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Hualalai – the third youngest, third largest, and third most active volcano on the island of Hawaii – is dwarfed by its sisters Mauna Kea in the north and Mauna Loa in the south.
Even so, Hualalai created much of the land that now supports the majority of West Hawaii’s population and infrastructure.
Dark, river-like streams of hardened lava, which Hualalai only produced in 1801, meander down from the cinder cones that cover the flank of the volcano.
Where these currents meet the ocean at the westernmost point of the island, Keahole, the land slopes steeply. Just a stone’s throw from the coast, the water is over 500 feet deep.
In Keahole, a wide lava plain borders the blue Pacific. It is home to two major facilities in Western Hawaii: 1) Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport and 2) the Hawaiian Ocean Science and Technology Park, managed by the Hawaii Authority’s Natural Energy Laboratory.
In the latter, companies engaged in aquaculture, marine science and the development of entrepreneurial technologies (such as the conversion of marine thermal energy) are expanding along the coast. It has easy access to a coastal park and coastal trails for fishing, whale watching, watching vivid sunsets, studying the land-sea interface, or, as my wife and I often do, training some golden retrievers.
Keahole, the westernmost point on the island of Hawaii, is a place with lots of sunlight, deep sea water and wide plains.
As the four of us drive home from this coast – past an abalone farm and expensive drinking water bottling plants, then along the Queen Kaahumanu Highway and onto Kaiminani Drive – we will pass the Keahole Agricultural Park of the State Department of Agriculture, where lei is in bloom , Noni, turfgrass and landscaped plants populate the Ag properties.
Around Ag Park there are bare plains filled with fountain grass and scrub, land owned by the state and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.
Next, we will pass the road to the new Hawaii Community College in Palamanui and then continue to the Midslope subdivisions of Kalaoa, where many of us who call West Hawaii home are based.
With all these areas and facilities so close, it has become increasingly difficult for me to understand why they are not working together to achieve our common goals.
We have all realized that the pandemic is forcing us to consider a new normal for Hawaii, one that is less dependent on tourists and foreign goods and more on ourselves and what we produce. It seems that maximizing collaboration between different government agencies would bring us much closer to that goal.
For example, why does a community college adjacent to an agricultural park not offer courses in landscape agriculture and engineering and provide hands-on experience in the park?
What about basic aquaculture water systems engineering courses with hands-on experience (and jobs expected) at the adjacent Ocean Science and Technology Park?
Even the casual observer will find that there are water pipes running everywhere in both parks and that the farms and aquaculture facilities require skilled, well-trained staff on site to ensure success.
In considering synergy between the different government properties in Keahole, I have come to the conclusion that we may be missing out on some immense opportunities. Here are some specific thoughts:
1) All of Keahole Agricultural Park’s 34.5 acre lots are currently leased and have been in existence since the mid-1980s. Nevertheless, the more than 100 hectares of state-owned land that lie directly on the Ag Park remain undeveloped and unproductive.
Adding this adjoining area to Ag Park, which is currently 179 acres, would add significantly to the size of the park. More land would mean more productivity and economic impact. Additionally, the 34 existing lots allow for agricultural housing, and if the expanded area did the same it would help alleviate the desperate need for lower-priced housing in western Hawaii.
The existing Keahole Agricultural Park is just mauka from the Queen Kaahumanu Highway. It is surrounded by land that could be developed for agriculture and housing.
2) The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands owns 600 acres in the area. Next to and immediately south of the Keahole AG park are two 100-hectare DHHL areas: one area is currently intended for agriculture, the other for commercial use. Less than a mile from Mauka is another 400 acres of DHHL land that is earmarked for residential development.
Developing the infrastructure for an expanded Ag park would make all of these adjoining DHHL areas even more attractive to development and could help create a significant number of Hawaiian homes in Hawaii.
3) Only Makai is NELHA. The possibility of synergies between the Ag-Park and NELHA seems obvious, but so far there has been no apparent cross-pollination.
Here is a suggestion: NELHA produces nutrient-rich waste products from fish, shellfish and algae production. These waste products could be mixed with West Hawaii’s abundant green waste, creating a nitrogen-rich and valuable compost for our Ag Park farmers, who often struggle to get the lava to bloom.
NELHA has ample open space in one of the sunniest places in the state and is a natural location for making high-productivity compost. Seems obvious? Well, under the current system, Hawaii County is transporting its green waste on the west side 90 miles across the island to Hilo for processing.
4) About 5 miles south of Keahole Ag Park and NELHA on state land is Hawaii County Kealakehe Sewage Treatment Plant, which has disposed of approximately 1 for decades. 8 million gallons a day of barely treated wastewater in an open swamp just over half a mile from the ocean.
The sewage treatment plant is currently to be modernized so that our wastewater can be reused after treatment according to R-1 standards.
