Municipalities such as the City and County of Honolulu are required by federal and state environmental protection laws to effectively manage the City’s storm drainage systems. This ensures compliance with regulatory permits that minimizes the pollution effect of storm water runoff to receiving waters such as streams, rivers, bays and the ocean.
Currently, to manage and maintain these programs and services the City & County government utilizes a budgeted portion of the Real Property Tax revenues paid by residential and business property owners. Federal and state facilities who are non-taxable do not pay these property tax and may not pay for these provided services.
The City is seeking shared financial responsibility of the services.
Under a new proposed plan which is moving forward in the City & County government a new separate storm water runoff tax program will be initiated tentatively scheduled to begin in 2022. They are seeking to generate a 40–100 Million dollar fund. This new tax will fund a storm water management program through the Department of Facilities Maintenance (DFM). Real Property Tax revenues would no longer support these services. Current recommendation for the taxing will be based on square footage of storm water runoff surface area of a property. The more concrete and impervious surfaces on the property the higher the tax. Residential property owners would be charged $400-500 per year in additional tax on an average property. Commercial property owners will be charged significantly more in additional taxes.
How can you learn more about this new tax initiative?
Go to the City and County web site https://www.stormwaterutilityoahu.org/ and learn about the ongoing community meetings, storm water runoff program information, frequently asked questions and more.
What can you do to try and reduce you tax liability? Contact your City Council Representative voice your concern regarding:
The Hawaiian Islands exhibit some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. These ecosystems range from tropical rainforests to alpine deserts. One ecosystem that you can find on all of the Hawaiian Islands is a rainforest known as a Tropical Montane Cloud Forest (TMCF). In fact, just look up at the Koʻolau mountains on any given day and you’ll likely see low lying clouds hiding the peaks. These clouds often surround the summit on even the sunniest days and cast shadows upon the valleys. But what really is a TMCF and why are they important to us?
What are “Tropical Montane Cloud Forests”? As the name suggest it is an atmospheric environment where the vegetation level is enveloped in clouds frequently or seasonally. They are a unique ecosystem that can be found between 3,000 -4,000 ft., with some starting as low as 1,650 ft. There are two general types of cloud forests that exist depending on amount of rainfall they receive. One is a wet windward TMCF and the other is a drier leeward TMCF. The Koʻolau mountain range falls into the first type of cloud forest, which has heavy orthographic rainfall with high annual precipitation.
Why are they important to us? Environmentally cloud forests are important to island people because they act as a starting point to our ahupuaʻa and help supply our downstream ecosystems with water. TMCFs are of high interest in research because of the value they give to an island hydrologic system. In times of drought cloud forests supply dry streambeds with water and help restore the island’s water reserve. Cloud water interception has now been identified as a biological source of water in mountain areas. However, many things still remain unknown about these isolated ecosystems.
By defining and understanding TMCFs we learn how to care for these important ecological resources and ultimately become better stewards of our ʻāina. Culturally, Hawaiians understood the importance of cloud forests and held a deep appreciation for their entire ahupuaʻa. The bond between Hawaiians and nature was truly unique and they developed names to describe the natural phenomena around them. These included the clouds, fog, and mist that develop on the island’s high mountain forests. The fog or clouds on the mountains were described by the Hawaiian word ‘Ohu and translates "to be adorned as with lei” perhaps to reference the ring of clouds that often encircle the Koʻolau peaks.
The natural water cycle provided by cloud forests help to cleanse and preserve the ecosystems from mauka to makai. The water resources provided by clouds forests eventually flow naturally throughout our biodiverse watersheds which ultimately help filter impurities and rejuvenate the lower lying ecosystems. HOK champions to effectively manage and protect our water resources. Protection of water quality and natural resources here in the Koʻolaupoko region begins with our upper most ecosystems. Your financial contributions and volunteer participation in our programs allows us to continue our mission.
By: Jordan Kilbey HOK Board of Directors Vice President
Every year on June 5th, over 100 countries around the world celebrate World Environment Day! As the United Nations' flagship day for promoting global awareness of environmental concerns, World Environment Day is a powerful platform that engages governments, communities, and individuals to take critical action to combat environmental issues.
The theme for this year's World Environment Day is biodiversity. Biodiversity is the variety of life within a given ecosystem or particular environment. It encompasses the millions of species that populate Earth, including plants, animals, bacteria, in all the various ecosystems of the world such as the ocean, forests, coral reefs, and even your backyard. When an ecosystem is rich in biodiversity, the ecosystem is healthy.
More biodiversity means better water quality and less pollution, thereby indicating a healthy ecosystem. Healthy ecosystems provide a host of functions for human survival such as reducing the occurrence of natural disasters, providing raw materials and medicines, and food availability to name a few. However, the repercussions of human activity such as greenhouse gas emissions and noise, air, and water pollution can disrupt ecosystems and jeopardize their health. Accordingly, we have a duty to think about how our actions impact the world's biodiversity and our ability to protect it. If we don't care for our ecosystems and ensure rich biodiversity, our planet's health and our health will deteriorate. Luckily, there are a variety of great ways that we can help!
Monitoring biodiversity can be done on a variety of scales. Here at HOK we monitor and facilitate the growth of native ecosystems rich with biodiversity on the community level by implementing a variety of projects across Ko'olaupoko that address land-based pollution and watershed health. One of these projects that can be implemented in your backyard is our rain garden! Rain gardens are a great way to reduce the amount of pollution that enters streams and the ocean by intercepting storm water. HOK has developed the Hawai'i State Rain Garden Manual, a do-it-yourself guide to locating, building, and planting a rain garden appropriate for your property. The manual is available for free download on our website and is available at public libraries on all islands. Contact HOK if you would like to purchase a hard copy!
If you're interested in increasing native species biodiversity in your home gardens, visit our Kaha Native Garden! This project replaced invasive species with native Hawaiian plants that aid in soil stabilization, biofiltration, and water conservation. Tour the garden pathways to see how plantings might appear in your own backyard, or for a more in-depth understanding of how these plants may add value to your backyard, consider volunteering with us in the future! (HOK continues to abide by social distancing and stay-at-home orders, and has cancelled all community workdays until it is safe for us all to work side-by-side again.)
As we begin to venture into the ecosystems beyond our front door, World Environment Day provides us with an opportunity to both revisit our relationship with our environment, and to cultivate environmental awareness into our lifestyles. For more information on how you can get involved with World Environment Day and to learn more about biodiversity, visit the official World Environment Day website here.
The mission of Hui o Ko`olaupoko is to protect ocean health by restoring the `aina: mauka to makai. This is done in partnership with stakeholders including interested citizens, non-governmental organizations, government, educational institutions and businesses while using and focusing on sound ecological principles, community input, and cultural heritage.