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Seabird-friendly lighting installed at parking lot

By Lia Kamanā

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    MĀʻALAEA, Hawai’i (KITV) — New lighting solutions designed to help protect native seabirds and sea turtles have been installed at the parking lot managed by Mā‘alaea Triangle Association.

MTA oversees the common areas shared by surrounding businesses, including Maui Ocean Center.

The lighting project, which began in December 2021 and was recently completed, supports Maui County Council efforts under the leadership of former Council Member Kelly King to create a new lighting standard for larger commercial parking lots in Maui County.

“By reducing the blue light content, you are having a positive impact on sea turtles and near-shore coral reef organisms, as well as the seabirds. Newly hatched turtles are distracted by lights, and light at night can interfere with biological rhythms of the reef,” said Jennifer Learned of the Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project.

The MTA project exceeds the requirements of Bill 21, which was passed last year by the Maui County Council to prevent wildlife from becoming disoriented by bright lights. Limiting the amount of blue light emitted by outdoor lighting fixtures is among the requirements of the law. The new, energy-efficient lighting includes 37 light poles, each 16 feet high, with downward-facing, fully shielded PV operated smart lights.

“We worked with Maui County Council to develop Bill 21 and we are proud to be part of the largest commercial lighting installation on Maui that not only complies with the bill’s requirements, but actually exceeds them,” said Tapani Vuori, general manager at Maui Ocean Center.

The new poles replace the traditional 30-foot-high light poles installed 27 years ago with 408V bulbs and single-phase. Reducing the height and orientation of the lights, as well as adding shields and blue light filters, helps prevent seabirds from getting disoriented and landing — which makes them vulnerable to predators and being hit by vehicles.

“As for seabirds, both the adults and newly fledged chicks are distracted by lights and are drawn in to lit areas. They sometimes circle a single light until they exhaust themselves and land or collide with structures,” said Learned. “Parking lots are a special concern because the lighting reflecting off the pavement seems to be extra confusing for the birds, maybe appearing as water.” Maui Ocean Center guests can learn more at Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project’s new educational kiosk in the park.”

The new, state-of-the-art lighting developed by commercial solar lighting leader First Light Technologies covers the entire 640-stall parking lot. The lighting was supplied by Honolulu-based Goldwings Supply Service, Inc.

“These self-contained solar LED lights have a filter that reduces blue light below 2 percent, which is the threshold set by the Maui County Council in its efforts to help reduce the impact of artificial light on our wildlife,” said Lia Hunt, CEO of Goldwings. “The lighting also installs without wires or trenching, which reduces the environmental impact.

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