Every day, Hawaii County’s Kealakehe Sewage Treatment Plant discharges nearly 2 million gallons of barely treated wastewater into a nearby swamp. The wastewater has deteriorated the surrounding seawater, including the water in Honokohau Harbor (seen above right). .
This valuable resource could irrigate the Keahole Agricultural Park, NELHA, as well as resorts and homes between the two locations, reducing irrigation costs and depletion of our precious freshwater aquifer.
The Ane Keohokalole Highway is the ideal middle ground for a transmission line for reclaimed water. The unfinished piece of this highway, which is connected to the Ag-Park, is currently « ready to shovel ». This is the perfect time to incorporate a recycled aqueduct into the freeway’s design, financing and construction process.
Dumping 1. Eight million gallons of sewage per day in the Kealakehe open swamp has severely affected the ocean.
The wastewater quickly reaches the groundwater from the swamp and is transported to the port of Honokohau and through the adjacent porous coasts. Due to our incompetence and neglect, the Ministry of Health has downgraded these coastal waters to « impaired ». “Still, they are vital to one of the most dynamic, economically valuable, and productive marine ecosystems in the Pacific.
5) The Ministry of Transport’s Keahole Airport has its own sewage treatment plant that already produces recycled water for irrigation of airport facilities. It appears to have more R-1 water than it can use.
Despite the fact that the airport is literally right across the Queen Kaahumanu Highway from Ag Park, there appears to be no interest in connecting the neighboring state facilities and bringing the extra water into Ag Park.
6) Some of the areas I mentioned (at NELHA and near the wastewater treatment plant) are Hawaii Opportunity Zones and benefit from Federal Opportunity Zone tax reinvestment options, which means that the opportunities proposed here could be funded by private investors and Part of the associated funding for infrastructure development could also come from federal sources.
As I drive through this landscape day after day, I remember the famous line from the film Cool Hand Luke: “What we have here is a lack of communication. ”
Government agencies that need to speak to each other to take advantage of these opportunities include the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Economy, Economic Development and Tourism, the Governor’s Office, and the Legislature.
In the Hawaii county agencies, add: the mayor’s office, county council, and various county agencies.
And therein lies the problem. These different bodies, offices and agencies are generally insular and too often fail to provide the overall solutions that regular communication between them could produce, and even reject them.
Given all the parties involved, foresight, coordination, planning, and perseverance are required to take advantage of these necessary collaborative opportunities.
The big picture: NELHA in the foreground gives way to the airport, then Ag Park, then the houses in Kalaoa and finally the upper slopes and the summit of Hualalai.
– every day 1. Due to the lack of transmission infrastructure, 8 million gallons of potential irrigation water continues to be drained into a hole in the ground.
– Farmers will continue to be frustrated with the lack of available land, the high cost of irrigation, and the inability to live where they farm.
– And government agencies that should work together will continue to miss the many opportunities to work together for the good of the people of Hawaii.
From Danny de Gracia
4th. January 2021
5 min read
In a crisis like this, digging beyond the news to find out is more important than ever
Government policy means to ordinary citizens and how that policy was put together.
This is perhaps the biggest and most momentous story our reporters will ever cover. And no
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2 hours ago
Thank you for your observations. While I agree that the described land is « unproductive » in the defined context, I would just like to comment that most and possibly all of the wastewater from NELHA with any fertilizing properties is saline (35-40 ppm). . Thus, the raw product is unsuitable as a source of irrigation / fertilization. Further desalination treatment would be required or fresh water would need to be added to the salt water to reduce the salt content. Even then, only a select group of plants could tolerate minimal amounts. While using waste seems like a breeze, the reality of moving sewage mauka (energy), properly treating harmful microbes, and creating incentives is difficult and would require years of development.
9 hours ago
Thank you for this well thought out article. As someone who lived in Kona for 20 years, then Oahu for 9 years, my return to Kona almost 3 years ago was a little disappointing when I saw that the main development was the expansion of the Queen K and Ane K freeways. Your suggestions for joint projects are very useful. As mentioned earlier, the competing agendas for some great projects seem to remain isolated for reasons likely to be due to funding and leadership factors to coordinate such efforts. Even today I meet young scientists who have scholarships at NELHA and are so far removed from Palamanui, Kealakehe High School, and even West Hawaii Wxplorations Academy (which is far more dedicated than the other two but still from what is possible is). . It takes a journey to build the village that connects the economic potential you mentioned! Thank you for offering the vision of opportunity and potential for leadership in West Hawaii!
12 hours ago
IDEAS is the place to find essays, analysis, and opinions on all aspects of life and public affairs in Hawaii. We want to come up with bright ideas about the future of Hawaii from the sharpest thinkers in the state to broaden our collective thinking about a problem or problem. Email to news @ Civilbeat. org to submit an idea.
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