I wanted to give you a brief update of some happenings in our county.
BILL 13: EXPANDED POLYSTYRENE (STYROFOAM) REDUCTION BILL
Recently the Hawaii County Council passed Bill 13, a ban/reduction on expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam) type of containers used in packaging within our county.
This reduction does not address any packaging done outside the County of Hawaii, and primarily targets the single use food containers.
As initially presented, the bill had numerous exemptions, some allowing the County of Hawaii to exempt itself from the provisions of the bill. This did not sit well with me. If we as a county feel it is important enough to pass legislation to start the reduction, we should not then exempt ourselves from that legislation. I believe any legislation passed anywhere is for everyone. Recognizing that we had differences, the Committee on Environmental Management took the bill back to an ad hoc committee, worked out the differences and brought forth a comprehensive bill that was an acceptable compromise. Bill 13 passed final reading and will go into effect July 1, 2019, allowing time to develop the administrative rules needed to enforce the measure.
As many of you have read, North Kona has been experiencing water shortages for numerous months. This shortage was not due to aquifer problems, but rather due to pump equipment failures.
As a rough thumbnail sketch of the situation, North Kona has 13 wells with an approximate production of 22 million gallons of water per day. The average community water needs for that area is approximately 11 million gallons per day, or only half of what can be produced.
With five wells down, total production capacity dropped to approximately 13 million gallons per day. However, with water conservation and restrictions, the community needs had been reduced to approximately 8 million gallons per day. Though not a comfortable position to be in, and with the redundancy of the system almost maxed out, the Department of Water Supply was able to keep the water flowing with everyone’s cooperation. As of this writing, two of the five wells that were down are back online. This has alleviated the immediate problem, but to ensure that this “perfect storm” does not happen again an audit has been called for to review the Department of Water Supply and its operations.
Closer to home, Kohala Ranch recently lost both of its wells due to equipment failure. Very different from North Kona, they had no water source and were running water trucks to keep supplying the system. Through collaboration with the County of Hawaii, arrangements were made to allow the well crews to come to Kohala Ranch and get at least one well operational.
Going forward, a new water supply task force is being established to address the very unique issues of the Hawaii County potable water supply. The county has some of the deepest and thereby complex water supplies in the nation. Because of this, unique challenges and equipment are problematic. Public and private sectors will come together to discuss and figure out how to collaborate and cooperate in the future when issues arise.
Bill 62 – WIDENING OF MUD LANE TO MANA ROAD
Recently Bill 62 was passed through the County Council allowing the widening of the Mamalahoa Highway from Mud Lane to Mana Road. The price tag for this project comes in at $27.5 million, with funding coming from all three governmental sectors: federal for $22 million, state for $500,000 and county for $5 million. The Department of Public Works hopes to put the bid out in November, with an approximate project timeline of March 2018 through September 2019.
MASS TRANSIT MASTER PLAN
As many of you have read, our mass transit system is in disarray. Authorized under a previous County Council, a consultant has been engaged to review the current mass transit system and formulate a master plan.
The bus system for our county is a challenge with numerous obstacles and problems. Relatively low ridership, combined with the long distances and the high cost of equipment, is difficult to manage.
The current annual budget for mass transit is $14 million with only about $1 million generated by fare collection. It is a subsidized entity. The consultant has scheduled five public input meetings island wide to gather information from the community. I invite you to attend any of these sessions to give your input to the process going forward.
The first will be at West Hawaii Civic Center in Kona Oct. 9, Keaau Oct. 11, Pahoa Oct. 12, Waimea Elementary School cafeteria Oct. 19 and Hilo Oct. 24. All will start at 5:30 p.m. If you are unable to attend, but would like to submit comments, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.