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April 2006

Hawai`i News

`IMILOA OPENS on the Island of Hawai`i
Mauna Kea Astronomy Center finally has grand opening in Hilo after much controversy

By Rochelle delaCruz

The `Imiloa Astronomy Center located at University of Hawai`i’s Science and Technology Park in Hilo, has finally opened after years of controversy. `Imiloa, formerly called Mauna Kea Astronomy Education Center (MKAEC) explores the relationship between the Hawaiian voyages of discovery and the science of astronomy. “Framed by a rich Polynesian tradition of exploration, `Imiloa is Hawai`i ’s premier facility for interpreting the deepest mysteries of the universe, being unraveled by the Mauna Kea observatories – the world’s largest and most important collection of telescopes. `Imiloa inspires and educates, helping us to connect with our origins while we reach for the stars.” (from www.imiloahawaii.org.)

`Imiloa (exploring new knowledge) was conceived in the mid 1990s and supported by Senator Daniel Inouye who helped secure federal funding through NASA. The three cones in the design of the center represent the three major volcanoes on Hawai`i Island: Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa and Hualālai. But there has been much controversy since its inception.

There has been growing concern within the Hawaiian community that the numerous telescopes atop Mauna Kea desecrate that sacred place. Known by many as “the piko” (navel), the White Mountain is the site of the origin legend of the Hawaiian people. Many are unhappy that the iconic outline of the majestic mountain against the sky is now marred by thirteen observatories which can be seen by the naked eye. Locals refer to these bumps on the mountain top as “pimples.” From the beginning as more telescopes went up, the Hawaiian community felt their culture and perspective were being ignored. But with this new facility, attempts were made to find common ground to satisfy both the Hawaiian community and Hawai`i ’s astronomers.

However, just weeks before the opening of the new center, NASA cut funding for the long-delayed Outrigger telescopes project which would have helped in the search for new planets. Some scientists say that if not for the resistance by Hawaiians and environmentalists, the Outrigger project would have already been in operation. Around the same time, the ahu lele (altar) built by Hawaiians in 1997 at the summit of Mauna Kea for prayer and offerings, was vandalized. A few days later, another ahu on the grounds of ` Iolani Palace in downtown Honolulu was also destroyed. (Both were immediately rebuilt.)

The Royal Order of Kamehameha I led by high chief Paul Neves, was one of the organizations that opposed the Outrigger project. Neves said that because Mauna Kea is the source of Hawaiian origin stories, leaving an offering at the ahu lele allows people to connect to a sacred realm. Speaking at the dedication of `Imiloa, Neves said, “We’ve never been against astronomy. We’re astronomers ourselves; we came to this place by the guidance of our stars…[so] it’s not that we don’t want astronomy, but the technology that they use today means desecration of sacred sites, and we can never change that footprint of our ancestor. It has been changed already, terribly. We’re saying, Enough! No more.”

Time will tell if the two sides can co-exist in this new space.

The `Imiloa Astronomy Center

The `Imiloa Astronomy Center
Photo by Walter Steiger

For additional stories about the Mauna Kea Astronomy Education Center, please see Hawai`i News December 2004 and Hawai`i News January 2005


Margaret Awamura Inouye

1925 – 2006

Margaret Awamura Inouye, wife of Senator Daniel K. Inouye, died from complications of colon cancer on March 13, 2006 at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington D.C. Memorial services were held in Honolulu at the Harris United Methodist Church.

Margaret Inouye was born on June 23, 1924 in Wailuku, Maui and married Daniel K. Inouye on June 12, 1949. They had one son, Daniel K. Inouye, Jr. Mrs. Inouye graduated Roosevelt High School, received a BA from the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa, and an MA from Columbia University. She taught at UH-Mānoa for nearly ten years before campaigning to help her husband win his congressional seat.

Upon her passing, the Senator released the following statement:

It was a most special blessing to have had Maggie in my life for 58 years. She was my inspiration, and all that I have accomplished could not have been done without her at my side. We were a team. She always supported me, listened to my ideas, and many times offered invaluable suggestions that always proved she was capable of achieving as much on her own right, given her intelligence and education. Instead, she chose to join me on a special journey that took us to Washington, and gave us the privilege of serving the people of Hawaii.

In memory of Margaret Inouye, donations may be made to the University of Hawaii Foundation to support the Dan and Maggie Inouye Distinguished Chair in Democratic Ideals at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. The mailing address is: University of Hawaii Foundation, P.O. Box 11270. Honolulu, Hawaii 96828-0279.


Dam Bursts on Kaua`i
3 Bodies Recovered, 4 Still Missing

An earthen dam on Kaua`i burst without warning on March 14th, sending 300 million gallons of water downhill that swept two houses completely off its foundation and seven people to their deaths. So far, only three bodies have been recovered. A wide swath of water also swept across Kuhio Highway, closing for a period of time the only road from Kilauea to Haena. A storm had brought five to six inches of rain to Kaua`i in a 24 hours period and the ground was fully saturated when the dam burst.

The Kaloko Dam, built in 1890 three miles southeast of Kilauea, is one of a hundred and thirty dams built in the 1890 for sugar and pineapple plantations around the islands. Sixty such dams are located on Kaua`i. Many are privately owned and Kaloko belongs to retired auto dealer James Pflueger, heir to the well-established Pflueger car dealership in Honolulu.

Residents looking for answers can find enough blame to go all around. Pflueger had been cited for illegal grading and was involved in several law suits and penalties over his Clean Water Act violations on his Kaua`i property. But the state admits that it is far behind in its inspections of old earthen dams. At a press conference, Peter Young, director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) said that records show that the state attempted to conduct an inspection of Kaloko, but they were not able to proceed because of private ownership. Young said, “Our records don’t show that we have done an inspection, but it doesn’t mean an inspection has not been done.” However, the Board of Land and Natural Resources is authorized under state law to enter private property for inspections of dams and reservoirs.

