In brief | Big Island & State | 3-29-14


Police identify Hilo murder victim

Hawaii Island police have identified the victim in a murder investigation as 59-year-old Robert A Evanson of Hilo.

An autopsy was scheduled for Friday afternoon to determine the cause of death. However, the results are being deferred, pending further tests, police said.

At 7:32 p.m. Wednesday, police responded to a reported disturbance at an apartment complex on the 100 block of Ululani Street in Hilo. Upon arrival, police discovered Evanson’s body in an apartment unit. He was taken to Hilo Medical Center, where he was officially pronounced dead.

Police arrested 52-year-old Rhonda Faris of Pahoa and 63-year-old Elsworth Hulihee of Hilo on suspicion of second-degree murder. Shortly after 5 p.m. Friday, detectives released Faris and Hulihee from police custody pending further investigation.

Flash flood watch in effect through Sunday

A flash flood watch is in effect for Hawaii Island until 6 a.m. Sunday, according to National Weather Service forecasters in Honolulu.

A strong low aloft will combine with a surface trough to bring the threat of heavy rain and thunderstorms to all islands through Saturday night, according to forecasters. The storms are expected to be slow-moving, and while the heavy rains are not expected to be widespread, localized intense rainfall is likely to occur potentially leading to flash flooding in streams and urban areas.

Flash flooding is very dangerous; it does not have to be raining heavily where you are for flash flooding to occur.

Satellite office opened for candidate filing

PEARL CITY, Oahu — The Office of Elections will open its downtown candidate filing location starting April 1 for those interested in running for federal and state offices. The satellite office is located at the Leiopapa a Kamehameha Building, Room 203, 235 South Beretania Street.

From April 1 to May 15, the downtown office will be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays only from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Starting May 19, the office will be open weekdays with the same hours. Deadline for candidate filing is 4:30 p.m. June 3. Individuals seeking office are encouraged to file early. For a list of candidate filing locations statewide, visit hawaii.gov/elections or call 453-VOTE.

Hale Pohaku, summit road projects funded

Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Friday released $2 million to the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Office of Mauna Kea Management. The money is to fund design and construction of infrastructure improvements within UH’s managed lands on Mauna Kea, renovate midlevel facilities at Hale Pohaku and improve the summit access road.

A section of the road was paved in the late 1980s and is deteriorated because of age, snow, rock debris and natural earth shifting. The Visitor Information Center, which has a 58-person capacity, is also overextended in terms of parking and facility infrastructure, and is unable to accommodate the significant increase in visitors who come for stargazing activities, Abercrombie’s office said

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Officials seize illegal frogs mailed on Oahu

HONOLULU — The state Attorney General’s Office and the Hawaii Department of Agriculture executed a search warrant Thursday at a Manoa residence that involved illegal animals sent through the U.S. Mail.

One person has been arrested. HDOA deferred inquiries regarding the arrest and any charges to the Attorney General’s Office.

The illegal animals included four poison dart frogs that were contained in a shipment through the U.S. Mail and about 20 additional frogs that were seized at the residence, according to HDOA.

Poison dart frogs are native to Central America and South America. Their skin produces a toxin that has been used by indigenous people to poison the tips of arrows to kill prey. The frogs’ toxicity is derived from the type of ants they eat in their native range. Because of the frogs’ diet in Hawaii, they are not considered as toxic here. The species found in Hawaii is Denobratus auratus — bright green and black in color. The frogs seized were of several other species, HDOA stated.

Several aquarium tanks were confiscated and its contents inventoried by inspectors. While there are limited established populations of species of poison dart frogs on Oahu and Maui, the frogs are illegal to possess or transport to or within Hawaii. The incident is still under investigation and no further details are being released at this time, HDOA stated.

All live animals imported to Hawaii require a valid import permit from HDOA. This includes live insects; birds; mammals; rodents; reptiles and amphibians; fish, crustaceans and aquatic animals and microorganisms. There are many restricted and prohibited animals that may not be imported because of their potential harm to Hawaii’s environment and agriculture.

Information on importing animals is available at hdoa.hawaii.gov/pi/pq/import-program. The maximum penalty for possession and transport of illegal animals, a class C felony, is a $200,000 fine and three years in prison.

Anyone who knows of illegal animals or those who smuggle them into the state should call the state’s pest hotline at 643-7378. The state’s Amnesty Program allows illegal animals to be turned in and provides immunity from prosecution. Illegal animals may be turned in to any HDOA Office, Honolulu Zoo, Panaewa Zoo in Hilo or any Humane Society — no questions asked and no fines assessed.

