Tour copters ordered away from Kauai reserve
LIHUE » The state has ordered tour helicopters to stop landing in Kauai's Moloaa Forest Reserve because the forays into the pristine area could harm the ecosystem.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources sent 15 helicopter tour operators a letter last week reminding them that illegal landings could draw fines of $2,000 a day.
In early May the state inspected an area near a waterfall and pool of water in the reserve and found a helicopter landing site with two adjacent structures.
Peter Young, the DLNR's director, said the landing pad consisted of a simple, cleared area, and the structures provided shade.
Young said the state was not sure who was landing at the spot, so it sent a reminder to all helicopter tour companies.
"In order to do things like this, you need to get a permit," Young said. "In some cases a permit is not even available."
Local helicopter operators said they have been following the rules.
"We've been with the understanding that DLNR wasn't allowing us to have site landings like that," said Chuck Dipiazza, owner of Air Kauai, which operates two helicopters out of the Lihue airport.
At least one tour operator, Inter-Island Helicopters, advertises trips to an unspecified waterfall.
The company's Web site states, "We also provide a special Waterfall Adventure tour that will land at a remote waterfall for a cool dip in its freshwater pool. No one else on Kauai offers that!"
Company officials did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The DLNR plans to continue monitoring the Moloaa landing site, Young said.
A violation would be reviewed by the Board of Land and Natural Resources, which Young chairs, before any fine would be imposed.