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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, June 10, 2001

Pact keeps a Fourth of July tradition alive

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward Bureau

KAILUA — Fireworks will light the skies above Kailua Beach Park again this Fourth of July, but they will not be launched from Popoi'a Island (also known as Flat Island).

As David Smith of the Department of Land and Natural Resources cradled a 'ou, or Bulwer's petrel, he and Nancy Slain of the Kailua Chamber of Commerce examined the area of Popoi'a Island from where fireworks for Kailua's annual Fourth of July display used to be launched. Fireworks this year will be launched from a barge in Kailua Bay instead.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

Federal officials have said they cannot condone state permits allowing fireworks to be launched from the bird sanctuary.

As a result, the Kailua Chamber of Commerce will launch the display from a barge in the bay, said Larry Lanning, chamber president.

For more than 25 years, Popoi'a Island was used for launching fireworks. However, last year, a nest was crushed, an egg was broken and an adult sea bird was buried, though unharmed.

EnviroWatch Inc. then filed a complaint with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, claiming the state Department of Land and Natural Resources should not have issued a permit for the display because it harmed birds nesting on the island.

David Smith, O'ahu wildlife manager for the department, who had issued permits for the display in the past, said he consulted with Fish & Wildlife officials and was told the fireworks display was incompatible with federal policies. Eugene Hester, supervisory special agent for Fish & Wildlife, noted that under federal law anyone who destroys a migratory bird nest on the ground or kills a migratory bird is subject to criminal penalties.

"We tried to resolve the situation," Smith said. "There was no legal remedy. We just couldn't allow it."

Carroll Cox, president of EnviroWatch, said the main concern was the island's fragile environment. People who go there could unknowingly crush nests and carry diseases that could sicken sea birds. Although Cox said the mere noise of the fireworks could affect the birds, he would not object to the barge.

"I would be embarrassed to be associated with the complete cessation of (the display)," he said. "It would be like taking away a piece of the American pie."

Using the barge increases the cost of the fireworks show by about 30 percent. However, Lanning noted that the Kailua Chamber of Commerce didn't want its name associated with harming birds. After the chamber said it no longer could cover the full cost of the show, six Kailua businesses — Ameron Hawai'i, Foodland, Hardware Hawai'i-True Value, Kane'ohe Ranch, McKenna Windward Motor Cars and Papa John Pizza — agreed to contribute $3,000 each.

"Despite all the travails, it worked out well," he said.

Representatives of the pyrotechnics company that will launch the fireworks also are pleased with the change. Donald Pascual, owner of Hawai'i Explosives and Pyrotechnics Inc., said shooting fireworks from the barge is easier, safer and allows for more creativity.

The company must obtain permits from the land department's Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, the city and the fire department. But Pascual said, "We don't anticipate any problems in getting any of them."