In Brief | Big Island & State | 12-28-13


Gov releases more than $6M for harbors

Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Friday announced the release of more than $6 million to advance harbor improvements at two Hawaii Island harbors.

Abercrombie said the release of the capital improvement project funding will “realize significant and in some cases long-awaited improvements” at Hilo Harbor and Kawaihae Commercial Harbor. The funds were appropriated by the state Legislature.

Some $80,500, which will be added to $241,500 in federal funding, will go toward construction of enhanced physical security measures and critical infrastructure at Kawaihae Commercial Harbor, according to a prepared statement from the governor. The work includes constructing security fencing that will delineate the secured area of Kawaihae Commercial Harbor, allowing recreational users greater access to the Kawaihae Small Boat Harbor.

Hilo Harbor will receive $6 million for pier improvements and modifications at the Pier 1 shed to include construction of a new end wall, repaving and associated utility adjustments, according to the statement. After the improvements and modifications, 40 percent of the area will be used for container cargo operations, which require open yard space, while the remaining 60 percent will serve as covered shelter for storage, administrative and passenger operations.

High surf advisory issued for north shores

A high surf advisory has been issued for north-facing shores of Hawaii Island through 6 p.m. Monday, according to the National Weather Service in Honolulu.

The service forecast waves ranging in height from 15 to 20 feet. The surf could increase to warning levels, or about 20 to 25 feet, on Sunday, according to forecasters.

The service categorized the surf’s impact as “high,” advising the public to expect ocean water sweeping across portions of beaches, strong breaking waves and strong rip currents. Breaking waves may make navigating some harbor channels difficult, the service cautioned.

121K Hawaii shoppers affected by data breach

The Target data breach appears to have affected as many as 121,000 Hawaii shoppers, Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Officer of Consumer Protection Executive Director Bruce Kim said Friday.

Target informed the public earlier this month that about 40 million credit and debit accounts were compromised in a data breach at its stores across the country by computer hackers on purchases made at company stores between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15. Target officials on Friday also confirmed on its website that the hackers were able to access some of the personal identification numbers from the ATM cards used in its stores.

Businesses are required by Hawaii law to notify customers of any security breach involving personal information in any form following discovery of the breach. Hawaii law also requires businesses to notify the Office of Consumer Protection about the breach without unreasonable delay as well as share information on the timing, distribution and content of the notices sent by the business to affected persons.

“We are working with Target to ensure that consumers are not held liable for fraudulent purchases,” Kim said. “Hawaii consumers who shopped at Target should take precautions to prevent their accounts from being used by monitoring their bank and credit card statements and reporting suspicious activities to their bank or card company. Keep your guard up for the next year because it may take time for any fraudulent transactions to appear.”

Many of the banks and credit unions in the islands have been on alert since the news of the breach.

Target has agreed to free credit report monitoring for one year for all cardholders affected by the breach.

Safety urged around humpback whales

Crews from the U.S. Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement are partnering to protect humpback whales.

Humpback whale season generally runs from November to May with the peak season occurring during the months of January and March. According to the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, whales come to the Hawaiian Islands to mate, calve and nurse their young. They return to Alaska in the summer months to feed and rebuild their blubber supply.

Several whale collisions near the Hawaiian Islands are reported every year, according to the Coast Guard. Boaters can take measures to ensure their safety as well as the safety of the whales by keeping a boat’s speed down when whales are known to be in the area and keeping a sharp lookout at all times.

It is illegal to approach within 100 yards of a whale. Also, aircraft are prohibited from flying within 1,000 feet of a whale, according to the Coast Guard.

Coast Guard crews conduct sanctuary patrols to ensure boaters and marine life stay safe. If whales are sighted, crews alert nearby mariners to ensure they remain away.

The Coast Guard also responds to entanglements and other marine mammal distress calls and reports distressed marine mammals when Coast Guard rescue helicopter crews are on routine patrol. The Coast Guard assists with an average of 12 to 15 whale entanglements each season and transports numerous marine mammals that are in danger to safer locations.

Mariners and the public are asked to report injured or entangled marine mammals to the Coast Guard on VHF marine channel 16 or 842-2600, or by contacting the Marine Mammal Stranding and Entanglement hot line at 888-256-9840. Prompt reporting is the best way to help distressed animals.

Hawaii visitors drop 5.5 percent in November

HONOLULU — The Hawaii Tourism Authority says the number of visitors coming to the islands dropped for the third straight month in November.

The agency said visitor arrivals fell 5.5 percent from November last year to about 620,000. The declines were led by a 7.3 percent drop in travelers from the western region of the United States, which is the state’s biggest source of travelers.

Visitor spending declined for the third straight month, falling 2.1 percent to $1.1 billion.

Agency CEO Mike McCartney said increasingly aggressive competition, product pricing and currency exchange rates contributed to the declines.

He said consumers are becoming more price conscious and this is affecting spending.

The number of visitors from Japan remained level compared to November 2012. But spending by Japanese travelers declined 6.5 percent.

Maui officer settles sex assault suit for $20K

HONOLULU — A former Maui police officer who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a woman in 2008 has agreed to pay her $20,000 to settle a civil lawsuit.

Kristopher Galon told a magistrate judge in federal court Friday that he will mail a certified or cashier’s check to the Honolulu law firm representing the woman.

According to a plea agreement in Galon’s criminal case, he picked the woman up in his police car after she was released from a Lahaina police cell and sexually assaulted her. He was sentenced to a year and a half in prison.

The woman filed a civil suit against Maui County, the police department, Galon and others. She recently won a $200,000 settlement from the county.

The Associated Press does not typically name victims of sexual assault.

Kauai council mulls cat license bill

LIHUE, Kauai — Kauai is considering requiring cat owners to license their pets as part of an attempt to control problems with feral felines.

The Garden Island newspaper reported Friday the county bill would also require owners who allow their cats to roam free to spay or neuter the animals.

Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura said if the county doesn’t address its issues with pets, the community will have many problems. Yukimura introduced the bill last week.

A draft of the bill sets license fees at $10 for spayed or neutered cats and $30 for unsterilized cats.

The bill sets fines for cat owners who allow cats over four months old to roam free without being sterilized. Officials say owners who keep their cat confined would not be required to have their pet sterilized.

By local and wire sources