Category Archives: environment

Betty Nagamine Bliss Memorial Overlook

While at the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge, Joe Schwagerl, Project Lead for USFWS Oahu/Maui NWF Unit,  told me about the Pearl Harbor National Wildlife Refuge and the planned commemoration of the Betty Nagamine Bliss Memorial Overlook on Dec. 1st. I had only seen these wetlands on the map and caught an occasional glimpse as I run the Pearl Harbor bike path. I was surprised and pleased to know there is an effort underway to make these areas a bit more accessible to the public.

Here are a few photos of the commemoration ceremony for the Betty Nagamine Bliss Memorial Overlook. Betty Bliss was a teacher at McKinley High School back in the 1970's who spend many long hours convincing the Federal government (FAA) to preserve wetlands that were being destroyed by the building of the Honolulu International Airport. Through her tireless efforts and with help from Herman Bliss, who was head of the FAA in Hawaii at the time, the US Fish & Wildlife Service designated several areas around Pearl Harbor as wildlife refuges. More than 40 years later, she is being memorialized in the construction and dedication of the overlook.

As I came to realize, not only is the overlook a way to provide better public access to the area for viewing and appreciating Hawaii's wetlands, it is also part of a plan to extend the bike path from Pearl Harbor all the way to Nanakuli. I stumbled upon this Leeward Bikeway plan produced by R.M. Towill Corp. for the Dept of Transportation.

As I follow my curiosity, I'd like to find out when a large section of "bike path" from Waipahu Depot Road, where Pouhala Marsh is located all the way to West Locke Estates, is slated for completion. More to come...

James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge

Thanks to the Pacific Office of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Hawaii Science Writers Association, I recently got a chance to visit the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge to view habitat for wetland birds and spend time with Jason Graham to learn about the endangered yellow-faced bee.

As many of you know, I am working with UH researchers on an National Science Foundation project called ʻIke Wai, to study Hawaiʻi's freshwater aquifers. This gives me a unique opportunity to get back outdoors into nature and the environment, and to reconnect to a personal interest of mine, Aloha ʻAina.

The James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge is part of the ahupuaʻa that starts with the watershed in the Koʻolau mountains and results in freshwater springs that feed the wetlands of the refuge.

I believe in the interconnectedness of everything so you will find, in addition to the tech and open data topics, posts here about the watershed, wetlands, native ecosystems, birds and whatever interesting corners my curiosity leads me. Mahalo for joining me on this journey.

The next leg of the journey for @SolarImpulse #futureisclean

Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard
The pilots and support crew for the Solar Impulse are back in Hawaii preparing for the continuation of their around-the-world flight, a flight made purely on solar energy. Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard looked refreshed and ready for second half of their trans-Pacific flight. Last year in July, they flew a marathon 118 hours non-stop from Nagoya, Japan to Honolulu. On that trip the batteries were pushed to their operational limits and overheated. As a result the Solar Impulse team had to reassess how they would proceed: re-engineer the battery insulation and risk the delay and changing weather or postpone the mission until 2016. The decision was obvious. IMG_7775Andre Borschberg told me that the batteries themselves were okay, it was the insulation that prevented them from cooling. As a result the team re-engineered the insulation housing in January. The green tubing in the photo is part of the cooling system necessary while on the ground. After landing, if the batteries aren't cooled the batteries run the risk of damage. The weather pattern will determine the next leg of the flight. During their time in Asia, the team learned that having multiple airport options can make or break a flight plan. Recall, Solar Impulse was supposed to fly from Nanjing, China to Honolulu but instead detoured to Nagoya, Japan. As of this writing, there are four possible West Coast options, Vancouver, British Columbia, San Francisco, Los Angeles or Phoenix, Arizona. There will be two stops in the U.S., one in the central U.S. and one in New York. The plane then continues to Europe and ending its around-the-world flight in Abu Dhabi. There will be two public viewings here in Honolulu. One on March 26 and April 2, 2016. Viewing times are from 10am to 4pm. Consult the Solar Impulse website for details. You can find more photos from today's viewing here. The Si2 is parked in the University of Hawaii hanger at Kalaeloa Airport. The planned departure is on April 15, 2016. In the meantime the crew continues with preparations, taking the plane out for test flights. Earlier this week test pilots (not Andre or Bertrand) flew the plane for 16 hours. We're all excited about this next leg of their journey. Hawaii benefits twice for having the Solar Impulse land here and then eight months later begin its journey from here. Solar Impulse and its theme of #FutureisClean brings attention to Hawaii's clean energy goals which are the most aggressive in the country. Very serendipitous!

