Just four years ago Hawaii's NPR affiliate could finally say it beamed its twin signals to listeners across the populated island of Oahu and over a glittering stretch of the Pacific Ocean to the eastern shores of Kauai—an enormous feat given the topographical challenges of broadcasting across a volcano-dotted archipelago.
But after a spate of storms knocked out power lines to Hawaii Public Radio's key relay facility on Oahu late last month, utility workers weren't able to restore service to the facility before its generators petered out. Just like that, listeners along a broad swath of Oahu and the entire island of Kauai lost their NPR.
The problem: endangered tree snails mating in the way of repairs.
Here's how Hawaii Public Radio (HPR) explained:
Normally, [Hawaiian Electric (HECO)] would have been able to repair the electrical line with little delay, but in this instance the location where the repair is required has been identified as the habitat of one of the species of the endangered tree snails – and it’s mating season. To enter the area, HECO crews will need to be accompanied by representatives from Hawai‘i’s Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW). Coordination between these various entities is underway.
[An update: Oahu tree snails don't actually have a "mating season," snail experts tell me. "There's no such thing," Brenden Holland of the Hawaiian Tree Snail Conservation Lab told me. "I work with a circle of very few tree snail experts and we were all kind of chuckling." "Yes as far as we know they mate all year round," said David Sischo, coordinator of the state's Snail Extinction Prevention Program.]