New & Noteworthy

posted in: May 2006 | 0

Spills and Fish Kills? In the last several months, fish kills have been reported at two streams on O`ahu. The January issue of Hawai`i Fishing News said a “bubbly substance” appeared in December at Ka`elepulu Stream in Kailua; columnist Knud Lindgard linked it to the death of “some 3-5 lb awaawa.” A month later, hundreds of armored catfish were reported to be dead and dying in Manoa Stream. Whazzup?

According to a staffer at the Department of Health’s Clean Water Branch, the problem at Ka`elepulu was caused by depleted oxygen levels in the water, which sometimes happens on still, hot days. An abundant tilapia population further depletes oxygen in the stream. The DOH employee sent to investigate did not find any dead or dying fish, and consequently did not sample the water, but Dale Mikami of the Clean Water Branch said he’s confident that the problem can be traced back to the lack of oxygen.

The dead and dying armored catfish in Manoa Stream were almost certainly caused by a parasite rather than any chemical change in the stream water, the DOH staffer said. Fish other than the armored catfish appeared to be in good health, further discounting the possibility that water contamination played a part in the catfish deaths. According to the DOH source, stream quality at the time of the reported kill “was better than it usually is.”

The Federal Nexus: Last month, we reported that the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands had taken over development of the Villages of La`i`opua in Kealakehe, but had not agreed to the plan developed to mitigate harm to endangered species that had been worked out between the previous developer – the state Housing Finance and Development Corporation – and the Fish and Wildlife Service. The mitigation plan was necessitated by the involvement early on of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which helped finance a sewage treatment plant for the area. Under the federal Endangered Species Act, involvement of a federal agency triggers the requirement for consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure that any harm to endangered species resulting from the federally sponsored project is mitigated.

The Fish and Wildlife Service was unaware of the fact that the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2004 awarded DHHL a multi-million-dollar grant to assist with development of infrastructure for the Villages of La`i`opua.

Better Late? In 1989, the Board of Land and Natural Resources approved the addition of more than 15,000 acres to the forest reserves of the Big Island. As Environment Hawai`i reported in November 2002, the state had not yet managed to execute the documents needed to transfer the state-owned lands to the jurisdiction of the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife.

In 2005, the state finally made some headway on the long-stalled project. On December 8, DOFAW received a set-aside of 3,835.85 acres for inclusion in the South Kona Forest Reserve. Work to set aside the remaining 11,000 acres is continuing, according to Roger Imoto of the Big Island DOFAW. “We’re getting there,” he said. The process has been slower than anyone anticipated because of a short staff at the state surveyor’s office. Although the areas to be set aside had been surveyed decades ago, the work needed to be redone to reflect changes in ownership of surrounding lands, Imoto said.

Volume 16, Number 9 March 2006

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