Assurance Committee has been created, said Puhi, to address these issues.

“Transition has been difficult but we address any concern,” said Puhi. They have recently hired an IT specialist and risk management specialist to help with some of these problems. Puhi said she encourages patients to put their concerns in writing so they can be better handled.

President of the MCHC Board of Directors, Matt Yamashita, said the Board is made aware of every case that involves quality issues and will continue to address them.

“The MCHC is going through a major transitional phase as we adapt our services to the new facility and new operational structures,” said Yamashita. “This is not an excuse for poor service, but it has created some challenges that have impacted, in some instances, appropriate follow-through.”

Yamashita added that the Quality Assurance Committee and dedicated staff addresses any such incidences. “Our board is aware of where we need improvement and our administrative staff has been making efforts to address where and how to implement operational systems that provide a better standard of patient service.

“We want the community to know that while this is a time of transition for the organization, the MCHC remains fully functional and committed to providing quality services,” said Yamashita.

The board of directors for the MCHC, like all community health centers, must have a composition of at least 51 percent of users of the facility, rather than medical professionals. “To me, this a fabulous model,” said Puhi. “They can give insight that a professional may not see.” The board does include a registered nurse as well as a substance abuse counselor.

Puhi said funding for all three phases of the new facility have been secured and they are moving forward. “These are exciting times,” she said. “It takes a community vision and we’re here to show that it can happen.”

Puhi also complimented the work of the board. “I am proud of our board. They meet quorum every month. They are working hard. For a volunteer board I am really proud of them.”

Other board members include Vice President Brent Keliiokamalu Nakihei, Treasurer Carol Franko, Corene Helm, Leoda Shizuma, Halealoha Ayau, Jim Schelenski, Julia Hoe, Malia Waits and Sybil Lopez.

Gas station reopens as extension of Molokai Fish and Dive

Susan and Tim Forsberg in front of the new Molokai Fish and Dive gas station, which opened this morning at 8 a.m.

Susan and Tim Forsberg in front of the new Molokai Fish and Dive gas station, which opened this morning at 8 a.m.

Hayaku Gas & Go has gone. Welcome the Molokai Fish and Dive gas station!

The truck from Molokai Wholesale Gas filled up the pumps this morning and the new gas station in an old location opened today at 8 a.m. Molokai once again has a second gas station to complement Rawlins Chevron.

About three weeks ago and without notice, Hayaku closed its doors. The station, at the corner of Ala Malama Avenue and Makaena Place in Kaunakakai (530 Ala Malama Ave.), became Hayaku about four years ago to replace the Kalama Gas Station. The reason for Hayaku’s closure is not clear.

Susan and Tim Forsberg, owners of Molokai Fish and Dive, now operate the gas station on Ala Malama Avenue in Kaunakakai.

Susan and Tim Forsberg, owners of Molokai Fish and Dive, now operate the gas station on Ala Malama Avenue in Kaunakakai.

Tim and Susan Forsberg, longtime owners of the Molokai Fish and Dive next door to the gas station, decided taking over the gas station would be a good opportunity.

“We’ve been friends with these people for a while, and when we saw them struggling and when the station wasn’t opening, we decided to take a look at it,” said Tim Forsberg.

“It was an opportunity to get it up and running,” he added, “because one station doesn’t work for the island at all, it’s too jammed up over there. It would be a real tragedy if there was just one so me and my wife just decided to do the best we could and try to make a go of it over here.”

Gas is now available but that is the only thing for sale until the inside is remodeled. A fresh coat of paint has laid down the beginning of the refurbishing project that should take four to six weeks. Once completed the store will stock a wide variety of food items.

“(The gas station) will get back on line with the way they used to do it but we’re going to offer a lot more then what was offered before,” said Tim. Improvements, he said, will be seen in “the retail store portion, upgrading the foods, having a lot more foods available, more concession machines.”

“Then the Molokai Fish and Dive does activities so we’ll have this as a small retail space,” he added. “So we’ll have good offering because the Dive Shop has been here for almost 40 years.” The added space will allow Fish and Dive to market and sell tourist attractions such as whale watching and snorkel trips at the gas station.

The Forsbergs said they plan to follow the pricing of Rawlins on gas. “On a small island it’s hard to compete when you are within a block of each other,” Tim said. “As far as we know we’re not going to compete on the price level but maybe compete on the side of offering more varieties of foods and things like that.”

The name will stay Molokai Fish and Dive. “We might change it but I think the name recognition will help us out even though it doesn’t denote fuel,” said Tim. “We thought of many different names but right now, because we are going to be retail and activities, we are still going to call it the Molokai Fish and Dive, we just sell gas now.”

