HART seeks to fill board of directors seat

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit (HART) is looking to fill a vacancy on its board of directors left by Robert “Bobby” Bunda, who stepped down in May. In a press release HART Board Chairman Ivan Lui-Kwan said, “We are looking for an individual who recognizes the importance of public transportation, who supports rail transit and who has a passion for public service.”

Bunda is a former state legislator who served on the board of directors since September 2011. Appointed in 2013 to serve a five-year term, Bunda ended it early to spend more time with his family. His replacement’s term will expire June 30, 2018. The vacancy comes just one month after Mayor Caldwell reappointed Vice-Chair Don Horner to a second term. Horner, who began serving a four-year term in the summer of 2011, will continue serving until 2020.

The next board member will have plenty on their plate. Back in 2011, when the board was first established, few expected the rail project to face so many challenges. Four years later, rail has been plagued by legal problems, delays and disputes between authorities and agencies involved.

But the greatest challenge so far remains the fiscal problems. Cost overruns for the $5.2 billion project are estimated at roughly $1 billion as of now. Where exactly that money is expected to come from is still unclear. Governor Ige recently approved extending the GET surcharge tax another five years. The original half percent surcharge for Oahu residents and businesses was expected to end in 2022 but, when HART’s overall revenues fell short by $30 million, it became clear they would have to find ways to generate more funds. The surcharge is now scheduled to end in 2027, but could be extended again.

HART’s board members are part-time volunteers responsible for instituting policies related to transportation and infrastructure in Honolulu County. A local statute requires that Mayor Caldwell appoint three members to the HART board, the Honolulu City Council appoint three members, the HART Board appoints one member, and there are three automatic appointments from relevant city and state departments.

Interested applicants can apply here.

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Models to mitigate coastal hazards related to climate change

New research using wave modeling helps explain the effects coral reefs have on preventing coastal hazards like flooding.

The effects of climate change are many and varied, and some of them will compound one another. Coral reefs are a very important part of island life; they protect tropical islands from erosion caused by the immense power of ocean waves, and they balance the salinization of drinking water resources which help to sustain life on those islands. Under pressure from climate change and from direct human activity, reefs are losing their ability to fill these crucial roles in island ecosystems. About 30 million people live on low-lying coral islands and atolls and are, therefore, dependent on the ecosystem protection coral reefs provide. At present, some of these islands experience flooding due to wave events a few times per decade. It is expected that this rate of flooding will increase due to the combined effects of sea level rise and coral reef decay. A new paper by researchers from the Dutch independent institute for applied research Deltares and the U.S. Geological Survey provides some guidance to coastal managers in assessing how climate change will affect their coral reefs’ ability to mitigate coastal erosion and over-salinization. 

To gain insight into the effects changing climate conditions are having on coral reefs, the study authors used Xbeach (an open-source wave model). First, field measurements obtained on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands were used to validate the computer model. The model was then used to investigate the effects changing certain reef properties have on water levels, waves and wave-driven runup. Reef roughness, steepness, width and the total water level on the reef platform are all important factors for coastal managers to consider when planning mitigating measures.

The results suggest that coasts fronted by relatively narrow reefs with steep faces and deeper, smoother reef flats are expected to experience the highest wave runup and, thus, the highest potential for island flooding. Wave runup increases for higher water levels, and climate change is expected to continue to raise sea levels. Climate change is also increasing water temperatures, acidity and other factors that are affecting corals and other sea life. Wave runup also increases with lower coral bed roughness. As coral degrades, it becomes smoother. Dead corals are generally much smoother in structure, and do far less to dissipate wave energy. Climate change is not only raising sea levels around the world already, it’s already having a significant negative impact on coral reefs, which in turn minimizes the mitigating effects these corals have on coastal hazards.

Loss of coral cover not only causes increased shoreline erosion but also affects the sparse drinking water resources on these islands; climate change may eventually make these islands uninhabitable for this reason alone. In order to prevent or mitigate these impacts, coastal managers need know to what extent their reef system may lose its protective function so that they can take action.

The research paper, “The influence of coral reefs and climate change on wave-driven flooding of tropical coastlines,” is published as an open-access paper and available online. The new research has been accepted for publication in “Geophysical Research Letters,” a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

About the image: Coral reefs, Kwajalein Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands | USGA

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State legislators appeal for greater response to Red Hill fuel facility

Joint letter says “real danger” of contamination to drinking water should not be ignored

Calling the proposed agreement between federal and state health agencies and the U.S. Navy unacceptable, eighteen State Senate and House Legislators are calling for stronger and swifter measures to ensure the safety and security of Oahu’s drinking water supply following the fuel leak from the Red Hill Bulk Storage Facility.

In response to data that shows contaminants have been found in the groundwater beneath the Red Hill fuel tanks, a letter signed by nearly all Oahu Senators and a number of Oahu Representatives asks the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and State Department of Health (DOH) to reject the proposed Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) and renegotiate with the U.S. Navy to strengthen the requirements for leak prevention and detection of underground storage tanks and bring them up to federal conformance standards within in no more than ten years, with at least half of the operating tanks being brought up to standards within five years.

“The Navy claims their rigorous inspection and repair standards will ensure the tanks are safe. However, after repairing one tank last year, it immediately leaked approximately 27,000 gallons of fuel,” said Sen. Laura Thielen (Kailua, Lanikai, Enchanted Lake, Keolu Hills, Maunawili, Waimānalo, Hawai‘i Kai, Portlock). “It would be unconscionable to delay measures any longer that would prevent further leaks and risk the spread of any contamination to our water supply.”

In consideration of the age of the fuel tanks which are now 70 years old and hold up to 250 million gallons of fuel and the known history of leaks, the joint letter also calls for the State to require the Navy to increase the pace of the AOC investigation and installation of new groundwater monitoring wells.

“While we recognize the important role the U.S. Navy and Pacific Command has amongst our nation and understand the Navy has provided assurances that significant efforts have been made to maintain the fuel tanks and protect these tanks from fuel leaks, it is simply unacceptable the ostensible lack of urgency to do more to protect this island’s aquifer that is critical to one-fourth of Honolulu’s population,” said Sen. Thielen.  “We respectfully request that the tangible risk to our water supply be considered a much higher priority and the tanks be completely overhauled or replaced sooner as opposed to later.” 

The letter also requests the Navy provide to the DOH and Honolulu Board of Water Supply records and data regarding the operations of the Red Hill fuel tanks in order to be better informed and negotiate further on equal footing. 

“Ways in which we would be able to make the necessary repairs to these tanks and provide jobs that will help the local economy should be part of the discussion,” said Sen. Thielen. “If negotiations are to consider the cost feasibility of repairing or replacing the fuel tanks, we should also consider the cost that contamination of our aquifer will have on Oahu residents and our natural resources.”

The Legislators submitting the joint letter are Senators Sam Slom, Les Ihara, Jr., Brickwood Galuteria, Suzanne Chun Oakland, Donna Mercado Kim, Glenn Wakai, Breene Harimoto, Clarence Nishihara, Michelle Kidani, Will Espero, Maile Shimabukuro, Gil Riviere and Laura Thielen, and Representatives Bertrand Kobayashi, Della Au Belatti, Jarrett Keohokalole, Cynthia Thielen and Chris Lee.

The letter is being presented as part of the public comment period on the proposed AOC which has a deadline of July 20, 2015.

Information about the Red Hill Fuel Facility and links to the proposed AOC are available at http://www.epa.gov/region9/redhill/ and http://health.hawaii.gov/RedHill .

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