Kauai refuge to use predator-proof fencing

KILAUEA, Kauai – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced the availability of the final Environmental Assessment for the Nihoku Ecosystem Restoration Project on Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. The project will create a 7-acre refugium for native plant and animal communities and enhance existing seabird colonies on the refuge by using the latest technology in predator-proof fencing.

Project partners include the American Bird Conservancy, the Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Fence construction is expected to commence this summer and take approximately three months to complete.

Under the selected alternative, the construction of a predator-proof fence would keep mammalian predators, such as cats, dogs, rats, mice, and potentially mongooses, out of the fenced area so that native species such as the endangered nene, the Laysan albatross, and rare plants can flourish again. In addition, the absence of predators would make this restored site an appropriate future translocation site for the threatened Newell’s shearwater and for the reintroduction of rare native plants.

This will be the first predator-proof fence on Kauai. This type of fencing has been used with great success in New Zealand and on Oahu. The fence on Oahu resulted in record numbers of seabird chicks fledging in the year immediately following the project’s completion and natural recolonization by a seabird species not previously breeding on Oahu in its third year. It is hoped that similar outcomes will be achieved on Kauai.

The final EA may be found online at fws.gov/refuge/kilauea_point.

Fire ants pose danger though fewer reported

KAHULUI, Maui — Maui officials say fire ants pose a significant threat to the island even though fewer have been seen since the start of this year.

Public complaints about the invasive insects have slowed since January, the Maui News reported Thursday.

Maui Invasive Species Committee Manager Teya Penniman said officials will be in watch mode on an ongoing basis because the ants will keep coming from the Big Island unless they’re stopped.

“The reality is they’re out there,” Penniman said. “We just don’t know where they are.”

An infestation at Maui garden shops in December was traced back to shipments of tree ferns at two home improvement stores. Customers who bought the plants were asked to check their homes for the ants.

The ants have been a problem on the Big Island for 15 years. They threaten agriculture and tourism.

State lawmakers are considering spending $500,000 to eradicate the fire ant using several methods, including canines to detect the insects.

Penniman said specialists from Australia are expected to come in May to share their techniques with the dogs.

She said people need to be careful about what they bring to Maui from the Big Island.

“We really need to keep that awareness up long term,” Penniman said. “You have to pay attention to what you buy, ask where it came from, ask what they have done to test it (for fire ants).”

Eight state inspectors on Maui have been focused on detecting the insects in shipments.

Feds support driver’s license lawsuit

HONOLULU — The U.S. Department of Justice is supporting a lawsuit alleging Hawaii discriminates against those who struggle with English by making it too difficult to obtain a driver’s license.

Allegations in the lawsuit are sufficient to proceed with a discrimination claim, and the court should deny the state’s motion to dismiss the case, the Justice Department said in court documents filed Thursday.

The federal government has a “critical interest” in ensuring the Hawaii Department of Transportation provides those with limited English proficiency a “meaningful opportunity” to take the driver’s license test, the filing said.

The lawsuit filed last year by Faith Action for Community Equity is based on Hawaii offering the exam only in English. However, the Transportation Department last week began offering the test in 12 other languages: Tagalog, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Samoan, Tongan, Ilocano, Spanish, Chuukese, Marshallese and Hawaiian.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys say that’s not enough for the lawsuit to go away because other issues remain, including road testing issues and a lack of translations for educational materials such as the Hawaii driver’s manual.

A report by the group behind the lawsuit said Hawaii was one of only five states that offered the driver’s license test only in English.

“It’s unusual to have an English-only policy,” said Gavin Thornton, deputy director of the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice. “For Hawaii, it really doesn’t make any sense at all given the diversity of our population. We have one of the most diverse populations in the nation.”

He noted Kentucky offers 22 different translations, while Hawaii has a much higher immigrant population.

Waikiki beauty salons settle wage claims

HONOLULU — A company that operates beauty salons in major Waikiki hotels has agreed to pay $150,000 to settle a wage dispute.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced Friday that From Y’Z Corp. will pay $75,000 in minimum-wage and overtime back pay to 44 employees at its salons in the Sheraton Waikiki and Hyatt Regency Waikiki. Another $75,000 will go toward damages.

The department claims that from August 2009 to September 2013, salon employees were regularly required to work through unpaid lunch breaks.

Owner Yasutaka Noguchi’s attorney William Ota declined to comment Friday.

Department spokesman Jose Carnevali said the company operates Naillabo nail salons in each hotel. It also operated the Creave hair salon in the Hyatt, which has relocated.

Hotel representatives didn’t immediately comment.

By local and wire sources