Board Talk: Fireworks, Cesspools, Sea Cucumbers, Koloa

posted in: March 2016 | 0

Sparks Fly Over Fireworks Permit, $2,500 Deposit to Clean Up Debris

For years, right-of-entry permits brought by the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Land Division for fireworks displays at state beaches have garnered little, if any, opposition. Last year, a small group of Hawai`i Pacific University students opposed one permit for a fireworks display at the Kahala Hotel & Resort because of the potential adverse effects to the marine environment and the captive dolphins at the hotel. But for the most part, the permits are approved without public comment and little discussion by the board.

More recently, however, with the addition of avid waterman Keone Downing to the Land Board, the permits have received greater scrutiny. And at the board’s February 12 meeting, Downing confronted Hawai`i Explosives & Pyrotechnics, Inc., manager Bruce Albrecht with a garbage bag full of litter Downing had apparently collected from a 50’X50’ section of reef following a fireworks show the company did last year.

Downing had asked Albrecht what he does with the fireworks debris once an event is done. When Albrecht said he cleans it up, Downing rose, retreated to an office adjacent to the board room, and re-emerged with his garbage bag, dumping its contents onto the table until the rubbish spilled onto the floor.

Downing has in the past pushed for the division to require permit recipients to post a $2,500 deposit to cover the cost of any cleanup following fireworks events, a condition Albrecht has resisted. And at the meeting last month, Downing continued to push for that condition to be part of all fireworks right-of-entry permits.

Albrecht, however, questioned how the board came up with the $2,500 amount and complained that if he applies for multiple permits, he could be forced to shell out tens of thousands of dollars without any idea of if or when he would get it back.

“We have no issue being accountable. It is going to come at an economic cost. … I want it to be fair,” he said.

Land Board member Ulalia Woodside noted that there has already been an environmental costs that has gone unpaid for many years.

The board ultimately decided to keep the $2,500 deposit a condition of the permit, with the understanding that the Land Division would work on the terms under which the deposit would be used or returned.

Downing further suggested that pyrotechnic companies look for alternatives to launching into the ocean.

“I think people can be conditioned to do the right thing,” he said. “There are lots of places in this country where they don’t have an ocean to fire fireworks into and they they fire fireworks. … The water means a lot to me and I want it to be clean.”



State Parks

Cesspool Settlement

Wainapanapa State Park

In a proposed settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the DLNR’s Division of State Parks has managed to reduce its proposed fine of $187,500 for failing to close large capacity cesspools (LCC) at Wainapanapa State Park on Maui down to $50,000. In exchange for the reduced fine, the division will close several other cesspools at park facilities throughout the state.

More than a decade ago, the division entered into a consent agreement with the EPA to decommission all large capacity cesspools, which are those that serve more than 20 people or more a day or serve multiple dwellings. State Parks had dozens of LCCs throughout the state.

Although one LCC at Wainapanapa State Park had been included in the consent agreement, those that served the park’s rental cabins were not. Each of those cesspools served two cabins, but because each cabin only holds six people, the division had not moved to close the cesspools, apparently believing they didn’t qualify as LCCs. Once the division realized it did, indeed, need to close the six cesspools there, it planned to coordinate the work with cabin renovations.

“The cabins were booked. We tried to schedule [the work] when we were going to decommission the use of the cabins and the cesspools all at one time but the EPA got a little more aggressive than we were used to,” division administrator Curt Cottrell told the Land Board at its December meeting. Rather than waiting for the division to get its funds and plans in order, the EPA chose to impose a fine of $187,500.

Rather than paying the whole fine, the division is being allowed to pay $50,000 if it also does decommissions cesspools at caretaker residences and concession buildings that had been grandfathered in by the EPA. Although the Land Board approved in December the settlement terms and authorized its chair to sign the final agreement, the legislature must still appropriate the funds.

The cesspools at Wainapanapa were closed in July 2015.



Koloa Duck

Hybridization Study

The koloa is the only native Hawaiian bird facing extinction from hybridization with an invasive species, the mallard duck, according to a report by the DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife. With an estimated population of 2,200, koloa are among the world’s most threatened waterfowl, it states.

