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POSTED: Monday, August 31, 2009

Christmas tree shortage likely

KAHULUI » The layoff of state agricultural inspectors could result in a shortage of Christmas trees in Hawaii this year, the Maui News reported yesterday.

Carol Okada, manager of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture's Plant Quarantine Branch, told the newspaper her division would likely not have the resources to inspect the nearly 200 containers of Christmas trees imported to the state, and she would not allow them to enter unchecked because they are considered likely to contain nasty invasive pests, including snakes and tree wasps.

“;It's just such a high-risk commodity,”; she said.

Christmas tree shipments are expected to peak around Thanksgiving, at the same time as food imports, taxing the resources of the state's remaining inspectors.

“;Christmas trees we're already saying we're probably not going to do, because food is first,”; she said.

Sea programs get $6.3M NOAA grant

Hawaii fisheries and ocean research programs have received $6.3 million from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“;Our ocean is a precious place, and understanding the underwater ecosystem and the aquatic wildlife that inhabits it expands not only our understanding of marine life, but can teach us how our ecosystem and climate change,”; said U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye in announcing the grants.

Grant recipients include:

» $1,371,000 to the University of Hawaii Sea Level Center, which collects, analyzes and distributes worldwide tide gauge data.

» $1.3 million to the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR) for its coastal ecosystems project.

» $1,220,406 to the UH Pelagic Fisheries Research Program, a JIMAR research project that supports sound management policies for tuna, swordfish and other migratory species.

» $1,197,375 to the UH Protected Species Research Program.

» $730,518 to the Oceanic Institute for sustainable fisheries research.

» $517,500 to the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council for coral reef fisheries and ecosystem monitoring, outreach and education.

Youth theater receives $20,000

The Honolulu Theatre for Youth outreach educational program for youth in the Olomana Correctional Facility received a $20,000 grant from the City and County of Honolulu.

The grant supports free community performances directed to children and families unable to attend them at Tenney Theatre or at a school.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann presented the funds to HTY Friday, said a release from the Mayor's Office of Culture and the Arts.

The performances have been offered for eight years in partnership with the city.

HMSA videos arrive on YouTube

The Hawaii Medical Service Association has branched out from digital cable television to YouTube to reach more people with healthy-living information.

Residents have access to a variety of free videos 24 hours a day on YouTube.com/HMSANow.

“;The greatest thing about the move is that HMSA Now will be available to an unprecedented number of people because most people prefer going online for health information and videos,”; Michael Stollar, HMSA vice president of marketing and communications, said in announcing the development. “;On YouTube we'll reach hundreds of thousands more people in the community.”;

Videos are available about healthy lifestyles, disease prevention and health promotion.

HMSA members can get answers about their health plan and other information.

Videos are offered from HMSA community programs and events, such as the Teen Video Awards Contest, the Kaimana Awards & Scholarship program and the Island Scene Festival.

Maui to help renters buy own homes

Maui County is accepting applications for a new program that will help low-income Valley Island residents buy their own homes.

The Homeownership Option Program is for Maui families receiving federal rental assistance through the Housing Choice Voucher program.

The program allows participants to apply rental housing assistance payments toward mortgage payments. It has several requirements, including the ability to qualify for a mortgage loan and an affordable property to buy.

Maui's Department of Housing and Human Concerns will hold workshops about the program in late October. Mail-in registration deadline for the workshops is Sept. 15.

For more information, e-mail housing specialist Stephanie Franco at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or call 270-7185.