A Glimpse of Oahu’s Water Source – Halawa Pumping Station

Halawa Pumping Station There is no doubt that water is important but sometimes we take it for granted thinking it will always be there. Like petroleum, one day fresh water will become a scarce resource. We assume that the artesian wells that provide Oahu's fresh water will continue to be productive but ever since they've been tapped, in the 1940's, the levels have been decreasing. I recently got a chance to revisit the Board of Water Supply's Halawa Pumping Station since the last time was quite a while ago.  Things haven't changed much. The trolley that takes you down the shaft still reminds me of a carnival ride.
Halawa Shaft
What is amazing is the fresh water that sustains all of us resides in pools deep in the earth. The system that replenishes this supply is well understood. But as the demands on these water resources grow, whether it be population growth or development, you can see the water levels drop from the 1940s to present.
Freshwater well
In addition to increased water usage there are the threats due to contamination. A recent revelation was the fuel storage facility located on Red Hill. These large containers of jet fuel are leaking and pose a threat to the Moanalua wells. Discussions for a remedy are ongoing between the BWS and Navy as this site visit might indicate, but it is still unclear what the solution is and a proposed settlement is still forthcoming. This will become an issue if not already. You can familiarize yourself with this project by reviewing the Administrative Order on Consent and the Statement of Work along with an archive of supporting documentation I helped to produce in collaboration with the Board of Water Supply.

NOAA @okeanosexplorer – Exploring the Deep Waters off Hawaii 2015

IMG_4908 At 6:00am (Correction: departure is closer to 9:00am) on Friday, July 31, 2015 the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer will leave on it's voyage to Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument to begin an exploration into areas previously unexplored. In addition to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Okeanos will explore the area around the Johnston Atoll and the recently expanded Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument as well as several seamounts in the vicinity of the Main Hawaiian Islands. These large swaths of ocean, all a part of the Pacific Marine National Monuments and NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries cover an area of approximately 742,000 square miles of relatively pristine marine ecosystems. This exploration and mapping by Okeanos will help to establish a baseline for scientists, conservationist, policy makers and the public to best manage the region. Along with the protection of this natural resource are the potential for deep sea mining and the extended U.S. Continental Shelf. The information gathered on this expedition will help decision makers tackle these issues. IMG_4942 On the voyage, Okeanos will provide livestreams from cameras situated on the Deep Discoverer and Seirios ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) and from Mission Control. The ship is touted as being the most Internet connected research vessel with a 20Mbps upstream satellite connection to enable HD broadcasts. Through the livestreams, the public will see exactly what the scientists onboard see in mission control. In addition to being well connected the program believes in data transparency and "strives to make as much of the data collected onboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer available to the scientists and the public as soon as possible." Data from the mission gets posted 1-6 months after the mission. Our interview on Hawaii Public Radio with onboard scientists Dr. Chris Kelley and Dr. Daniel Wagner go into the specifics of the mission. You can also enjoy a virtual tour of the ship though this photo album as I visit the bridge, mission control, the ROVs, engine room and lab. Thanks to Kelley Elliot, Expedition Coordinator, Emily Rose, Operations Officer and Toni Parras, Communications Manager for a very informative tour. We are living in an exciting time for science, exploring the far reaches of our solar system and the mighty depths of our ocean.

Hokule`a: World Wide Voyage

The Hokule`a and companion ship Hikianalia set sail on Wednesday, May 29, 2013 on the World Wide Voyage which will take 4 years and go around the world. The pair of canoes will travel a total of 47,000 miles, visit 26 countries and enter 85 ports. On their first leg of the journey and for the next 12 months, both vessels will travel around Hawaii. The vision for the World Wide Voyage is to Malama Honua, or Care for the Earth. The crew and vessel will carry this message on their journey, "to become a catalyst for positive change in Hawaii by constantly learning from and nurturing relationships worldwide that share the values of and responsibility for, caring for island Earth, her oceans and children, while honoring our heritage and perpetuating our culture. " Although we may not be on the canoes master navigator Nainoa Thompson talked about us (the public) as being the  "third canoe" able to share in the World Wide Voyage. The Hikianalia is equipped with all the technology to transmit ship to ship via wifi and from ship to shore with 4g. Further out, beyond the reach of land based communications, the vessels will communicate via satellite. The primary sites to stay in contact with Hokule`a and Hikianalia are: The slideshow above was during the press conference and the launch of the two vessels on May 29, 2013 from the Marine Education and Training Center on Sand Island.