So on December 11, the Land Board authotized its chair to enter into an agreement with the University of California Davis, which will analyze genes in more than 200 koloa blood samples to determine the extent of hybridization. Using physical measurements taken from museum specimens and birds sampled on Kaua`i, the university will also “investigate links between morphological characteristics and hybrid status, ideally to identify characteristics that managers can use to discriminate mallards from Hawaiian ducks and hybrids,” the report states.

The agreement, effective through June 30, will provide $12,200 in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant funds to UC-Davis.

The genetic analysis will start with samples taken from ducks around O`ahu, DOFAW wildlife program manager James Cogswell told the Land Board.

The results will “help us to determine how to proceed with how to manage the hybridization,” he said.

“After you do the research, what would be the remedy? Shoot the [hybrid] ducks? … That would be a real difficult solution,” Kaua`i Land Board member Tommy Oi said.

“That is an option on the table,” Cogswell replied.



Sea Cucumber Rules Pass

Despite Worry Over Aquarium Take

To protect Hawai`i’s populations of sea cucumbers from the kind of over-harvesting that has devastated other areas where commercial operations have taken root, Gov. David Ige last December signed rules banning the commercial take of sea cucumbers, except by aquarium collectors on O`ahu, who are allowed to take up to 20 sea cucumbers a day. In total, they may harvest up to 3,600 a year.

In a press release, the Department of Land and Natural Resource’s Division of Aquatic Resources administrator Bruce Anderson commended his staff and that of the department’s enforcement division for quickly responding to a mass-harvesting of sea cucumbers last summer on Maui — the first event of its kind in Hawai`i. The DLNR immediately requested and received Land Board approval to temporarily ban commercial harvesting of sea cucumbers. Rules imposing a permanent ban were approved last December 11 by the Land Board.

“Without this prompt action the short-lived, mass harvest of sea cucumbers could have been an ecological disaster for the sea cucumber and its role in the health of Hawaii’s coral reefs,” Anderson said.

But at the Land Board’s December meeting, critics of the state’s aquarium trade lamented the exemption allowing the industry to take up to 3,600 sea cucumbers a year.

Inga Gibson, Hawai`i director of the Humane Society of the United States, argued that the exception was not based on any science proving that level is sustainable. She noted that the industry reported harvesting 14,000 sea cucumbers in 2004 and by 2014, the take had dropped  to 2,260.

“While take has decreased in the last ten years, right now the submittal proposes to allow 3,600 cucumbers to be taken and again, primarily by the aquarium trade,” she said. “We need to know more about what the sustainability levels are.”

Marjorie Ziegler, director of the Conservation Council for Hawai`i, added that while it was not objecting to the take of sea cucumbers for home consumption, which the new rules allow, “without numbers, it’s hard to support even that.”

Rebutting Gibson’s arguments that the take level wasn’t based on science, DAR’s Alton Miyasaka explained that it actually was. In fact, it was based on the same harvest data Gibson had referred to. DAR reviewed harvest levels of the most recent eight year that it has data. In that period, the take was never greater than 3,300. The division rounded that up to 3600.

He added that although he doesn’t expect collectors to reach the annual limit, DAR will track catch via monthly catch reports submitted by permittees and will be able to predict accurately if and when the limit will be reached.

Maui Land Board member Jimmy Gomes seemed unconvinced the 3,600 level was sustainable and asked Miyasaka if he knew what the reproductive capacity of the current sea cucumber population was.

“I’m just afraid the aquarium people would wipe it out and it starts hurting our [reef] ecosystem,” Gomes said.

Miyasaka did not directly answer Gomes’s questions, but explained that DAR has more than 40 years of data on the sea cucumber fishery and that the pre-2008 take by aquarium fishers was much higher than the new take limit.

“2008 is when the economic crisis hit the U.S. and demand for aquarium products plunged,” Miyasaka said, adding that DAR felt basing a harvest cap on post-2008 take levels was a  conservative approach.

“We feel at that level, 3600 animals, the long-term catch doesn’t show it’s excessive. … We wanted to cap it where it is so it didn’t expand,” he said.

— Teresa Dawson

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