Hawaii Public Radio moved the transmitter for KIPO 89.3 to a more advantageous spot in September 2008. All the legal requirements were met, and the new transmitter site was blessed on Tuesday, March 18, 2008.
The quest for a new KIPO was a long one. Read on!
The Quest for KIPO: An 18 Year Odyssey
The transmitter for KIPO 89.3 FM is located on Palehua Ridge in Ewa. KIPO was originally licensed as a 100,000 watt facility and ran as such for several hours on September 15, 1989 until it was discovered that its signal interfered with the FCC and FAA monitoring station in Pearl City. We were asked to turn down the station until it stopped interfering, when we reached 3,000 watts, we were allowed to stop.
Line of sight determines how well a radio signal is received. This is why reception is better in your car rather than inside a concrete office tower, deep in a valley or over a mountain ridge(s). At 3,000 watts, KIPO's signal simply isn't strong enough to reach major population areas of Oahu including Windward Oahu and East Honolulu. Disappointed listeners have been asking the station to boost KIPO's signal ever since.
HPR Explores Alternatives to Fix KIPO
Between 1989 and 2001 the station explored and tested all other possible solutions to make KIPO work from its current location. Alternatives ranged from using a different frequency to installing a special array of antennas and filters that would "notch out" the signal and shield the monitoring station. None of these alternatives were able to provide the desired island-wide signal for KIPO. In 2001, station management and the HPR Board determined that we needed to start from scratch. The KIPO problem could not be fixed at its current location.
HPR Shapes KIPO into a Distinct Program Stream
In the meantime, station management and the HPR Board made providing two high quality, distinct program streams available statewide one of the station's strategic priorities. The HPR program schedule was redesigned to reflect this strategic direction. The separation of the two streams began to be made incrementally in 2000. It was decided to develop KHPR 88.1/KKUA 90.7/KANO 91.1 as a classical music and fine arts stream leaving KIPO to develop as a news and information, public affairs, and spoken word programming stream with jazz, blues and Hawaiian music.
Also at that time, KIFO 1380 AM, then a third programming service, began simulcasting with KIPO. Following a rebuild of the HPR broadcast studios at 738 Kaheka St. in 2000-2002, new equipment was purchased and installed which allowed KIPO to be upgraded from an automated service to one which is hosted live throughout the day by HPR professional broadcast staff. At the same time HPR began to steadily dedicate more station resources to developing local programming and local hosts for KIPO. New, locally-produced programs developed and introduced included: Town Square, Kanikapila Sunday, Jazz with Don Gordon, the Blues Revue, Full Nelson, Sinatra, and Aloha Shorts. KIPO has also become the home for special broadcasts concerning events of national significance and local importance.
Seeking Other Solutions
In fall 2001 the station hired a full-time chief engineer for the first time in over ten years. After reevaluating and exhausting the alternative solutions for fixing KIPO at its present location, our engineer was asked simply to, find the best location for KIPO that will give it island-wide coverage. The search is unsuccessful. The "lowest impact" solution in terms of resource use would be to lease space on an existing tower as we do for every other transmitter we have. Wiliwilinui, the KHPR transmitter site, is completely full. Large broadcast conglomerates own a number of viable sites but they are not obligated to sublease space. Those who expressed a willingness to sublease required lease rents and buy in deposits far beyond the capabilities of a public radio station.
An Elegant Solution is Proposed
Metropolitan Honolulu is shaped like a long rectangle. Traditional FM stations put an extremely high-powered antenna on each end and drive their signal through the buildings. Our chief engineer proposed locating a transmitter in the middle, on Pu`u `Ohi`a (Tantalus), which would allow HPR to serve an island-wide audience (including all of Honolulu) in the most efficient possible manner.
