Contact: Lee Altenberg, Ph.D.
Phone: 808-875-0745

October 2, 2001


The Public Works Committee of the Maui County Council will take up the issue of light pollution at its meeting 9am, Wednesday, October 3 in the Maui County Council Chambers.

In addition to public testimony on the issue of light pollution on Maui, the Committee will receive a presentation, by the Ad Hoc Maui Committee for Outdoor Lighting Standards, of a draft ordinance for outdoor lighting standards. The Committee is comprised of Dr. Lee Altenberg of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Mike Maberry of the Institute for Astronomy at Haleakala, and Steve Sutrov of the Kula Community Association. They have taken a pro-active approach to the growing problem of night time light pollution on Maui by drafting a ordinance built around the current County street light code, which adds to it other necessary light pollution control measures that are already the law in many municipalities around the country.

The poor design of outdoor lighting around the world has caused the night skies to be so polluted with stray light that the sight of the Milky Way is becoming an experience that fewer and fewer people are able to have. The view of the heavens has deep significance for all the world's religions. Recent scientific studies have shown how global is the loss of the night skies to light pollution. On Maui, light pollution also interferes with the life cycles of the ocean and bird life.

Fortunately, light pollution can be substantially eliminated by good lighting design. Many communities across American have realized that good design can be ensured by enacting outdoor lighting standards. The Ad Hoc Maui Committee believes that the time has come for Maui to enact high quality standards for its outdoor lights.

If the draft ordinance submitted by the Ad Hoc Committee is approved by the County Council, it would produce several dramatic results. Within 5 years, the view of central Maui from up country would no longer look like a small version of Los Angeles, but would look much as Maui appeared 40 years ago. The Milky Way would be visible from homes in Kahului and Kihei, which today can see very few stars, instead being encased in the orange sky glow of trespassing light. Sea turtles hatchlings would no longer die crawling toward lights they believed were the ocean. Night time drivers would no longer have the glare of unshielded street lights interfering with vision of the streets. The telescopes at Haleakala would once again have a pristine view of the cosmos. And the County would save an estimated $500,000 a year on electricity bills by having more efficient street lights.

In drafting the proposed ordinance, the Ad Hoc Committee has met with the Director of Public Works, members of the Police Department, electrical engineers, lighting suppliers, and many of the Community Associations on Maui, to try to develop regulations with a minimum of bureaucracy and a maximum impact on light pollution and energy waste. The submission of this draft ordinance to the County Council is done in the hopes of giving a running start to the process of enacting outdoor lighting standards. The Ad Hoc Committee hopes that a final version of the ordinance will incorporate additional ideas from the Maui community.

Information about the efforts to establish outdoor lighting standards on Maui can be found on the Web at .