New & Noteworthy

False Killer Whale Recovery Plan: The beginning of this month was the deadline to submit information to the National Marine Fisheries Service on a recovery plan for the endangered insular stock of Hawaiian false killer whales. On October 2, the day before the federal government shut down, the NMFS published a Federal Register notice of intent to prepare the plan.

Given statements made at last month’s Western Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting by NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office director Mike Tosatto, work on the plan isn’t going to begin anytime soon, even though the comment period has closed.

“We are struggling to meet our diminished resource capacity with an increasing workload,” he said. The NMFS does plan to convene a recovery team, but when is anybody’s guess, he added.

“The timeline on that … I’m not kidding, we are resource-challenged,” he said. “We do not have funding to undertake recovery planning at this point.”

At the Wespac meeting, the council voted to direct its staff to draft a letter to the NMFS requesting that a recovery team be convened to develop the plan.

The council also recommended that the team include fishery representatives from the council and the state of Hawai`i, as well as members of commercial and non-commercial fisheries sectors, “considering that a number of threats NMFS believes are contributing most significantly to the current or future decline of the Main Hawaiian Island insular false killer whales are related to fisheries.”

At Long Last, An Update: For the first time since 1990, the state Department of Health is updating the Hawai`i Water Quality Plan, one of the key components of the state Water Plan. Gary Gill, DOH deputy director for Environmental Health, told the state Commission on Water Resource Management last month that his division plans to complete the revision by the summer of 2015.

Gill said much of the plan will be a compilation of his division’s current work. His division includes a Clean Water Branch, a Wastewater Branch, and a Safe Drinking Water Branch.

Among other things, he said his division is encouraging counties to reuse wastewater. The DOH’s goal is to have 30 million gallons of wastewater a day being recycled by 2015, he said, adding that currently, about 20 mgd is recycled.

Although his division wants more wastewater put to use, Gill said it’s an area where regulators should proceed with caution. He described how his agency is still dealing with chemicals applied to sugar and pineapple plantation fields. In wells that are 1,000 feet deep, some of the chemical levels continue to rise even for pesticides that were banned years ago, he said. Regarding wastewater, the DOH wants to make sure contaminants don’t make it down to the aquifer, he continued.

“The new frontier is pharmaceuticals. We want to make sure we’re not drinking someone else’s cancer medication,” he said.

Until recently, the DOH intended to update the plan using its own staff, but “given our resources, we may use a consultant,” Gill told the commission.

To this, water commissioner Jonathan Starr begged Gill to “please, please ramp up and get whatever consultants you need.”

More Water Plan Updates: On October 16, the Water Commission approved the scope of work for the Central O`ahu water use plan, which is one of eight components of the O`ahu Water Use and Development Plan.

Over the past nine years, the Honolulu Department of Water Supply has completed water use plans for Ko`olau Loa, Ko`olau Poko, and Wai`anae. It’s currently working on plans for the North Shore and `Ewa areas and hopes to bring the North Shore plan to the Water Commission for approval next year.

Work on plans for O`ahu’s primary urban center and East O`ahu are expected to begin in fiscal years 2016 and 2018, respectively.

The Central O`ahu plan, like the North Shore and `Ewa plans, will assess water supply and demand; develop low, medium, and high water use scenarios; and generate an ultimate supply-demand scenario.

“It will drive a lot of decisions if you take the long view,” the DWS’s Barry Usagawa told the commission.

The Central O`ahu plan is expected to take 34 months to complete.

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