The Conversation

USGS

Today’s program is a discussion of the impacts of the ongoing volcanic eruption on Hawaii Island. Catherine Cruz is off this week and I’m joined in the studio by Conversation producer Ryan Finnerty. Joining us by phone on today’s program are Will Okabe, Managing Director for the County of Hawai’i, and Jessica Ferracane of the National Park Service on the Big Island.

Wikimedia Commons

Given the recent diplomatic thaw between the U.S. and North Korea, it’s easy to forget that those countries’ leaders were threatening mutual annihilation last year. As part of that escalation, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency began exploring the possibility of constructing a ground-based defensive radar in Hawaii.

Maui College Aims for 100% Solar Power

Jun 18, 2018
Courtesy of the University of Hawaii

The first container-load of solar panels are set to arrive at the Maui College campus in Kahului later this summer. It’s part of a net-zero plan dubbed a “Star Trek” deal that could put the college on the map. During a recent trip to Maui, we thought we would take a closer look at the $6.3 million dollar solar project.

Lava Flow Takes Toll on Big Island Agriculture

Jun 6, 2018
Pixabay

More than 2,500 acres on Hawaii Island are in papaya production. The majority is in the Kapoho area, which is now being affected by lava from Kilauea volcano. The Conversation's Catherine Cruz spoke with Scott Enright, the Director of the State Department of Agriculture, about the potential losses of an industry that is tied to hundreds of jobs.

Volcano Byproducts Impact Solar Panels

Jun 4, 2018
Wikipedia Commons

On Hawaiʻi Island, officials have been meeting with residents of neighborhoods affected by the vog and noxious gases to address concerns about air quality. But if you live in an area that's being affected by the volcano, should you also be concerned about the corrosive effects of volcanic ash, Pele's hair, and acid rain on things like your solar panels?

Flickr

ACLU Battles for Reproductive Rights in Kauai; Solar Panels in the Wake of Volcanic Emissions; Restoring Maui’s Watersheds; Studying Tourism at UH’s East-West Center

State Cracks Down on Monster Home Builders

Jun 4, 2018
Catherine Cruz

Scrutiny over monster home construction triggered a complaint about a contractor who lost his license, yet continued to build. The Hawaii Construction Alliance flagged the problem to the City Department of Planning and Permitting and the State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

Mandatory Evacuations Strain Residents and Responders

Jun 1, 2018
U.S Department of Defense

Yesterday, Mayor Kim ordered the mandatory evacuations of neighborhoods in lower Puna as fast advancing lava flows puts more families at risk. Residents had until noon today to get out of harm's way or take the chance that they may not be able to be rescued - or face incurring the costs of a rescue. 

Lava, Loss of PGV Capacity Create Electricity Challenges

May 24, 2018
Puna Geothermal Venture / Facebook

The Big Island's electric utility, Hawaii Electric Light Company, has been working around the clock to react to the on going Kilauea eruption. Utility crews were recently pulled out of Leilani Estates due to unsafe levels of sulfur dioxide. Additionally, the loss of capacity from the Puna Geothermal Venture has reduced to overall supply of electricity on the island.

Hawaiʻi Island Sees Drop in Visitor Bookings

May 21, 2018
Meyer Werft / Wikimedia Commons

Earlier today, Governor David Ige, through the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority, reassured the world that "travel is safe to the Hawaiian Island." Ige emphasized that the volcanic activity is having no effect on other islands.

But even though Kīlauea's latest eruptive phase is mainly affecting the Puna area, there have been a rash of island-wise cancellations for June and July because tourists mistakenly think the entire state is a disaster area. Some cruise ships are avoiding Hilo and even Kona as a port of call.

Changes Coming to Daniel K. Inouye International Airport

May 17, 2018
Flickr

The state is in the throes of a three billion dollar modernization project at the Honolulu airport. If you plan to travel next month, heads up! This week transportation officials announced it is changing the gate numbers, all in advance of big changes at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

New Virus Discovered in Kāneʻohe Bay

May 17, 2018
Christopher Schvarcz / UH News

Researchers at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa have discovered a new type of virus. This new species has been found inhabiting algae on Windward Oʻahu.

Electric Scooter Rentals Run Afoul of City

May 16, 2018
Casey Harlow

Limebike is a bikeshare and electric scooter rental company from the San Francisco Bay area. The company's entry into the Hawaiʻi market this past weekend is getting a cold reception from Mayor Kirk Caldwell. The city sent a letter warning the company to discontinue putting the vehicles on the streets and sidewalks. 

Lawsuit Filed in Case of Faulty Ala Moana Railing

May 10, 2018
JDNX / Flickr

Honolulu City Councilman Trevor Ozawa introduced Bill 17 after a rusted railing ended the life of one man and critically injured a second at Ala Moana Shopping Center. However, the bill has come up against stiff opposition and has not advanced. The issue is back in the spotlight as a lawsuit has now been filed against General Growth Properties on behalf of the families of the two men involved in the fall at the popular mall.

Homeowners Face Insurance Dilemma in Lava Prone Areas

May 9, 2018
Wikimedia Commons

There are obvious perils of living in an area prone to volcanic activity. Since the 1970's, the U.S. Geological Survey has produced a map of Hawaii Island identifying each geographic area's lava risk. Leilani Estates is rated at the highest possible risk level. That makes homeowners insurance expensive and difficult to obtain for landowners, leading some to eschew protection. 

