Resort’s draft habitat plan up for public review

HONOLULU — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday that a draft Habitat Conservation Plan and draft Environmental Assessment for a golf course and resort on 600 acres of Kaua‘i Lagoons property are available for public review and comment for the next 45 days.

The plans were submitted by Kaua‘i Lagoons, LLC., which developed the draft HCP in coordination with FWS and the Hawai‘i Division of Forestry and Wildlife as part of the application for an incidental take permit for species protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The draft EA considers the direct, indirect and cumulative effects of a permit for the proposed action, including measures to minimize and mitigate impact. It contains an impact analysis of two alternatives for the issuance of a permit, and if no permit issuance is granted to Kaua‘i Lagoons.

An incidental “take” permit is requested by Kaua‘i Lagoons for the development, operation, management and future building plans of the resort and golf course, which could result in the take of seven federally listed and one candidate species. The permit is required when non-federal activities are likely to threaten or endanger species while carrying out otherwise lawful activities.

The permit authorizes the incidental take of the listed species over the next 30 years. “Take,” as defined by the Federal Endangered Species Act, means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect, or attempt to engage in any such conduct. Harm may include significant habitat modification that results in death or injury to a listed species by impairing behavioral patterns such as breeding, feeding or sheltering.

The species affected are the endangered Hawaiian goose, or nene; Hawaiian moorhen, or ‘alae ‘ula; Hawaiian coot, or ‘alae ke‘oke‘o; Hawaiian duck, or koloa; Hawaiian stilt, or ae‘o; Hawaiian petrel, or ‘ua‘u; the threatened Newell’s shearwater, or ‘a‘o; and the band-rumped storm petrel, a candidate species for listing.

Take may result from ongoing resort operations, such as nene and waterbird species being hit by golf carts and golf balls. Construction activities could also have a detrimental impact from grading and clearing that disturbs nesting birds. Existing and future artificial lighting could also disorient listed seabirds.

The draft HCP describes how Kaua‘i Lagoons will, to a practicable extent, avoid, minimize, and mitigate the potential incidental take of protected species from operation and maintenance of the resort and golf courses, and its construction of an additional 772 resort residential units, a new golf clubhouse, a 27-hole golf course complex, and a central operations building.

The draft HCP notes that Kaua‘i Lagoons’ proposes to cooperate fully with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Hawai‘i Department of Transportation, Airports Division and DOFAW in joint efforts to minimize the impact of the increasing nene population in the vicinity of the adjacent Lihu‘e International Airport.

The HCP notes that future Kaua‘i Lagoons’ plans are to reduce the population of nesting and roosting nene and waterbirds at the resort through habitat modification, translocation, or other means. There is said to be related issues to human safety from the potential threat of a collision between birds and aircraft taking off and landing at the airport.

The strategy is based on Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s signed proclamation to suspend state laws as necessary to expedite the translocation of nene from Kaua‘i Lagoons to appropriate sites on the islands of Maui and Hawai‘i. The plan to implement is being drafted and translocations are planned to begin in 2012.

Kaua‘i Lagoons is proposing mitigation measures that include on-site cooperation with plans to translocate nene, and fund the development of a plan to address their translocation to other islands. The measures also call for maintenance of existing resort waterbird habitat.

In addition, Kaua‘i Lagoons would continue to manage and monitor the populations of the nene and waterbirds, while assisting the efforts to move them to more suitable habitats off-island.

Kaua‘i Lagoons also proposes to pay into the Kaua‘i Seabird Habitat Conservation Plan — currently being developed by the DOFAW — to assist State and Federal agencies in the enhancement of known seabird colonies through predator management, habitat restoration and monitoring.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources jointly process HCPs and licenses separately. The USFWS will evaluate the permit application, associated documents, and submitted comments to determine whether the application meets the requirements of National Environmental Policy Act regulations and section 10 (a) of the Endangered Species Act.

All comments from interested parties must be received on or before Aug. 26. Written comments should be submitted to: Loyal Mehrhoff, Field Supervisor, Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office, 300 Ala Moana Blvd., Room 3-122, Honolulu, HI 96850. Comments may also be sent via facsimile to 808-792-9580.

Documents are posted on the Service’s website at www.fws.gov/pacificislands. request copies and information from Michelle Bogardus at 808-792-9400 or in writing at the Honolulu address.

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