DOT NEWS RELEASE: HDOT OUTLINES ACTIONS TAKEN TO PROTECT ENDANGERED SEABIRDS AT AIRPORTS AND HARBORS

Posted on Jul 8, 2021 in Latest News, Newsroom

HONOLULU – The Hawai‘i Department of Transportation (HDOT) must ensure Hawai‘i’s transportation facilities can operate safely fulfilling the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) flight safety and airport security requirements, U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) security monitoring requirements, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) worker safety regulations. In addition to this responsibility, HDOT serves as a trustee of the State’s environmental resources including threatened and endangered species such as seabirds.

HDOT proactively evaluates operations to conserve and maintain Hawai‘i’s natural resources. Actions taken at its Harbors and Airports on Kaua‘i, Maui, and Lāna‘i to reduce impacts to sensitive species such as the Newell’s shearwater and the Hawaiian petrel include:

  • Preparation of Habitat Conservation Plans (HCP) for seabirds on Kaua‘i, Maui, and Lāna‘i. The HCP for Kaua‘i seabirds was approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) in 2020. HDOT continues to engage with FWS and DLNR on the management of its facilities and is actively working on a HCP for Maui, and Lāna‘i.
  • Installation of shielding on the energy efficient lighting at its Airport and Harbor facilities to minimize the seabird attraction of artificial lights.
  • Training for all on-site security personnel and employees. The training includes general seabird awareness, how to monitor and conduct searches for downed seabirds, how to respond to, rescue, and report downed seabirds if found, and how to conduct an effective predator control program to minimize injury to sensitive species. The training program includes additional on the ground training before the fall season.
  • Conducting searches of Airport and Harbor facilities for downed seabirds and predator control during fallout seasons.

Given the actions listed above, HDOT is disappointed to have received a letter on June 30, 2021, communicating Earthjustice’s intent to sue if HDOT fails to take immediate steps to prevent bright lighting at state-operated airports and harbors on Maui and Lāna‘i from killing and injuring three species of critically imperiled seabirds. HDOT reaffirms its commitment to operate its facilities in manners which are protective of all sensitive species and are consistent with legal requirements.

HDOT is proud of its efforts to avoid impacts to sensitive species on all Hawaiian Islands, including Maui and Lāna‘i, and remains open to meeting with environmental groups and other interested parties to explore effective ways of further benefiting listed and sensitive species.

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