Legislature Funds 'Safe Zones' for Homeless

Apr 30, 2018
NPR

On Friday, legislators announced an agreement to set aside $30 million to address the homeless crisis. Conferees want to creat special zones for homeless. Some call them "safe zones," or ʻohana zones or kōkua zones. It's not an approach state and county homeless coordinators fully embrace.

TeroVesalainen / Pixabay

Hawaiʻi County is the only county in the state without some form of restriction on temporary vacation rentals. Last week, County Councilmembers introduced Bill 108 – a measure that would regulate how and where properties can be rented short term.

The 2018 Legislative Session is winding down. HPR's Political Reporter Wayne Yoshioka gives The Conversation's Catherine Cruz an update on what passed, what died, and which bills are still in committee.

State Legislators Unveil Affordable Housing Initiative

Apr 25, 2018
Honolulu Habitat for Humanity

House Bill 2748, dubbed the "Bob Nakata Act," recognizes the former state senator and lobbyist for his many years of advocacy for affordable housing. At a news conference yesterday, legislators said they made good on their resolve to do something bold to address the shortage of affordable rental housing. The $200 million agreement aims to jumpstart construction by reducing building costs.

Schatz Pushes for Debt Free College

Apr 23, 2018
Sakeeb / Flickr

$1.4 trillion. That is how much Americans nationwide owe in student loan debt. All of that debt has some policy makers worried, including Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz. He sponsored the Debt Free College Act of 2018 - with the goal of making public higher education affordable without the need for student loans.

Honolulu Councilmember Goes After Monster Home Violators

Apr 23, 2018
Catherine Cruz

City enforcement of zoning and building laws has been a chronic problem. After one local contractor, Brilliant Construction, continued building after receiving an order to stop. City Councilmember Ikaika Anderson is trying to get tough on violators.

Radio Reading for the Blind

Apr 20, 2018
Catherine Cruz

Throughout the week, The Conversation looked at various volunteer opportunities across the state. To close out the series, The Conversation's Catherine Cruz looked into the Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled; which provides services for only a fraction of the thousands of people across the state who are either born blind, or have lost their vision later in life.

Financial Relief for Flood Victims

Apr 19, 2018
Catherine Cruz

Promises of additional flood relief are pouring in from the government as well as private donors. Facebook mogul Mark Zuckerberg pledged a million dollars and eBay Founder Pierre Omidyar already donated $200,000 in disaster relief. Residents of East Honolulu and Waimanalo may also be eligible for federal state and county assistance after those communities were declared disaster areas by Governor David Ige yesterday.

Tension High Over Airport Rideshare Pilot Program

Apr 19, 2018
Wayne Yoshioka

Long simmering tensions between the local taxi companies and transportation network companies, Uber and Lyft, erupted again. The spark was a public hearing to discuss a pilot program that allows the ride sharing companies to pick up and drop off passengers at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu. The state quietly extended the program until September, and yesterday was the first time taxi and limousine drivers had a chance to vent before the Small Business Regulatory Review Board.

Hundreds Rescued from Kauai's North Shore

Apr 17, 2018
DVIDS / U.S. Coast Guard

Following the weekend flooding, the Hanalei District - including Wainiha and Haʻena, faced heavy damage. The Hanalei River became swollen, and many neighborhoods and farmlands flooded. Emergency rescue crews evacuated 152 people by helicopter, 121 by bus and others by water. Currently, it is an active search and rescue effort.

TMT Still Committed to Hawaii, For Now

Apr 16, 2018
Thirty Meter Telescope

The board of the legally beleaguered Thirty Meter Telescope deferred on a decision to relocate the project to the Canary Islands. The announcement came last week following the passage of a Mauna Kea construction ban by one house of the state legislature. Bute a move is not off the table.

Albatross Colony Under Threat from Unlikely Predator

Apr 5, 2018
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A remote atoll within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is home to an extraordinary collection of seabirds. More than 3 million converging on a tiny space: some 1500 acres. It’s the only nesting ground for two seabird species that face an imminent threat from an unlikely source: invasive house mice that attack and kill nesting Black-footed albatross and Laysan albatross.

Tobacco Restrictions Considered at the Legislature

Apr 5, 2018
ECig Click / Flickr

Lawmakers are taking up two bills today, one making the University of Hawaiʻi a tobacco-free zone and another to restrict access to e-cigs to those under 21. The Hawaii Public Health Institute supports both measures.

Jay Parasco / Office of the Mayor

The failure of counties to enforce zoning codes has added to the state's housing crisis with a staggering number of runaway illegal vacation rentals. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is proposing to try and fix that broken picture by legalizing Bed and Breakfasts, with operators paying higher taxes and penalties for violations.

Little Agreement Over Toxoplasmosis Solution

Apr 3, 2018
5459357 / Pixabay

Toxoplasmosis is a parasite-borne infection that can wreak havoc on wildlife, humans with compromised immune systems, and pregnant women. The parasite that causes toxoplasmosis comes from cats, specifically their faces. It has been blamed for the death of at least eight Hawaiian monk seals, the endemic Hawaiian crow, and several other vulnerable bird species. However, there is little agreement over a solution to the problem. The debate largely boils down to one question: should feral cats be eradicated?

Pages