#EatLocalHI 2010This past week was quite a learning experience participating in the Kanu Hawaii Eat Local Challenge. To be conscientious about sourcing locally produced foods is a challenge and has to be well planned out. In our eat and run culture, I found myself slowing down a bit to think about what markets to go to and which restaurants might offer a local dish. On Sunday, Sept 26, I started off by picking up several local favorites from Foodland Pearl City. Poi, Okinawan sweet potato, local kim chee, lau lau and poke were on my list. This was to at least take care of three evening dinners. I asked the fish department folks at Foodland if the poke was local and they said only if it said fresh. And on this day, nothing was fresh. All the fish was from either China, Taiwan or the Philippines. I thought about Tamashiro Market but never made it out to Palama. Convenience is still a big factor in what we eat and for me eating choices are made based on convenience and price. Foodland fit the bill. I did have to sacrifice on variety for my dinners but did get a treat when I was able to get some local white crab. Three medium size crabs made for a good alternative to lau lau for one of those days. Also a buddy at work brought in a hand of apple bananas for everyone in the office. That was a great and perfect for breakfast along with my non-local coffee from Papua New Guinea (via Costco). Lunches are a challenge especially if you are going to bring a home lunch. I tried one day with okinawan sweet potatoes, dried ahi and an apple banana, but the rest of the week was bought lunches. Honolulu Burger Co. did a great job with a Eat Local Special burger, very flavorful and the mushroom was to die for. An added bonus for mentioning Kanu was free fries and a drink. Worth it for $10. Next was Downtown @ HISAM. It was the Sept. monthly Bytemarks Lunch so it was good reason to talk tech and support #EatLocalHI. I had their Eat Local special which was a fish dish featuring opah and local vegetables. Wow, this combo was a like a punch in the taste buds. The fish as ono but the local radishes were overpowering. I enjoyed it but, not sure if I would order it again and at $16 we're getting up in price. On Friday the Kaimuki Lunch Bunch had a #EatLocalHI lunch tweetup at Big City Diner. Good turn out and BCD's special was mahimahi with local vegetables like baby bok choy, onions, mushrooms and tomatoes with a light cream sauce. Perfect combo for a fish dish and at a price of $13 it was a bargain not to mention @bcdlane threw in the edamame appetizer and decadent chocolate dessert. Obvious going out to lunch like this is not something I can financially sustain but I didn't think the price of the local selections were out of the norm for a sit down restaurant lunch. What I think this challenge brought to my attention was that with some simple choices you could support the local agriculture business. Next time you are at the market, buy some local produce like sweet potatoes, onions, baby bak choy or some local eggs, beef and fresh fish. I'll pay a little more attention the next time I make my purchase. If we all did, maybe we could show the local food producer there's a market out there and help encourage Hawaii's local food industry. It might be our first step toward food sustainability.

Eat Local Challenge 2010

Eat LocalWhen you stop to think about where all our food comes from you realize how much of it is shipped in from outside the state. About 90% of Hawaii's food is brought in from elsewhere. And, if transportation to Hawaii was cut off, there would be about 2 weeks worth of food on island to sustain the population. That's a little scary. Granted, I'm not about to stop buying my Rotisserie chicken and box of Fuji apples from Costco anytime soon, but what if for one week we were to challenge ourselves to eat local. By this I mean eat foods that are grown here in Hawaii. With this we can raise the awareness of locally grown foods and support our local farmers, ranchers and fishermen, perhaps even grow this industry to be more than 10% of our food intake. Kanu Hawaii started this challenge in 2009 and the 2nd annual Eat Local Challenge 2010 is talking place on Sept. 26 to October 2. Last year several restaurants joined in the challenge by offering selection that were 100% locally sourced. Town and Downtown both participated and I assume will continue this year. I am on the hunt to find out if there are more restaurants joining in. This will at least make the lunchtime, Eat Local experience more tasty. Another suggestion would be to stock up on local produce at the KCC Farmers Market. In the meantime the Kanu Eat Local site will have a list of participating restaurants and produce specials but as of this writing it's Coming Soon. You can also keep up with the play-by-play tweetstream by searching for the hashtag #EatLocalHI on Twitter. I plan to also blog my adventures and learnings along the way to eating local. Hope you will also join in the challenge.

