FREIGHT TRAINS SAVED!
Twenty-three years is a long time to fight for a surf spot, but that’s exactly what surfers from Maui and around the world have done in Ma‘alaea. For decades the US Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources have been putting forth plans to expand Ma‘alaea Harbor. Their reasoning was to allow for harbor expansion, but doing so would also damage huge sections of reef and destroy Freight Trains, literally one of the top surf breaks on the planet.
It doesn’t go off many days out of the year, but when it does, look out. Massive storms that occur from April to September off the eastern coast of New Zealand generate giant waves, which travel 4,000 miles north towards Hawaii. It’s a rare day when all that energy manages to shoot the tiny eight-mile gap between Kahoolawe and Maui’s southern tip, but when it does, you get a gorgeous, extremely fast wave barrelling right into Ma‘alaea Harbor, much like its namesake. Indeed, it’s considered the fastest rideable wave on Earth.
Since 1990, the Surfrider Foundation has been trying to get the fed and the state of Hawaii to abandon its Ma‘alaea Harbor expansion plans and preserve both the reef and the surf break. That finally happened on Friday, May 4, when officials terminated the project, saying that the “high cost” and considerable (and ever-growing) “community concerns” that they were facing became too much to overcome. Needless to say, Surfrider officials from Hawaii and the Mainland were celebrating.
“Even before there was a Maui Chapter, Surfrider Foundation campaigned to save the world-class wave at Ma‘alaea,” Stuart Coleman, Surfrider’s Hawaii Coordinator, said in a May 7 email.
According to the email, Surfrider has “logged countless hours of community outreach, attended hearings, legal filings and even commissioned an independent review of the Army Corps of Engineers plans for the project.”
Normally, this space is reserved for bad news: public officials behaving badly, land development projects gone wrong. The victory by Surfrider–and the rest of myriad groups and individuals who spent so many years battling the harbor expansion plans–is very welcome good news.
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MAUI ERODING AWAY!
Okay, time for bad news: nearly three quarters of all the beaches on Maui, Kauai and Oahu are eroding away, according to a new study by the US Geological Survey (USGS) and the University of Hawaii’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST).
“Of the three islands, Maui beaches experienced the highest rates and greatest extent of beach erosion with 85% of beaches eroding,” says a May 7 email from UH spokeswoman Marcie Grabowski. “Erosion is the dominant trend of coastal change on all three islands with 71% of beaches eroding on Kaua’i and 60% of beaches eroding on O’ahu.”
Eighty-five percent on Maui?! It’s a wonder we can still find space to soak up any UV rays. Granted, erosion on volcanic island chains like Hawaii is not surprising. “The inevitable fate of the Hawaiian Islands millions of years into the future is seen to the northwest in the spires of French Frigate Shoals and the remnants of other once mighty islands, ancestors of today’s Hawaii, but now sunken beneath the sea through the forces of waves, rivers, and the slow subsidence of the seafloor,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt in the email.
But unlike past islands that have eroded away, Hawaii today has considerable human development right up to the shoreline–roads and buildings that even today are crumbling away. In fact, you can see this vividly just north of the Pali. It’s a fact that the study’s researchers know only too well.
“Over a century of building along the Hawaiian shoreline, without this sort of detailed knowledge about shoreline change, has led to some development that is located too close to the ocean,” said Dr. Charles Fletcher, UH Geology and Geophysics Professor and lead study author in the email. “A better understanding of historical shoreline change and human responses to erosion may improve our ability to avoid hazards in the future.”
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MECO TO HIKE RATES AGAIN!
Oh, and by the way: the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has finally ruled that the Maui Electric Co. (MECO) rate hike instituted back in the summer of 2010, is okay by them.
“The PUC finalized a 1.5% increase, or $4.7 million in annual revenues, effective May 4, 2012,” said Kau‘i Awai-Dickson, MECO spokesperson, in a May 4 email. “This amount has already been reflected in electric bills since August 2010, when the PUC approved an interim increase.”
You get all that? According to Awai-Dickson, the rate hike was “requested to help pay for more than $122 million in capital improvements such as replacement and upgrade of power plant control systems at the Maalaea Generating Station, new or expanded substations to support past and future growth and improve service, as well as increasing operations and maintenance costs for the utility’s electric system.”
Sounds reasonable, right? How about this little sentence, which also appeared in her May 4 email: “The PUC is still reviewing MECO’s pending 2012 rate request, and an interim decision in that case may be issued later this month.”
Woohoo! Rate hikes for everyone! Hey, this is what happens when we have a monopoly (that would be MECO) controlling the generation and transmission of electric power on Maui. They ask the PUC, which is hardly what anyone would consider to be a radical entity, for rate hikes, and the PUC holds hearings, and then more than likely grants the rate hike. Attaching solar panels to home rooftops is expensive, but I can see the attraction in escaping from MECO’s control (as well as reducing dependence on dirty fuels like oil).
Of course, there are new windmills going up right this second in Maalaea–the generators themselves cost money, as does the labor needed to run them, but their fuel costs are zero. Wind is free! And yet our electric bills are still going up and will continue to do so.
All that talk about the U.S. being a free market capitalist state? Apparently not where electric power on Maui is concerned.