KIUC renewing take permit

LIHUE — The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative is in the process of renewing its Endangered Species Act Incidental Take Permit, and an upcoming meeting on the subject is designed to bring the public up to speed.

The meeting will be from 5-7 p.m. July 20 at Kauai Community College and will be an open-house format with opportunities to ask questions and provide written comments.

Carey Koide, distribution manager for KIUC, said the company is working with what’s called a short-term, five-year incidental take permit. It expired in May, but since it’s in the renewal process, “essentially, the permit is still valid.”

KIUC is aiming for a 30-year permit that would authorize take of a certain number of endangered Hawaiian Petrel, the threatened Newell’s shearwater, and the band-rumped storm-petrel caused by KIUC activities.

“Take” means “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect,” according to section 3 of the endangered species act.

“We’re seeing (incidental take permit renewal) probably in the year 2018, and in the meantime, we’re continuing with our mitigation measures,” Koide said.

Koide said it’s KIUC’s power lines that pose the greatest threat to the seabirds. The birds fly from their colonies out to sea and back at night and it’s difficult to see the lines, he said.

“You minimize and mitigate and that’s the basic concept of how we operate,” Koide said. “For the past four or five years, we’ve been lowering or undergrounding the lines, so with that you lower the risk of take.”

One example can be seen on the mauka side of the highway near Kealia Beach, where three years ago the company dropped the lines within shield range of the trees and vegetation in the area.

KIUC is also testing bird diverters, fixed onto transmitters, that make the lines more visible at night, and the company is also working with lasers to make the lines more visible.

“The thing about it is that you have to test it and gather data, and the window is very narrow because the season only runs from April to December,” Koide said.

He said the other issue the birds have with KIUC operations is the birds’ attraction to street lights, which are operated by the cooperative.

“That’d be second and it’s minor compared to collisions with power lines,” Koide said.

When it comes to mitigation, Koide said the idea is to “protect birds that can make more birds and give them a safe environment.”

KIUC helps with predator control in the Limahuli Valley area and a few other colonies on the island.

Koide said over the past five years, the company has put more than $15 million into minimization and mitigation. Initially the company’s commitment was $11 million.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is going through the process of renewing the incidental take permit, and has published a Notice of Intent to prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement that will evaluate the effects of issuing the permit.

The public comment period for the DEIS is open through Sept. 6. Written comments can be emailed to KIUCLongTermhcp@fws.gov. Include “KIUC HCP and scoping EIS” in the subject line.

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