In keeping with HPR's determination that the new site have the lowest possible impact on the environment, a perfectly located site was found which already had a small, Verizon owned tower in place. This meant the site was already equipped with power by HECO and an access road had already been built. In 2002, HPR approached Verizon about co-locating a transmitter and antenna on their site. Two years later we had still not received a definitive answer to our request. As with the commercial broadcasters, Verizon was not obligated to take on sub-tenants. There was no decision maker available locally and, Verizon was in the process of being purchased by the company that now owns Hawaiian Telcom. In early 2004 station management and the HPR Board chose to pursue the next best alternative acquiring a parcel of land from the State adjacent to the Verizon tower and building our own site.
Securing the Necessary Funds to Build a New KIPO
Obtaining and building a brand-new transmitter site is an expensive and resource-intense process. Unlike commercial radio stations that are largely owned by conglomerates, HPR is independently operated and independently funded. The station does not have outside resources from a parent company to draw upon for capital projects. Early on, station management and the HPR Board determined that it would fund improvements and the move for KIPO without going to the listeners, who have been patiently awaiting its signal improvement for well over a decade, to ask for money.
In 2002, HPR sold KIFO 1380 AM and reserved the sale proceeds to pay for building the new KIPO transmitter site.
In 2006, HPR applied for and received grant support from the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program (PTFP) to assist with the equipment purchase for KIPO. The station also received grant support from the Atherton Family Foundation to purchase back-up equipment for the proposed site.
The Journey of 1,000 Miles Begins With One Step
In early 2004, HPR contracted with the Hawaii Engineering Group (HEG) to prepare an environmental impact study and to guide the station through the application and lease process with the State's Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR). DLNR has two divisions: Land and Forestry. The parcel of land selected is a part of the Forest Reserve. It was necessary that both divisions recommend approval of HPR's application to the DLNR Board. The final decision rested with the DLNR Board. Later in 2004, HEG prepared and submitted a detailed Environmental Assessment that included site maps; preliminary construction drawings; evidence that Verizon would not agree to co-location; and a visual impact analysis of the proposed tower. HEG also prepared and submitted a CDUA (Conservation District Use Application.)
December 16, 2004: HEG and HPR make a presentation about the KIPO project to the Makiki-Lower Punchbowl-Tantalus Neighborhood Board.
January 25, 2005: HEG presents the KIPO project at the DLNR public hearing. The HPR board, volunteers and the community offer impassioned testimony (both oral and written) in support of the project.
February 7, 2005: HEG and HPR attend the Tantalus Community Assn. board meeting to discuss matters of concern regarding the KIPO project.
April 22, 2005: A banner day! The DLNR Board approves a CDUA (Conservation District Use Application) for HPR to build a transmitter on Pu`u `Ohi`a (Tantalus). HPR instructed engineers working on the project to begin drawing up specifications for the new site, confidently anticipating the commencement of construction. To our surprise, the process of obtaining a lease from DLNR was still far from over. During the ensuing twelve months,
- The Land Division officially asked the Forestry Division for permission to remove the parcel of land from the Forest Reserve;
- The Forestry Division requested permission from the DLNR Board to hold a public hearing regarding this request;
- The Forestry Division held a public hearing (January 9, 2006) on the proposed removal of the parcel of land from the Forest Reserve;
- The Forestry Division returns to the DLNR Board to ask that they accept the results of the public hearing.
April 13, 2006: Another milestone reached! The Land Division submits the required paperwork to remove the parcel of approved land from the Forest Reserve and asks the DLNR board to approve the issuance of a lease. Approval is granted contingent upon the official withdrawal of the approved parcel of land from the Forest Reserve.
In the meantime, HPR receives a notice from DLNR informing HPR that the KIPO project was in jeopardy because work had not begun as required during the 12-month period following the approval of the CDUA. HPR's consultants prepare a detailed application for an extension, pointing out to DLNR that the project had not been completed because we did not have the necessary permissions from them to commence construction.
Following the April 2006 meeting, the Land Division notified HPR that it may now take steps to obtain a legal survey.
