LIHUE — The Hanapepe Stadium will be fully lit for Friday night football tonight, and the County of Kauai could be taking a legal risk doing it.
Sept. 18, Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. announced he’d signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which would allow the county to use stadium lights at night for several night games in the 2017 season.
It is needed because the Endangered Species Act prohibits any action that causes any death or injury of any endangered species.
The lights at night games have historically cased the death or injury of the threatened Newell’s shearwaters, endangered band-rumped storm petrels, and the Hawaiian petrels.
But, USFWS hadn’t signed the document Thursday afternoon, and didn’t confirm signing the MOU by press time.
“We are still working through the process,” said Holly Richards, Public Affairs Officer with USFWS at about 2:30 p.m. on Thursday.
Though the ink hasn’t hit the document yet, County of Kauai was already busy upholding their end of the MOU on Thursday and was in full swing for Friday’s game.
“I have full faith that the USFWS will execute the MOU that it initiated with the county, and I join the community in looking forward to tonight’s game,” Carvalho said.
Currently, the county does not have an incidental take permit to allow the deaths or injuries of endangered or threatened seabird species due to operations at its facilities — including stadiums.
Those permits are expected to be secure through an island-wide Kauai Seabird Habitat Conservation Plan, currently in development through the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources.
The KSHCP should be completed in the spring of 2018, and in the interim, the USFWS signature on the MOU would exempt the county from needing an incidental take permit for stadium activities.
In the MOU, the county agrees to establish a $60,000 escrow account by Nov. 15 to be used in the event that seabirds are found grounded or downed due to the use of the lights during games between Friday and Oct. 7.
The night games specifically requested are on Sept. 22, Sept. 30, Oct. 7, and Nov. 4.
The money is set aside for mitigating impacts to the seabirds, according to the MOU and the money would be returned to the county by Jan. 30, 2018 if it’s not needed.
Additionally, the county agreed to turn off lights within an hour of the end of the game, as well as monitor the facility grounds for seabirds by a group of at least four trained people.
Thursday, the County Attorney’s Office hosted Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JRTC) students from Waimea for training.
They learned how to document the number, timing and flight patterns of the birds; the number of grounded birds found and the condition of any downed seabirds.
Next week, the County will be training students from Kapaa High School to monitor the September 30 game, according to Sarah Blane, spokeswoman for County of Kauai.
“From there, we will host a training at Kauai High School for the following week’s game,” Blane said.