The Latest: 1 Death, 29 New Cases; City Considers Abandoned Trailer And Boat Measures

Feb 17, 2021

Updated 2/17/21, 12:08 p.m.

The Honolulu City Council is considering two measures that address abandoned boats and trailers on city streets today. The measures aim to address safety concerns in communities, while also clarifying jurisdictions and procedures for their removal.

Bill 97 (2020) would amend the city's current policies on removing abandoned vehicles to include trailers. A similar resolution urges the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which oversees boat registration, to partner with the City in addressing abandoned vessels.

Councilmember Brandon Elefante introduced the measures, because of the proliferation of abandoned boats and trailers in his district.

"There's been some cases where we've been successfully able to remove an abandoned trailer and boat, because we've been able to find the owner," Elefante said.

"But in some cases, people just abadon them on the street, and it becomes - one - an eye sore, a safety issue. People throw rubbish into the abandoned boat, and so it's just left there because we don't have the necessary resources of tools to remove them."

He says addressing abandoned trailer and boats will be difficult, but he hopes to the measures will help the City find solutions to remove them.

"We still have to work through some issues," Elefante said. "One of that is coming up with the agreement with the state DLNR or state entities with looking at a space, because, you know, obviously they're in charge of the registration of the boat."

Elefante says another issue is determining whether the city is willing to remove vessels and trailers off city streets.

But the biggest challenge is space, and whether local towing companies are willing to remove and store vacated vessels and trailers on their property. 

In a written statement, DLNR's Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation says a section of the Hawaii Revised Statutes already states who deals with abandoned vessels. 

"It is the property owner's responsibility to remove them. If it's on county roadway, the county has to remove it. DOBOR cannot remove vessels that are not on state property, per the HRS."

DOBOR also states it works with the county of provide information on vessels if they have a registration number.

Both measures will be discussed today during the City Council's monthly meeting.

-- HPR's Casey Harlow

Winter storms delay vaccine delivery to state

Much of the country is suffering from another blast of heavy winter weather. And snow, sleet and freezing rain on the continental U.S. is delaying shipment of some COVID-19 vaccines to Hawaii.

A spokesman for the state Department of Health says more than 14,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine scheduled to arrive on Tuesday have been delayed.

Nearly 10,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine did make it to the islands as scheduled.

In all, Hawaii has been expecting a total of nearly 43,000 vaccine doses this week, while another 4,400 doses are scheduled to be delivered directly to CVS Health or Longs Drug Stores.

It's not clear how the weather delays will affect those plans. Although, the DOH says appointments at some vaccination clinics may need to be re-scheduled.

Where we stand

The state Department of Health reported 29 new cases and one new fatality on Wednesday. 

According to the state's numbers, Oʻahu had 17, Maui 10, Hawaiʻi Island 1, Kauaʻi, Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi had no new cases. Two residents were diganosed out-of-state.

The latest state count brings the Oʻahu total to 21,650, Hawaiʻi County 2,217, Maui 1,960, Kauaʻi 179, Lānaʻi 109, and Molokaʻi 26. The number of out-of-state cases totals 795.

Since the pandemic began, the state has tallied 26,935 cases. The death toll stands at 427.

Turtles face tremendous challenges in future

Turtles, both marine and freshwater, will face daunting challenges in the next hundred years. That's according to a recent study from the University

Associate Professor Robert Thomson created a family tree of turtle species using DNA samples from nearly 600 turtles. From that, he was able to understand how turtles evolved, and how past events may have influenced their evolution.

There are nearly 360 turtle species in the world -- six of those are marine turtles. That's a very low number when compared to other animal species, such as amphibians (more than 8,200), mammals (6,400) and birds (10,000). About 60% of the world's turtles are considered threated or endangered

Thomson says based on his study's findings, it paints a really grim picture for all turtles in the next century. It also underlines their dependence on coastal areas -- also known as "continental margins."

"Continental margins are really critical areas in the evolutionary history of turtles, and they're responsible for a lot of the diversity that we see today," Thomson said.

"The same areas are under disproportionate conservation, they experience a lot of habitat destruction, a lot of habitat modification. And going forward, this is an emerging threat for conservation of turtles, truly, on a global scale."

Thomson says the only way to ensure turtle species can endure the next century is to drastically expand conservation and environmental preservation efforts. But for some species, the effects and pressure of environmental change is already happening.

"Ongoing climate change poses several risks for Hawaiʻi," Thomson said.

"One pattern that we may already be seeing is that the number and intensity of hurricanes is increasing. As one example, a 2018 hurricane that hit French Frigate Shoals virtually erased an island called East Island from the map. that single island was the site of a little less than half of all green sea turtle nests in the Hawaii archipelago. Now it's gone."

-- HPR's Casey Harlow