“We’re just looking forward to getting some of the customers that Kalamas has had for years come back,” Tim said. “Just being a small mom and pop operation — which we are here, just me and my wife doing it — we hope the community rallies around it and that we can survive here.”

Who is behind anonymous phone survey asking about Molokai Ranch, wind turbines and the undersea cable?

I Aloha Molokai News Release

Can anyone solve this mystery?

Over the past few weeks many Molokai residents have received anonymous calls, asking for personal information and personal opinions about Molokai Ranch, about the proposed wind turbines and undersea cable, and about a variety of so-called “benefits” which might be offered. This phone poll is being conducted by Ward Research of Honolulu. But when you ask, “Who’s paying for it?” the callers say, “Sorry, we can’t tell you.”

Ward Research of Honolulu is conducting a survey of Molokai residents for an anonymous source. The survey is asking about Molokai Ranch and the proposed wind turbine project. This view from Kepuhi Beach shows what an industrial-scale windmill project would look like on the West End.

Some of us have answered the questions; others have just hung up. But we can only guess who ordered this poll, and why.

If it’s a local group, local readers should be able to clear up the mystery.

Some survey questions relate to Molokai Ranch. Perhaps they ordered this poll. But if so, then why the anonymity? The Ranch is on island, employs local residents, and says it wants to be a good neighbor. Anonymity just sows suspicion and distorts the response.

If this was a government survey, we would have been told up front. According to some government officials, Ward Research is not one of the pollsters they use. As of last Monday, Senator English’s Office and Representative Carroll’s Office knew nothing about it, advised citizens not to participate in anonymous polls, and planned to call Ward Research for more information. Council members Mateo and Baisa were also unaware, began inquiries of their own, and asked to be kept informed. One helpful staff member from the Public Utilities Commission did call Ward and reported back that there are two surveys, one just completed and one just starting. The second concerns “consumer satisfaction with electric service,” and is statewide. But Ward Research refused to tell even the PUC who paid for the surveys! When asked about HECO (an obvious candidate for the second survey) or a cable bidder (a possible candidate for the first survey) the PUC could only say, “they are private companies, so they can do what they want.”

If the Molokai survey was ordered by a private company, such as Molokai Ranch and/or a wind developer, then we need to ask ourselves this question: Is it a good idea to let private interests snoop around, asking leading questions about public issues? And how can they possibly discuss “benefits” when no agreements have been reached and no contracts signed? In the case of bidders, it should be against the law for them to manipulate local opinion, even after a contract is signed. How much worse then, before they are hired!

It may seem innocent to ask opinions, but this poll is clearly more than that, and it clearly has big money behind it. On Molokai nearly everyone is being called, even the cell phones of “snow birds.” Questions are being asked about demographics, such as “May I speak to the man of the house?” or “Are you aged 25-49?” Some of the questions seem designed to plant specific ideas and test the reactions of different groups of people. This isn’t just polling, but targeting, a kind of surveillance where you divide the community into different target groups who can be approached in different ways. A poll like this is not just fishing for existing support, but trying to figure out everybody’s price or breaking point.

Someday soon, someone will announce the results of this poll. Will all the results be reported, or only those convenient for the buyer? Will the results include all the people who refused to answer an anonymous questioner? Of what value is the poll? None of those who responded knew who ordered it or who wrote the questions. We don’t know who or how many were called. And how can we trust the results when the buyer refuses to be identified?

A poll like this is typical of mainland-style hardball politics. It can be made to say whatever the buyer wants it to say. If the buyer wants to say that Molokai residents are divided about the industrialization of their island, then that’s what the poll will report. Those who want to ram these wind turbines down our throats, can then use the poll to say, “Well, since opinion is divided, we have to choose, so we choose windmills. Have a nice day.”

Sooner or later the secret pollster will crawl out of the bushes. But the bigger mystery is, why is opinion-poaching permitted at all? Why are private companies allowed to masquerade as public agencies, spinning discussion and cooking the books on sensitive public issues? If I put on a ski mask and hold up the corner store, I go to jail. How is it then that a corporation, wearing a similar mask, can interrogate, tempt, and divide a community without even raising eyebrows?

At the very least, these polls should be cleared with our elected officials. Instead, our officials are themselves in the dark, and are turning to us for information! Perhaps the one official whose help we need right now is our State Attorney General, whose sworn duty is to prosecute those who subject us to misrepresentation and fraud.

We are I Aloha Molokai, and we believe that public business should be conducted in public, by our elected officials. The next time an anonymous caller wants to ask you questions, we suggest that you tell them to “have a nice day.” Mahalo.