A new floating dock, moorings and restrooms for recreational users at the Kawaihae Small Boat Harbor should be completed in May.
That’s according to State Rep. Cindy Evans, D-North Kona, South Kohala, who said the opening of the new facilities will clear the way for 17 recreational boats that can be moved out of the commercial harbor.
“With the demand for the harbor to expand, this is critical for the community,” said Evans, who pointed out that residents have limited access to ocean recreation areas. Kawaihae’s status as a burgeoning shipping port will only put more pressure on recreational users in days ahead, she said.
The $4.7 million dock project will also include a boat ramp in a future phase. The ramp ran into regulatory snags when live coral was discovered at the site during the permitting process. But federal officials have given the state the green light to proceed after most of the coral died off naturally and DLNR employees moved the rest by hand.
Evans toured the construction at the south end of the harbor on Sunday, accompanied by two community members and a state Division of Land and Natural Resources enforcement officer. The moorings for the floating dock were in place and restrooms had been constructed. A large parking area had been graded and the concrete for a wheelchair ramp to the restrooms had been poured.
Plans are also in the works for a fence that will keep people out of the popular harbor area used by military landing craft, commonly known as the “LDS Landing.” On Sunday, the approximately 300 yards of shoreline inside the breakwater were packed with cars, and children played on the pilings used to moor military watercraft.
Once the fence is constructed, recreational users will be pushed to a strip of land called Surf Park to the south and to the new floating dock area. But the land must be surveyed before a fence can be put in.
Touring the harbor with residents Gunner Mench and Jojo Tanimoto, Evans listened to complaints about poor lighting, drinking and homelessness.
“You need multiple signs that say no alcoholic beverages on state property,” said Mench, owner of Harbor Gallery in Kawaihae.
Evans said she’s working on getting signs that make it clear drinking is prohibited and that unauthorized people are not allowed in the area after hours. DLNR Enforcement Officer Jose Vera Cruz said enforcement of drinking laws is hampered by a lack of manpower and the level of proof needed to prosecute someone for drinking.
Evans has also requested $1 million in the state budget to raise the north breakwater, which tends to take waves over its top during heavy surf, resulting in sand accumulation at the boat ramp.
“We may have to widen the breakwater too,” she said. “I do know if we get $1 million in there, there’s a good chance the project will go forward.”
Evans said she is optimistic the state budget will include $90 million for the new West Hawaii courthouse and $15 million for a new science and technology building at Waimea Middle School.