Thursday, October 4, 2001

Maui residents voice concerns about light pollution

Public works panel takes no action on bill to address issue


Staff Writer

WAILUKU — Maui residents concerned about light pollution affecting the night sky and the ocean environment aired their concerns Wednesday to the Maui County Council Public Works Committee. 

The committee took no action on a proposed bill to address light pollution. 

In the presentation to the council committee, Mike Maberry, assistant director for the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, noted excessive lights can affect the night sky and the viewing from observatories 10,000 feet up on the Haleakala summit. 

When there is an excess of light in the sky affecting the viewing conditions, Maberry said for scientists, it’s like “looking though muddy water.”

An ad hoc committee that drafted the proposed bill also is concerned about glare from streetlights that can affect drivers’ vision as well as “light trespassing,” or intruding on areas where it’s not wanted. 

In addition to Maberry, committee members included Lee Altenberg of the University of Hawaii at Manoa and Steve Sutrov of the Kula Community Association. 

The draft bill also seeks to provide for energy conservation while maintaining safety, security and productivity. 

The committee suggested that some light pollution could be controlled by an Outdoor Lighting Standards Committee that would regulate lighting with lamp standards for streetlights, security lighting and architectural lighting. 

The proposed draft was built around the current county streetlight code with additions of light pollution control measures that are already in law in other parts of the country. 

Maberry, who lives in Upcountry Maui, said he’s seen the light pollution get worse over the past 20 years.

“I enjoy the night sky from my back porch, my lanai,” he said. Now growth, especially in Kihei but also with the massive new commercial projects in Kahului, has increased the amount of lighting and added to the nightglow from Maui. 

The ad hoc committee was joined by Maui naturalist Hannah Bernard, director of education for the Maui Ocean Center, who said excessive lighting can interfere with seabirds and sea turtles. 

As executive director of the Hawaii Wildlife Fund, Bernard said she helped coordinate a hawksbill sea turtle research and conservation project aimed at protecting the sea turtles that nest on Maui beaches. 

She said a mother turtle avoids lights and will not come ashore if lights are shinning on the beach. 

Conversely, she said hatchlings are attracted to lights and will crawl to their deaths on highways or lighted properties adjacent to beaches. 

While the committee deferred the lighting control proposal, it approved for first reading a bill to revise county fees and policies for cesspool pumping by county workers. 

The revision will move up the date for the county to switch frequency of cesspool pumping from monthly to quarterly to Jan. 1. The switch currently is set for July 1, 2002. 

The change would affect homeowners who require regular cesspool pumping. Under the current monthly terms, a single family home is charged $28.69 a month. That will change to $28.69 for one pumping every three months. 

The charge for additional pumping is $172.14.