POSTED: Friday, January 09, 2009

Meetings discuss federal storm aid

Public meetings will be held next week on Oahu and Kauai to tell people about getting funding from the federal public assistance program to recover from December's storm, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

On Tuesday, President Bush signed a major disaster declaration for the heavy rain and flooding in Hawaii from Dec. 10 to 16.

The declaration made funding for recovery projects available to state and local governments and private, nonprofit organizations.

Representatives of state, county and nonprofit organizations that could be eligible for FEMA's public assistance program should attend the meetings.

They will be:

» In Honolulu on Wednesday, 1 to 3 p.m., State Civil Defense, Birkhimer Tunnel, Diamond Head State Park.

» In Lihue on Friday, 9 to 11 a.m., Kauai Civil Defense Agency, 3990 Kaana St., Suite 100.

For more information, call Suzanne Toguchi at 733-4320, ext. 213.

New law limits Maui B&B permits

WAILUKU » Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares has signed into law a bill capping the number of Valley Isle bed-and-breakfast permits at 400.

The law streamlines the permit application process and limits the number of permits available in each region. Only 48 permits will be available for Hana, and 100 in South Maui.

The Lanai and Molokai planning commissions will consider permit applications on those islands.

Under old rules, a bed-and-breakfast permit required a detailed application and a public hearing.

Hawaii may get temporary fed judge

WASHINGTON » Hawaii and five other states could get temporary federal judgeships to provide relief from heavy caseloads under legislation pending in the U.S. Senate.

The bill introduced today would temporarily give California, Hawaii, Kansas, Nebraska, Ohio and Pennsylvania extra judges.

Nebraska Sens. Ben Nelson and Mike Johanns are backing the legislation, which would give their state a fourth judgeship.

The state was last granted a temporary fourth federal judge in 1990, but that position expired in 2003. A news release on the bill says Nebraska has one of the highest per-judge caseloads in the country.

Congress is expected later this year to vote on a bill that would make the fourth judgeship a permanent position.

Kilauea sulfur emissions decline

Sulfur dioxide emissions at Kilauea volcano's summit have dropped sharply in recent weeks compared with the nine months since a new vent formed there in March, scientists said Wednesday.

But those hopeful the decline will lead to a sharp decline in vog - or volcanic smog - in the islands should not get too optimistic. Jim Kauahikaua, scientist-in-charge at Hawaiian Volcano Observatory on the Big Island, said he does not know whether the vent's emissions will remain low or spike again.

“;It could remain in a state of unrest,”; he said.

Sulfur dioxide forms vog when it combines with dust and sunlight. It creates acid rain when mixed with precipitation.

Last year's elevated emissions put Big Island residents and visitors under exceptionally heavy vog for months, leading to the destruction of protea, lettuce and other crops on farms near the summit.

The vog also has irritated the throats and skin of many residents, especially those living close to Kilauea. Vog is known to aggravate asthma and other respiratory conditions.

Literacy rate rises over 11 years

A national study says Hawaii's adult literacy rate improved slightly from 1992 to 2003.

The National Center for Education Statistics interviewed more than 18,500 people and used statistical modeling for the report released yesterday.

Nationally, 14.5 percent of adults lacked skills to comprehend and use sentences and paragraphs written in English, compared with 14.7 in 1992.

In Hawaii, 16 percent of adults lacked those skills in 2003, compared with 18 percent in 1992. The study did not rank states.

Kauai County had the lowest 2003 illiteracy rate in the state at 12 percent.

It was 17 percent in 1992. Honolulu County had the highest rate in 2003 and in 1992, 17 percent and 20 percent, respectively.

The study is called the National Assessment of Adult Literacy.


Star-Bulletin staff and news services