A Shining Beacon

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From left: James W. Kurth, chief of National Wildlife Refuge System; Rep. Colleen Hanabusa of Hawaii; Irene Hirano Inouye; Interior Secretary Ken Salazar; Assistant Secretary for Policy, Budget and Management Rhea Suh; National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis; Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii. (Tami A. Heilemann/DOI Office of Communications)

WASHINGTON — Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced Tuesday the renaming of the Kilauea Point Lighthouse on the island of Kauai in Hawaii in honor of the late Sen. Daniel Inouye.

The action is in recognition of the senator’s distinguished career and longtime support of conservation in Hawaii and, in particular, the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. A formal ceremony to dedicate the Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse will be held at the lighthouse on May 4.

“Sen. Inouye is truly an American hero, from his courage on the battlefields of World War II to his long and distinguished career representing the people of Hawaii in the U.S. Senate,” Salazar said. “His contribution to the American people will be forever memorialized on the lighthouse that stands as a monument to Hawaii’s colorful past. His legacy will continue to shine a light on the preservation and conservation of the islands’ wildlife and cultural heritage.”

A longtime advocate for conservation in Hawaii, Inouye was a key supporter of the establishment of Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, a part of the Kauai National Wildlife Refuge Complex in 1985 after its transfer from the U.S. Coast Guard. Located two miles north of the town of Kilauea, the refuge includes 203 acres of protected land and is one of the few Hawaiian refuges open to the public. Kilauea Point offers breathtaking views overlooking the Pacific, and attracts over 500,000 visitors annually.

“Sen. Inouye served as a beacon of hope for conservation issues,” added U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “His efforts included creation and reauthorization of the Coral Reef Conservation Act to protect the beautiful ecosystems of Hawaii. Renaming the lighthouse is befitting of his lifelong work and contribution to the people of Hawaii and the conservation community.”

The Kilauea Point Lighthouse, on the northernmost point of land on the inhabited Hawaiian Islands, was dedicated in 1913 and deactivated in 1979.

The late senator’s wife, Irene Hirano Inouye, said, “Dan placed a high priority in preserving pristine lands throughout Hawaii to ensure that future generations are able to enjoy what we oftentimes take for granted. Dan and I visited the Kilauea Point Lighthouse a few years ago and were taken by the overwhelming community support for its preservation. It was a beautiful evening, and the success achieved is testament to what is possible when everyone pitches in.

“Dan’s grandparents arrived on the island of Kauai at the turn of the 1900s to begin a new life. It is most fitting that the Department of the Interior’s site which will bear his name is on the island where it all began.”

Inouye became the nation’s first Japanese American congressman in 1959, the year Hawaii became a state. Three years later he was elected to the U.S. Senate and eventually became the second longest-serving senator in American history.

“Dan Inouye dedicated his life to public service and was committed to ensuring the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge had the resources it needed to guarantee its preservation,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). “I thank Secretary Salazar and President Obama’s administration for paying tribute to our giant in the United States Senate, and someone who was truly committed to conservation in Hawaii and across the country.”

A World War II veteran, Inouye received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s top military honor, for his bravery charging a series of machine gun nests in San Terenzo, Italy. He lost his right arm in the assault.

“Sen. Inouye was a humble leader who never sought recognition or praise for his work because he believed he was just doing his job,” said Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii). “He long understood the importance of this lighthouse, the integral role it played in Hawaii’s history, helping sailors safely guide their ships to shore and aiding pilots making the first trans-Pacific flight to Honolulu, as well as its significance to Kauai’s visitor industry and wildlife conservation efforts. Sen. Inouye worked very hard throughout his career to secure funding for the site’s maintenance and restoration.

“I am so very pleased that we will honor his legacy by renaming this iconic landmark the Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse. We can never repay him for all he did for Hawaii or his service to our nation, but I believe this is a fitting tribute to our beloved senator.”

Kilauea Point is the northernmost point of land on the inhabited Hawaiian Islands. Dedicated in 1913, the lighthouse has played a key role in orienting travelers between the West Coast to Honolulu and beyond. For 63 years, it guided ships and boats safely along Kauai’s rugged north shore with its signature double flash.

In 1976, the Coast Guard deactivated the lighthouse and replaced it with an automatic beacon. In 1979, the lighthouse was placed in the National Register of Historic Places, the official list of the nation’s historic places worthy of preservation, which is maintained by the National Park Service.

The lighthouse has recently been restored through the dedicated efforts of the Kilauea Point Natural History Association, volunteers and refuge staff. The restoration will return the lighthouse to its original condition. On rare and special occasions, it still lights the sky above Kauai.

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