Hawaii Taxpayers Getting Hit Twice by Shipping Prices, Farming Subsidies
“Hawaii farmers are in line to receive millions of dollars in compensation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to offset shipping costs,” according to Farms Plus Financial, as a part of Hawaii’s congressional delegation’s plan to “Reimbursement Transportation Cost Payment Program for Geographically Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers.”
Originally part of the 2008 farm subsidy bill, the goal was to reimburse farmers in the Pacific Rim and Alaska, including Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, and other Pacific and Caribbean U.S. territories, who face “extraordinary costs in shipping their products to the mainland.”
Hawaii farmers can apply to receive a portion of the $2.6 million in federal aid secured by Hawaii’s U.S. Senators.
“Akaka and Inouye played in important role in preserving funding for the RTCP. The last several months have seen Congress cutting spending, focusing particularly heavily on agricultural programs and subsidies. As farm spending has been cut over the past few weeks, many farmers were worried that the RTCP was endangered. However, in part due to the seniority on Inouye and Akaka, RTCP’s money was left intact,”www.farmplusfinancial.com reports.
Rising fuel prices are to blame for increased shipping costs, but what isn’t mentioned is the Jones Act, federal legislation backed by Inouye and Akaka to ensure American flagged and manned ships transport goods between American ports. Critics say this decades old law decreases competition and increases the price of goods coming into the state by as much as 30 percent.
Some of the most vocal critics of this law have been the farmers and ranchers in Hawaii – that is until this subsidy came through in 2008.
With the subsidy and Jones Act in place, consumers are seeing their price of goods increase and are also paying via federal taxes to reimburse farmers and ranchers impacted by the Jones Act.
State DOT Launches Several Roadway Projects in East Oahu
Motorists traveling east bound on the H-I Freeway over the weekends have been subject to traffic delays because of an ongoing freeway pavement rehabilitation project, which includes coring of the concrete on the east bound side of the freeway.
This state Department of Transportation said that this project, which costs $5.64 million, is being funded by federal stimulus monies through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
This area of the freeway, from 1st Avenue to Koko Head Avenue, was the very first section of Hawaii’s first major freeway to be constructed in June 1965.
The construction on the H-1 Freeway is part of a pavement preservation project that aims to extend the life of the existing concrete, said Shelyne Valenciano, a spokesperson for the state Department of Transportation.
“Pavement joints between concrete slabs are now being reinforced with thick steel dowel rods, 18-inches long and 1 1/2-inches in diameter, to allow them to better withstand the constant weight and force of passing vehicles. Cracks and faults, like the washboard-like surfaces, are products of decades of stress on these joints. The added steel reinforcement will help to keep future surface faults from forming. After all the steel rods are installed, the road surface will be diamond-grinded to create a smooth, textured surface, just before the anticipated project completion in November 2011,” Valenciano said.
The state DOT launched another traffic project last June 2010 on Kalanianaole Highway and Keahole Street to extend a lane there. The $1.9 million project was supposed to be completed in March 2010, but there has been no activity on the project for months. Construction trucks owned by the contractor, Henry’s Equipment Rental and Sales, Inc., now sitting idle are tagged with graffiti.
“The DOT reports that “unexpected issues with street lighting and traffic signal infrastructure brought about change orders by HECO” the island’s monopoly electric company. “With the delay, the project is now anticipated to be completed in October 2011, weather permitting and barring any unforeseen situations,” Valenciano said.
The DOT also has delayed East Oahu traffic by placing safety reflectors on Kalanianaole Highway, despite the major highway’s deteriorating pavement.
Valenciano said the pavement markings work on Kalanianaole Highway is being done by the Sign and Markings crew as routine maintenance work, “done to improve visibility and help drivers to see lanes and crosswalks more clearly.”
A resurfacing project is planned for Kalanianaole Highway, from Lunalilo Home Road to East Hind Drive for the later part of 2012, but is subject to available funding, she said.
“With the possibility of the resurfacing project being delayed or cancelled, our crew decided to proceed with their maintenance work rather than allow the old markings to remain. Short term pothole repairs are performed every 5-weeks,” Valenciano said.
Also on this stretch of highway, residents complained that the DOT schedules unannounced tree trimmings and traffic light replacements, delaying traffic without notice to the community.
The DOT said the “unannounced” tree trimming and lighting replacements are often done on an as needed basis. “If motorists see unannounced tree trimming, it is usually due to a pressing need. Sometimes after heavy winds and rains, tree branches fall and we have to respond to ensure the safety of motorists, and pedestrians. Planned tree trimming work is done annually, and the last time we were in the area was in July 2010. The 2011 Kalanianaole Highway tree trimmings will take place next week, spanning from Ainakoa Avenue to Hanauma Bay. The cost of the tree trimming is $3,360.00 annually,” she said.
Bellows Beach Clean Up a Success
Hawaii Reporter teamed up with Council Member Ikaika Anderson and his staff and Winners Camp director Delorese Gregoire and her staff to launch a major beach clean up effort this Friday at Bellows Beach Park in Waimanalo. The stunning beach park, which is controlled by the military, is popular with campers and beach goers, but only open to the public from noon on Fridays until Sunday evenings.
Winners Camp brought more than 20 of its staff members, and they enthusiastically picked up everything from hundreds of pieces of plastic, ropes, a large table, a telephone poll, abandoned fishing nets and other items that washed in along the more than 1 mile stretch.
Anderson’s staff not only brought plastic bags and a truck to haul everything away, but they also coordinated with the city to ensure all large bulky items were removed properly.
At the end, there were about three large truckloads of trash brought off the beach.
Winners Camp volunteers, who are running the Winners Camp this weekend in Hawaii Kai for teens from 13 to 16 years old, spent the final minutes of the two hour clean up were spent wrestling a large fishing net from a series of rocks that the ocean current had trapped there several months ago.