Whale of a snail tale

LIHUE — The snails are safe and Hawaii Public Radio is on the air again on Kauai.

That’s the word after a damaged Oahu power line that cut HPR’s relay signals to Kauai was repaired Wednesday following a one-week delay to ensure no endangered tree snails were harmed.

”It feels very good, indeed,” said Michael Titterton, HPR president and general manager. 

Hawaii Electric spokesman Darren Pia said crews accompanied by a biologist and observers from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources made the trek to the remote North Shore location about 6 a.m. Wednesday and hiked to the summit of Mount Kaala, 4,025 feet, to repair blown fuses.

 The biologist marked areas to avoid disturbing the endangered tree snails that are a member of the Achatinella mustelina species endemic to Oahu.

”The biologist looked for the places they shouldn’t go,” Pai said. “They were able to replace the blown fuses, and all work was done by 9 a.m.”

Titterton said there was no negative impact on the habitat of the protected tree snail.

”They knew where they were,” he said.

With the power line repaired, HPR engineers found surges had damaged their own fuses and a transmitter had basically been fried, said Phyllis S.K. Look, HPR director of marketing.

”HPR’s engineer has been successful at repairing the HPR-2 transmitter, and repairs to the HPR-1 transmitter are ongoing and signals to Kauai and the North Shore are expected to be restored shortly,” she said Wednesday afternoon.

The problem for HPR started when recent storms knocked out the power lines that led to an HPR facility with a microwave relay to KIPL 89.9 in Lihue, and two signal boosters for HPR-1 and HPR-2 to east and south Kauai. Generators carried the signal for several days as coordination of the repair work continued, but the fuel ran out first on Sept. 30.

Power line damage of this type is typically restored in less than a day.

However, the location of the blown fuses is home to endangered tree snails, protected under the Endangered Species Act.

It is mating season for the snails and repair crews needed to have the site clearance to ensure no contact with the snails would occur. 

Kauai listeners, meanwhile, heard static all week.

It was a blow to HPR, which had just launched its $1 million pledge drive and began broadcasting to Kauai earlier this year. But Wednesday, Titterton said it was great to have the situation resolved.

”Happy public radio and happy snails,” he said.

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