New law will make Maui turn off outdoor lights to protect wildlife

Maui County Council on Monday adopted a measure that would limit the amount of blue light emitted by outdoor lighting fixtures on the island. The goal is to reduce the amount of artificial light that can injure or die thousands of migratory birds, sea turtles and other wildlife each year.

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The five council members who voted For Bell 21 The sponsors were Kelly King, Shane Senenci, Kenny Rollins Fernandez, Alice Lee and Mike Molina. The opponents were Tasha Kama and Yuki Lee Sugimura. Tamara Paltin and Gabe Johnson were exempted from the vote, according to King’s office.

All outdoor lighting fixtures, except for neon, must specify a short wavelength content of no more than 2% of blue light, according to the bill. Mercury vapor should not be used in new outdoor lighting fixtures.

All outdoor lighting fixtures, except for neon, should be directed downwards. Also among the provisions: all fixtures must be completely shielded so that no light shines over the perimeter.

Light pollution poses a serious threat to wildlife, According to scientists. Endangered sea turtles are confused by the bright lighting on the beach and traveling inland, sometimes crossing roads and being hit by cars or attacked by dogs or other predators.

Birds of endangered seabirds are disorientated by bright lights while making initial flights from their burrows to the sea. If young birds get tired and fall to the ground, they can be injured or eaten by rodents, feral cats or other animals.

Maui Meadows has experienced severe flooding during recent storms.
All outdoor lighting fixtures, except for neon, must be directed downward under the new law. Nathan Eagle / Civil Pet / 2022

A lawsuit by environmentalists against Maui’s Grand Wailea resort aims to protect endangered Hawaiian casks by forcing the hotel to change lighting. This lawsuit is currently in the settlement stage It is unclear how Monday’s vote will affect the outcome. David Henkin, the senior land justice attorney suing the resort, said he could not comment on that. But he was pleased that the council had passed the new lighting law.

The bill’s effective date is July 1, 2023. It spans three years, giving businesses, agencies, and others time to comply. Several exceptions were included in the bill. For example, aviation lighting that aids the safe navigation of aircraft is exempt, as is the case in most non-ocean private homes.

Other exemptions include night sporting events and special events allowed on state Department of Education property, private schools, nonprofit properties, and county parks and facilities, according to the bill.

Critics have complained about the high cost of replacing lamps and adjusting lighting fixtures. The company’s counsel’s office opposed an earlier version of the bill. in Press Release June 17County lawyers listed a slew of things they objected to with the bill including its effects on public safety, and public events including rodeos, night markets, outdoor concerts and private sporting facilities.

Jay Pennyman holds a Hawaiian petrel that was scattered by artificial light. Courtesy: Maui Noi Seabird Restoration Project

An email to company attorney Moana Luti asking if she still opposes the final bill has been answered even after the changes were made by the mayor’s spokesperson.

“Mayor (Mike) Victorino will review the final version of the bill that has been sent to the mayor’s office, then decide whether to sign it, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature,” Brian Berry said by email.

King said she’s spent months researching the best available science on how to tackle light pollution and its effects, and that’s reflected in the final bill. King said opposition to any environmental bill could be expected. In this case, the main opposition to the lighting bill came from the outdoor events and hotel industries. But seeing her come from the corporate counsel’s office was unwelcome and overstepped, in King’s view.

“It is not their job to oppose our policy making,” she said.

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by grants from the Nestro Futuro Foundation and the Fred Baldwin Memorial Foundation.

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