New & Noteworthy: Midway Mice, Lahaina Wastewater, and More

posted in: March 2019 | 0

Midway Mouse Plan OK’d: The Fish and Wildlife Service has released a final environmental assessment that clears the way for the eradication of mice from Midway Atoll’s Sand Island by broadcasting the rodenticide Broadifacoum.

One of the biggest challenges facing the eradication effort is how to deal with the island’s population of Laysan ducks, an endangered species highly sensitive to the toxin. To mitigate impacts to the ducks, the plan is to catch and remove them to nearby Eastern Island and hold them in captivity or cut their flight feathers until such time as the bait with the rodenticide, as well as the insects that have taken the bait, have lost their toxicity. That period could last as long as 22 months, according to timetables published in the biological opinion released by the service on January 30.

The final EA contains information unavailable in the draft, including a table that provides what the FWS terms allowable estimates of the number of ducks that could be injured or killed. As many as 390 adult ducks – 65 percent of the total number of adults – could be injured in connection with the eradication program, with 198 (33 percent) dying. Sub-adults and ducklings would also take substantial hits, with as many as 135 and 60, respectively, being killed. Also, there would be no breeding for two years.

Cost of the project, to be undertaken by contractor Island Conservation, is placed at between $4.5 million and $5 million. The current timetable calls for the rodenticide to be applied starting in July.

The final EA and associated documents may be viewed at: https://www.arcgis.com/ apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=e7bbcf5c 95804186902ef938f1c020f2. (The documents are not available on a government website.) Environment Hawai‘i reported on the draft EA in our May 2018 edition, available at our website environment-hawaii.org.

Cert Granted: The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up the appeal of Maui County from a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals finding that the county’s Lahaina wastewater treatment plant was violating the Clean Water Act. The question the court will be addressing is this: “Whether the Clean Water Act requires a permit when pollutants originate from a point source but are conveyed to navigable waters by a nonpoint source, such as groundwater.”

The appellate court ruled last March that the county-owned facility had been violating the Clean Water Act practically since the day it began operations in the early 1980s. The plant injects between 3 million and 5 million gallons of treated wastewater each day into deep injection wells, where the effluent is mixed with groundwater and is transported to the ocean.

Effluent from the Lahaina facility has long been suspected of causing algae blooms and other adverse impacts to corals and other marine life off Kahekili Beach, popular with tourists and residents alike.

The Supreme Court will probably not schedule oral arguments until its next term begins in October.

The plaintiffs in the 2012 complaint against the county that began the litigation are the Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund, Sierra Club-Maui Group, Surfrider Foundation, and West Maui Preservation Association, all represented by Earthjustice.

(Environment Hawai‘i has published many articles on this subject, going back to 1992. All are available online at www.environment- hawaii.org.)

Speaking of Earthjustice: Last month, the environmental law firm announced that Isaac Moriwake will fill the vacancy left by former managing attorney for the Mid-Pacific office, Paul Achitoff. Achitoff retired earlier this year.

For more than a decade, Moriwake has successfully fought for stream restoration on behalf of community groups such as Hui o Na Wai Eha, Maui Tomorrow, and Po‘ai Wai Ola. He’s also been a strong renewable energy advocate, representing the Hawai‘i Solar Energy Association in dockets before the Public Utilities Commission, among other things.

“When I joined Earthjustice over 16 years ago, I would never have dreamed of one day leading our team in Hawai‘i. So I can’t even say this is a ‘dream come true.’ It’s been one long wave, and I’m just happy to keep riding it,” Moriwake stated in a press release.

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