There’s also a question whether some homes and other structures were properly permitted. Some area residents said they were concerned about residential structures that had no permits at all and were built too close to the stream. Because of the tight housing market everywhere in the Islands, structures originally built as a fruit shed or yoga studio are often converted into living quarters.

Don Heacock, an aquatic biologist with DLNR said that the incident shouldn’t be called a natural disaster or an act of God. “Men make reservoirs…Men interfered with the natural stream ecosystem.”

Inclement weather continues to pound the island chain. After Kaloko burst on Kaua`i, the rain continued and made its way through the island chain. Parts of O`ahu and Hawai`i Island also had torrential rain and flooding, and a tornado even touched down on Lana`i.

By the end of March, forecasters were calling it the wettest month ever. Līhue received nearly 33 inches of rain when its previous high was 3 inches. Honolulu International Airport with an annual average of 1.6 inches, reported over 10 inches. In addition to the danger of dams bursting, the aging sewer systems were also being threatened. On O`ahu, a main break forced millions of gallons of untreated sewage into the Ala Wai Canal while crews tried to repair the major rupture. Swimmers were warned to stay away from beaches near the mouth of the canal and popular surfing spots Rock Pile and In Betweens were also affected.

Because of the urgency, teams of DLNR and the Army Corps of Engineers completed inspection on 54 dams and reservoirs on Kaua`i after the Kaloko disaster and planned to inspect the remaining 51 on Maui, 13 on the Big Island and 16 on O`ahu within a four-day period.

Compiled from news sources.


Nā Mana`o Ulu Wale

- Random thoughts, casual observations and other bits of fluff.-

By Roger Close

  • From 1995 – 1999 home prices in Honolulu sagged by 20 percent as Japanese investors bailed. As of the third quarter of 2005, Honolulu was added to the list of metropolitan areas across the nation where house prices were overvalued.
  • On Maui the median price for a single-family home rose from $525,000 in November 2004, to $695,000 in November 2005. Of course the record was last May when the median approached $780K. Looking for something a little less expensive? The median condo price in November was $469,000. Auwe, spendy for fancy “apartment living!”
  • And yes, the median prices for both condos and single-family homes rose on the Big Island and Kaua`i as well!
  • My semi-annual “must read” recommendation…just in case I am not the last person on earth to read it…Eddie Would Go by Stuart Holmes Coleman. It is not only the biography of a courageous waterman and modern day Hawaiian hero, but also the story of the Aikau family who provide a deeper, more powerful understanding to the word “`ohana.”
  • It appears some surfers, not only in Hawai`i, but in California and Maine (?), are turning to wood as part of the trend toward retro surfboards. Would this be like centuries ago when chiefs rode hardwood plank boards as long as 24 feet and perfected the art of surfing on wood in Hawai`i? The retro look will cost you between $1,200 and $1,500, where a fiberglass board is $300-$500 less.
  • Here is another reason to save all your pennies for a return to the home land…like you needed another! Hawai`i leads the nation in seat belt use! Last year Hawai`i ’s 95.3 percent compliance rate nudged out Washington State (95.2 percent) to gain the No. 1 position for the first time. And…the Valley Isle’s ( Maui ) seat belt compliance rate topped the charts with a whopping 97.2 percent. How do they know all that stuff?
  • Hawaiian sovereignty activist and musician George Helm was quoted as saying, “Man is merely the caretaker of the land that maintains his life and nourishes his soul. Therefore, the `āina is sacred…” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone in Hawai`i , (indeed, on the planet) lived by these words in his/her daily life?

 A hui hou (until the next time…) mālama pono!

Click here for more Random thoughts, casual observations and other bits of fluff.

Roger Close is a semi-retired Oregon educator who currently lives in the San Juan Islands. He was born and raised in K ā ne`ohe, O`ahu. At eighteen Roger left the islands to attend Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon . Like so many, he ended up staying on the mainland, returning home for occasional visits.

Whale-Boat Collisions

By NWHIT Staff

Since the start of 2006, there have been five whale-boat collisions: four off Maui and one off Kaua`i. Two included the injury of baby whales. Officials say that this is the highest number of collisions in any given year. According to the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, it’s not clear if the reason for these collisions is because there are too many whale-sighting boats in the water. Another factor could be the growing population of the humpbacks, whose Hawaiian name is Koholā. It is estimated that there are 5,000 to 10,000 whales that migrate to the islands, with an annual growth rate of seven percent.

Since whale-watching tour boats became a business venture, Hawai`i has restricted the number of commercial permits allowed at the state’s harbors. Two-thirds of whale-watching activity occur on Maui, with thirty commercial boating permits at Mā`alea Harbor, and another twenty-nine at Lahaina.

Humpbacks are baleen whales. They can grow to 45 feet in length, weigh 45-50 tons, and have a life span of 40-60 years. During the summer, humpback whales feed off the cold and nutrient-rich waters of Alaska, but in the winter months, the humpback whales migrate 3,000 miles to the warm waters of Hawai`i where they breed, calve, nurse and mate. The Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary was established in 1992 and covers 1,370 square miles of Hawaiian coastal waters.

Whales are protected by federal and state laws, one of which requires boats to stay at least 100 yards away. But whales are unpredictable and surface unexpectedly, and sometimes even swim up to the boats. While supporters of whale-watching insist that the best way to reduce the risk of whale-vessel collisions is through education rather than restrictions, others question the necessity of boats taking tourists out to see whales, especially when watchers can see the humpbacks from shore.

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