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For Sunday, June 12, 2011

By Star-Advertiser Staff and News Services


Scientists tag rare albatross chick

National wildlife refuge biologists at Midway Atoll have put an identification band on the first short-tailed albatross chick ever to hatch outside Japan in recorded history.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Friday a permanent metal band has been placed on the right leg of the 5-month-old chick. The band will help biologists track the seabird and learn where it eventually nests. The bird hatched at Midway in January. It has survived several storms and the March 11 tsunami.

Until now, the short-tailed albatross has been known to have reproduced at only two sites: Torishima island in Japan and islands controlled by Tokyo and claimed by Beijing, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

Feather hunting pushed the species to near-extinction by the early 20th century.

Mayor meets students

Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle, on a two-week tour of Taiwan and China, met Saturday with students from the University of Hawaii’s Academy for Creative Media during a reception at the Shanghai International Film Festival. Carlisle’s tour, paid for by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office and local governments, is intended to promote economic cooperation between Hawaii, Taiwan and China.


Isle utilities score ranking

Local utility companies have been recognized as national leaders in solar electric power.

Kauai Island Utility Co-op ranked second in cumulative solar watts per customer in the Solar Electric Power Association’s 2010 utility solar rankings. First was Southern California Edison.

Hawaii Electric Light Co. ranked fourth and Maui Electric Co. ranked fifth in total solar watts per customer.

Hawaiian Electric Co. was ninth.

A news release from Hawaiian Electric Co. Friday says it also ranked third in added solar watts-per-customer, up from eighth in 2009.

Maui mulls tax change

A proposal to lower the property tax home exemption to $200,000 from $300,000 is scheduled to be taken up by the Maui County Council this week.

That exemption would still be the highest in the state, the Maui News reports.

The Budget and Finance Committee will meet at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the measure, which had been deferred last year.

Council members also will consider a proposal meant to tighten qualifications for the home exemption and make it easier for county Finance Department officials to crack down on taxpayers who don’t meet the criteria.

In the early 2000s, the county’s homeowner tax exemption was as low as $50,000. The Council voted to increase the tax break multiple times over several years as a plan to ease the burden on homeowners who were seeing their property values skyrocket in a booming real estate market.

“We are now experiencing property taxes going back down,” Councilman Joe Pontanilla said.

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