Aquaculture A-Team

Hawaii Geek Meet IIIBenny Ron is a one man tour de force. He is the Aquaculture Coordinator at the University of Hawaii and runs Aquaculture Hub. I caught him at Geek Meet III this past weekend at Ala Moana, Magic Island. Accompanying Benny in this photo is Shai Shafir and Yoko. It was fun watching them touting their laptops with their aquaculture presentation in hand. Only something a true geek would do. While he was showing me his preso, I asked him what he thought of the report released last week by Food & Water Watch which was hyper critical of the fledgling aquaculture industry in Hawaii. He felt it was steeped in misinformation and pointed me to a video conversation he had with Jay Fidell of Think Tech. Obviously passionate about this topic he and Jay get into a detailed discussion about the opportunity open ocean aquaculture has for creating food security for Hawaii.  It's a very interesting listen. Benny Ron on Finding a Way for Aquaculture in Hawaii from Jay Fidell. During Bytemarks Cafe last week (Apr. 14, 2010) we covered the story about FWW's report and asked Bill Spencer, CEO of Hawaii Oceanic Technologies Inc. to weigh in on the report. He wrote:
A highly funded, Washington, DC lobby organization, Food and Water Watch (FWW), is mounting a frontal attack on Hawaii State policy that supports open ocean mariculture. They have rallied a motley crew of rag tag environmental groups, paid many of them to attack a growing sector of our economy that is on the verge of showing the world a way to produce seafood that is environmentally responsible. This group of activists are disseminating miss-leading information that paints a picture of Hawaii’s small ocean farming businesses as harbingers of huge factory fish farms that pollute our ocean with horrible chemicals, antibiotics and fish poop. Food and Water Watch purports a host of problems with mariculture even though the industry is in its infancy in Hawaii, and none of their claims can be proven, only imagined by creative writers and spin doctors. The opportunity for a company to grow fish in Hawaiian territorial waters has been a matter of law for ten years. It has been seen as a potential economic engine that could put fishermen back to work, create thousands of jobs and even new businesses in support of the effort.
Federal policy is also being crafted that will affect the aquaculture industry and NOAA is touring the country soliciting public feedback on the issue. They were here this week and Ben Markus from Hawaii Public Radio did this piece. Jay Fidell also wrote this article that ran in Sunday's Honolulu Advertiser. Hawaii could potentially offer a lot to Hawaii's food security and the diet of fish eating public with a viable aquaculture industry. The reality is, the oceans are being fished out and novel ways need to be established to sustain this food source. Why not aquaculture and why not here in Hawaii. The steps we take at this formative stage of the industry could mean the difference between success and failure.

Tsunami vs. Unconferenz

Let's face it the tsunami won. When I went to sleep on Friday night I heard about the 8.8 earthquake in Chile and the potential for a tsunami. When I woke on Saturday morning about 5:30am I got messages from Roxanne Darling and Todd Ogasawara asking if the Unconferenz 2010 was still on. My initial response was, "Yes, it is still on." There was a tsunami warning in Sept 2009 from an 7.9 earthquake off California that resulted in a 6in wave and I wasn't about to let this one change my plans. As I started to call around I noticed that the seriousness of this tsunami threat was considerably more than the one in Sept. Roads were being closed, businesses and shopping centers were shut down, sirens were being sounded, news coverage went into full time mode, people were making runs on gas and food and the clincher for me was that Kapiolani Community College was ceasing their operations. Without a facility, the decision to postpone the Unconferenz was a relatively easy one. The remaining Saturday was spend watching the news coverage of the tsunami. As natural disasters go, a tsunami is like a spectator sport, at least ones like these that have a long lead time and happen in the middle of the day. For the most part its a normal day with full electrical power, Internet access and phone service. I even went for a run along Pearl Harbor around 9am. Everyone is watching and reporting what they see. As a result there are some very interesting views of the tsunami as it unfolded on the social media aware. Here are a few of my favorites; Roxanne Darling posted this on her blog: Hawaii Tsunami Proves Social Media Power Again: Information is a Tonic. It's a great sampling of new and traditional media views of the tsunami as a news event. Most of us were glued to the television watching the various news casts. KGMB, the CBS affiliate had full time coverage as did the other stations. In the case of KGMB, they had a camera pointed at Hilo Bay with a great vantage point of the ocean. With a clear view you could tell when the ocean tides changed. In this series of photos taken by Ryan Ozawa, you can clearly see the current of the water as it recedes and then flows back in. If the tsunami created a flooding this would provide a perfect view of it. Luckily that didn't happen. From this view you could see how the repetition of the tsunami waves would enter the bay then recede, an awesome sight to see. Local blogger John Garcia created a site that streamed the hashtag #hitsunami found at This was a realtime view of twitter posts aggregated in one place. Granted you could get something similar by searching the hashtag on Twitter but you would not have gotten the feed or the Civil Defense updates. During the tsunami warning, TV cameras were pointed at Waikiki beach. Everyone was cleared from the waters and the beach area. In spite of this there is always the oddball who disregards the warnings and goes into the water anyway. This guy was caught on camera wading out into the surf appearing to taunt the ocean with his arms. This has now been immortalized in a Facebook fan page called: The idiot who was swimming in Waikiki during the tsunami warning. Obviously this is just a small sampling of the various views of the events as they occurred on Saturday. Finally, I must include this image of the energy created by the earthquake. This NOAA image captures it for me and validates the concern expressed and actions taken by the Tsunami Warning Center and the Civil Defense.