Update: Lawmakers, DLNR talk projects and progress

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KAILUA-KONA — Boat moorings, dengue fever, land purchases and construction updates.

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KAILUA-KONA — Boat moorings, dengue fever, land purchases and construction updates.

Those were a few of the offerings Tuesday night as Kona Sen. Josh Green, Kona Rep. Nicole Lowen and leaders from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources addressed a standing-room only crowd at the West Hawaii Civic Center Council Chambers for a legislative update.

Lowen highlighted $100 million in funding for installing air conditioning in schools — and legislation that clarifies that the Neighbor Islands will get their share.

“The Department of Education wasn’t all that transparent about how they set their priorities,” Lowen said. “We were able to get Kahakai Elementary on the priority list. It has to be the one of the hottest schools in the state.”

Lowen and Green touted legislation setting up an email database for smoother and quicker communication to health care professionals during crises like the dengue fever outbreak.

“When we first became aware of dengue last October, we were 25 days into the outbreak, and there were 20 cases that hadn’t been communicated by professionals,” Green said. “That’s shocking.”

Green said that $1.8 billion in funding to fight the Zika virus is being considered at the federal level.

“A lot of that would go to the states that are most exposed; we would be on that list,” Green said. “We’re a central area for tourism and travel and we don’t want to be a state that has both dengue and Zika.”

The DLNR is in the process of figuring out next steps for bringing Keauhou Bay moorings into compliance with Army Corps of Engineers permitting, DLNR Chairwoman Suzanne Case said. The state will facilitate communication between individual mooring owners and the Corps, but will not be directly involved otherwise, Case said.

The room applauded Case when she addressed the department’s decision last week not to expand the moorings in the bay.

“It was a very good learning process for us,” said Case, who spent time snorkeling the bay and observing its uses before issuing the decision. “There’s just a lot going on in that bay. It’s a small bay; there are so many boats in Kona. There is a waiting list and we want to accommodate people when we can but we felt the benefit was pretty small considering the congestion there.”

Case also gave an update on some West Hawaii projects. Paving and plumbing work at Kawaihae Small Boat Harbor is underway, and design of the loading dock is almost finished, Case said, with construction to start next year. Improvements to the Honokohau Harbor’s north side should be complete by the end of summer, with paving, new boat washdowns, drainage and a sewage pumpout.

The department is going ahead with an appraisal of the nearly 8,000-acre Kapua lands along the shoreline south of Milolii, and also determining if there is a willing seller, Case said. It is not clear if a state acquisition would be an outright purchase or a conservation easement, but it’s clear the natural and cultural resources of the area should be protected and preserved, she said.

“Managing access will be a challenge because it is a very remote area,” Case said.

Division of Aquatic Resources director Bruce Anderson told the group the proposed rule for a kapu on most fishing for 10 years at Kaupulehu is coming up for consideration by the Land Board, possibly by the end of the month. And the state Commission on Water Resource Management will meet again in Kailua-Kona on May 19 to discuss the National Park Service petition to designate the Keauhou aquifer a state water management area. CWRM is still getting briefings on the proposal, Case said.

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NPS officials will update the commission on how much water they think they need to sustain the ecology and cultural practices of the park, Case said. The county Department of Water Supply will present an update on the Water Use and Development Plan.

The meeting starts at 10 a.m. in the Council Chambers.

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