- HPR immediately hired a crew to clear brush and bamboo from the site so that a team of professional surveyors could "map" the site following the very specific mapping standards set out by the State;
- While mapping the site, the HPR survey team discovered that the State of Hawaii maps upon which our application had been based were incorrect;
- As a result, more land had to be cleared because the parcel of land as defined in the original application had the wrong relationship to the access road;
- Once the second clearing and survey work had been completed, corrected maps were submitted.
- By September 2006 the corrected paperwork made its way from DLNR to the Honolulu City & County offices for purposes of subdivision of the property. At one point in the process, the City and County asked HPR to provide a map and survey description of the entire area surrounding the parcel being removed for the KIPO site. This amounted to being asked to survey the 300 acres of mountainside surrounding the 3,500 sq. foot proposed site. After several weeks of negotiations we were able to get this requirement waived.
DLNR confirmed it had received the necessary maps from HEG. The maps were then sent to the State Survey Office which put together the State's version of the map. This map will become a part of the official lease. HPR's understanding is that the documents are now ready to move on to the Attorney General's office for preparation of the lease.
DLNR informed HPR that the Governor must sign a letter agreeing to approve the removal of the parcel of land from the Forest Reserve. The letter was promptly signed. DLNR then informed HPR that the documents must now go to the State Appraiser's office so that the "fair market" lease rent can be determined. Confident once again that the start of construction was imminent, HPR's consulting engineer began obtaining bids for equipment.
DLNR informed HPR that the KIPO project now required, in addition to the letter mentioned above, an Executive Order from the Governor officially removing the parcel of land from the Forest Reserve.
At about the same time DLNR also informed HPR that the State Appraiser was reluctant to determine the "fair market" lease rent and that an independent appraiser must be hired. DLNR would select the appraiser; HPR would pay for the appraisal. HPR immediately submitted a check to DLNR. That appraisal process is now complete.
While this was going on, DLNR informed HPR that the withdrawal of the approved land from the Forest Reserve required approval by the legislature in addition to the Executive Order mentioned above. Unfortunately, the deadline for placing this request before the 2007 legislature had passed that same day and so our request has to be held over until the 2008 legislative session.
After conducting inquiries, HPR learned that once the lease has been agreed upon and signed, a "right of entry" will be obtained that will allow us to begin work. The State Attorney General's office began drafting the HPR lease while awaiting final lease figures from DLNR.
At its March meeting the HPR Board gave station management approval to construct the new transmitter site upon receipt of the lease and while awaiting legislative concurrence with the Governor's Executive Order during the 2008-09 session.
KIPO Tantalus as of August 17th, 2007
The lease for the Tantalus property was finalized with the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), and we proceeded, on several fronts at once, toward the construction of the new KIPO facility.
KIPO Tantalus: The Latest Developments as of February, 2008
The lease for the Tantalus property has been finalized with the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), and we are proceeding, on several fronts at once, toward the construction of the new KIPO facility.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008 -- Blessing and Groundbreaking
Before an invited small group of supporters, former HPR Board member Aaron Mahi blessed the clearing where contractors have now begun work on levelling the ground and beginning laying the foundation.
Since March, an enormous amount of work has taken place, and the result as of August 29, 2008, was a completed tower with antennas, the transmitter in the transmitter building, the generator on site, and the feed line installed.
The electrical power currently serving the Hawaiian Telecom site adjacent to the KIPO site was upgraded by HECO the first week in September. The new KIPO went on the air at 26,000 watts and offers island-wide coverage similar to KHPR.
Tantalus was named by early Punahou students for the Greek god who, always thirsty, was punished by being placed in a pool or water. When he tried to drink, the water receded. These same students also named Olympus, Round Top, and Sugarloaf.
The original Hawaiian name for the 2,013 foot mountain is Pu`u `Ohi`a (with a kahako over the "o"), literally "`ohi`a," tree hill. FYI, the `ohi`a is really the name of two kinds of tree -- `ohi`a `ai is the mountain apple tree, and `ohi`a lehua is the tree that bears the lehua flower.