POSTED: Monday, October 26, 2009

Storm heads out to sea after passing atolls

After blowing over evacuated atolls in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Tropical Storm Neki was heading north over open ocean yesterday about 390 miles west-northwest of Kauai.

The National Weather Service predicted that the former Category 3 hurricane would lose its punch by tomorrow night.

The storm, with sustained winds of 45 mph, was just north of French Frigate Shoals at 5 p.m. yesterday.

As Neki departed, forecasters said satellite images showed an area of unstable showers about 200 miles east of the Big Island.

The forecast for the Big Island today was for scattered showers, mainly in the afternoon.

Oahu can expect showers today before noon, at times heavy, with more rain likely this evening, the weather service said.


Working group surveys medical marijuana law

In an effort to work around Gov. Linda Lingle's refusal to finance a task force on Hawaii's medical marijuana statute, an informal group will meet tomorrow to take public testimony on the law's problems.

The Medical Cannabis Working Group will host the meeting at the state Capitol.

The state's medical marijuana law was enacted in 2000, and thousands of residents have registered.

“;Since then no changes have been made to the law,”; said Pam Lichty, president of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, one of the organizations involved in the working group. “;It is long past time for Hawaii to update its program so that sick and dying patients' needs are adequately served.”;

Current state law allows the use of medical cannabis, but Lingle has vetoed two measures to create a task force to study problems with the law.

The Legislature overrode the most recent veto this year. Lingle aides say the state cannot afford to fund a task force.


Recreational facility care under discussion

The state is asking the public to weigh in on a plan to improve outdoor recreational facilities, in part through user fees.

Public hearings, to be held across the state the first two weeks of November, will be used to create a strategy for keeping harbors, parks and trails open.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources says Hawaii's recreational facilities have fallen into disrepair due to decades of neglect and underfunding.

Proposals include changing mooring rates and vessel registration fees, allowing online camping reservations, expanding public shooting ranges and increasing wildlife conservation.


$250,000 grant helps Lyon Arboretum work

The University of Hawaii at Manoa's Lyon Arboretum is getting nearly $250,000 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services in Washington, D.C., to help preserve endangered native plants.

The budget for the three-year project, including matching funds, is $422,927. The arboretum will conduct research in in-vitro culture and seed storage, and the management of off-site collections.



South Maui crime rates declining

KIHEI » Crime rates have dropped in South Maui, yet the community has grown so much that Maui County Police Chief Gary Yabuta says police service calls are increasing.

Statistics showed a 4 percent drop in more serious crimes in the year ending in September compared with the previous 12-month period.

Sexual assaults, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, thefts and auto thefts dropped from 1,049 between October 2007 and September 2008 to 1,007 between October 2008 and last month.

Burglaries dropped 12 percent; aggravated assaults and sexual assaults each declined 8 percent; and thefts fell 5 percent.

Because of the growing population, Yabuta says police plan a permanent South Maui police station to replace the crowded storefront currently used by 54 officers.