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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, August 28, 2003

Midway is losing out to Tern

Charles Wilson is a former harbormaster of Midway Island who lives in Alaska.
By Charles Wilson

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is preparing to spend over $20 million to build seawalls, improve the docks and make other improvements to Tern Island's infrastructure.

I find this quite confusing. Tern Island is off-limits to the public, accessible to only a select few FWS employees and volunteers and members of so-called "sister agencies." Yet, the FWS has closed Midway Island to the public and the military for lack of funds. Midway has been designated as a national monument, has numerous sites designated as historic treasures and, in the executive order bequeathing it to the Department of Interior, is supposed to be open for public use.

Recently, in a notice to pilots issued through the Federal Aviation Administration, Midway notified all aircraft that fuel is no longer for sale. This after the FWS spilled about 100,000 gallons of fuel. The Coast Guard is no longer allowed to refuel during law-enforcement missions, medevac and search-and-rescue missions. The U.S. military can no longer refuel while in support of our troops on missions overseas.

The latest contract awarded to run the infrastructure of Midway was given to a minority-owned company from Alaska (ask how many Alaskan natives work there) for about $8 million per year. With the added cost of air transportation, salaries, food, fuel, etc., the cost comes to about $10 million per year. Yet, the FWS rejected a bid by a private company to operate the island for approximately $3 million per year.

The FWS refuses to refuel Coast Guard, U.S. military and private aircraft for lack of funds to buy fuel. Yet, it has the funds to improve a tiny island's docks and seawalls to support a dozen or so "researchers."

Midway happens to have the only growing population of monk seals in Hawai'i. Tern (and French Frigate) is experiencing a severe decline in the monk seal population. Yet, the seals at Tern are studied more than any other population. Could there be a correlation there? Are the Tern seals truly being studied to death?

Should the monies earmarked to improve the facilities for a dozen or so FWS employees perhaps be used to comply with the law that the FWS so blatantly disregards?