LIHUE — Kauai football teams have been gearing up for tonight’s game at Hanapepe Stadium, and ink is now dry on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that’ll let them play.
Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. signed the MOU between the County of Kauai and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last month to allow the county to use stadium lights at night during the 2018 football season. The USFWS official signed the MOU last week.
“It has always been my goal to establish an agreement with the federal government that would allow us to bring back our longstanding tradition of Friday night lights on Kauai in a manner that is safe and responsible during the endangered seabird fledgling season,” Carvalho said.
Night games were on hold for several years because stadium lighting can deter endangered Newell’s shearwater birds on their way to the ocean, especially during the Sept. 15 to Dec. 15 fledgling season.
The 2017 football season was the first in seven years that night football resumed on Kauai, after an MOU was signed with USFWS in September 2017.
Four night games were played under stadium lights that season and officials said there were no reports of downed shearwaters, which sometimes mistake lights for the moon.
Birds will circle artificial lighting instead of continuing their trek from the mountains to the sea, and eventually will fall to the ground where they can become prey or get hit by cars.
In 2010, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative and the County of Kauai signed a plea agreement with the U.S. Justice Department, admitting to violating the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act due to fall-out and things like power line collisions.
Since then, both entities have been working on habitat and population restoration and done things like retrofitting stadium lights and creating educational campaigns to help with conservation of the endangered seabirds.
“While we continue to work on a long-term agreement, this MOU serves as an interim measure that allows us to use stadium lights on evenings with minimized risk to endangered seabirds,” Carvalho said.
That long-term agreement is the Kauai Seabird Habitat Conservation Plan, which the county started working on in 2010. Its creation is a partnership between COK, USFWS and the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife.
“We are happy to have found an interim solution that supports seabird conservation as well as the needs of the community,” said Mary Abrams, field supervisor for the USFWS Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office. “The work of conservation is a team effort, and Mayor Carvalho and County of Kauai have been great partners.”
Carvalho said while there are a few night games scheduled for 2018, the ultimate goal is to finish the KSHCP for future football seasons.
As noted in the MOU, stadium lights will be allowed at night today and Sept. 28.
“This year’s opportunity for night football is a testament to the hard work we’ve accomplished together, including the retrofitting of ballpark lights at Vidinha and Hanapepe stadiums, and conducting training and educational outreach campaigns to perpetuate the importance of protecting our endangered seabirds,” Carvalho said. “We look forward to the Waimea homecoming game this Friday night, Sept. 21, at the Hanapepe Stadium.”
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.