Operations begin to drop poison on Lehua Island to eradicate rats

Published: Aug. 23, 2017 at 2:17 AM HST|Updated: Aug. 23, 2017 at 7:31 AM HST
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LEHUA ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - An ongoing rat problem on Lehua Island is prompting the DLNR to go ahead with plans to bait the island with rat poison. But some are worried that could pose a health risk to other animals on the island.

The agriculture department on Tuesday approved DLNR's permit to begin the rat eradication project on Lehua Island, which began at around 7 a.m. on Wednesday.

Rat poison would be dropped by helicopter, but some are worried that could pose a risk to the seabirds and other animals who live on the island, which is one of the state's largest seabird colonies.

"It's just an eerie feeling right now. A lot of people in my district are very concerned and they will be watching," Kauai Representative Dee Morikawa said.

Morikawa hoped the state would have considered more targeted methods to get rid of the rats.

"People were talking about sterilizing the rats or doing more precise drops. Bag drops or bait traps or those kinds of things before dropping poison all over the island," she said.

Morikawa is also concerned that the poison could pose a risk to marine life.

Opponents say after similar poison drops in the past, a whale calf beached itself and dead fish washed up onto Niihau. The state says studies later showed there was no link to the poison.

The project's final environmental assessment predicted no significant impacts, and the state says it made improvements since the first rat eradication failed in 2009.

DLNR says the new bait is designed to be more appealing to rodents.

Helicopters will drop about 10 tons of bait over three different days, but officials say less than 0.1 percent is actual poison and any pellets that end up in nearshore waters should break down quickly.

The agriculture department says it will have a team on Lehua Island overseeing the poison drop, while Chair Scott Enright will be monitoring the application from nearby Niihau.

Morikawa says that gives her assurance, but she feels the state should have done more to make residents feel the same way.

"They should have engaged the public better. They should've weighed the options suggested and give the pros and cons for people to understand why they chose the option that they chose. You can disagree, but you have to make the other person understand why," she said.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources will make the call to bait or not to bait at 6 a.m. Wednesday morning.

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