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Friday, July 7, 2000

Some areas still
in dire need of
much more rain

While some areas recovered
a bit last month, many got
little moisture, officials say

Ranchers, farmers can apply for aid

By Treena Shapiro


Last month's rainfall has kept the drought from getting worse, but more rain is needed before the state's drought-stricken areas can recover.

Kauai received only 50 percent of its normal rainfall in June, but upcountry Maui and the South Kohala area both had wetter than average months, said Harry Kodama, National Weather Service hydrologist.

While South Kohala had 610 percent of its normal June rainfall, it could have been the result of only one day of rain. The rainfall measurement was up to 1.83 inches from the 0.3-inch June average. "Any amount of rain is going to push the number way up," Kodama said.

So far this year, South Kohala has had only 24 percent of normal rainfall, even with the additional June rain.

"It certainly helped, but they need to get a lot more rain to bring them back," he said. "It might help the grass turn a little bit green or make shoots come up."

But it won't reintroduce adequate moisture to the soil, especially since during a heavy rain, the water could run off instead of sinking into the soil.

James Yamaki, research statistician for the state Agriculture Department, described Big Island rain as "localized," with some areas getting a lot but others very little.

In extremely dry areas, the rain last month didn't have much of an effect. "It's just barely cutting the surface," he said. "It's still very dry."

But according to Yamaki, there are new patches of green in Waikii on the western slope of Mauna Kea.

"The pastures have turned green, but the grass is still short. They really need more rain to stimulate the grass growth," he said.

The rain hasn't alleviated the problems of the South Kohala ranchers, many of whom must bring their livestock to the wetter Kau area to graze, he said.

In Honolulu, rainfall is up, but so is water consumption.

Water usage increased by 2.5 million gallons a day from last week, and by 10 million gallons a day from a year earlier, according to Denise DeCosta, Honolulu Board of Water Supply spokeswoman.

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Ranchers, farmers can apply for aid

The extended drought may make ranchers in the Kau, North/South Kona, Kohala and Hamakua areas eligible for disaster aid from the federal Agriculture Department Farm Share Agency.

The Emergency Conservation Program provides cost-share assistance to farmers who have experienced such severe damage that livestock or orchards and vineyards cannot survive without additional water.

Applications will be accepted through July 31. For more information, contact L. Lee Kunitake, County Executive Director, Hawaii County FSA Office, P.O. Box 845, Hilo, HI, 96721-0845, or call (808) 933-6963.

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