Water from the boat wash pools at the end of the parking lot at Honokohau Harbor on Friday morning. (Laura Shimabuku/Special to West Hawaii Today)
Little has changed at Honokohau Harbor in the last two years, despite Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s previous declarations of support for property improvements, harbor users say.
The continuation of the status quo at the harbor, despite some spending on improvements, has left boaters frustrated, President and Managing Broker of Pacific Boats and Yachts Rick Gaffney said this week.
“Frankly, we’re still waiting to see delivery on those commitments he made,” Gaffney said, referring to Abercrombie’s campaign promises of cleaner bathrooms, paved parking lots, water system upgrades and functional lighting. During his campaign, Abercrombie cited the harbor as one example of a state project he could tackle quickly, simultaneously improving infrastructure and putting unemployed construction workers back on the job.
“In essence, nothing’s changed,” Gaffney said.
Abercrombie repeated some of those commitments in March at a Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce event, telling the group he was “ashamed” of the harbor’s conditions.
“It doesn’t remotely measure up to the standards of what it should be,” Abercrombie said at the time, adding the state’s handling of the harbor was “woeful and neglectful.”
The Department of Land and Natural Resources is waiting for Abercrombie to release about $650,000 for design and construction of some repairs, including parking lot paving, a spokeswoman said. DLNR already spent some money on the property improvements, she told West Hawaii Today in an email last week, including an eight-inch water line on the harbor’s north side which “should have resolved the low volume and pressure problems” there.
A message left for Abercrombie’s spokeswoman about when the rest of the money would be released was not returned Thursday or Friday.
Gaffney said the water line hasn’t “appreciably changed the problem.”
High usage on busy harbor days means low water pressure for some users. At other ends of the harbor, the pressure is so high any boater attempting to put a nozzle on a hose loses the hose, which is blown apart by the water pressure, Gaffney said.
Users have also been asking DLNR for years to replace other pipes, which are blocked by mineral deposits.
“Inevitably, this pipe fails on Saturday morning,” Gaffney said. “We’ve basically got water running all the time.”
The harbor has the highest water bill of any of the state’s small boat harbors, Gaffney said. Water system improvements could curb those costs, he added.
State officials also routinely note the harbor’s high electricity costs, related to the running of lights overnight, he said. Harbor users encouraged DLNR to install solar-powered lights to help cut those costs.
Division of Boating and Ocean Resources Administrator Ed Underwood said the department tried, twice, to solicit bids for a test solar lighting system.
“We just didn’t get any response,” he said, adding no companies provided any specific feedback on those bid requests to explain why they were not submitting bids.
A DLNR engineer contacted several solar companies, to see if there was interest, and the department has a third bid solicitation out right now, Underwood said.
A major issue raised repeatedly by boaters and recreational harbor users over the years has been the state of disrepair in bathrooms.
Gaffney said DLNR hasn’t done a good job of resolving the problems, particularly on the weekends, nor has the department kept up with emptying trash cans on the weekends.
Underwood bristled at mention of the restrooms and trash cans.
“They’re emptied every day and the bathrooms are cleaned every day,” Underwood said. “We’re working with UPW to get blessing to hire a janitorial service.”
DLNR cannot just hire an outside janitorial service because of the union contract, he added.
“People come in, steal all the paper products,” he added. “It’s unfortunate. It stays that way until we get back.”
Gaffney cut Abercrombie some slack for the delayed delivery on the promised changes.
“My impression is the governor means well with regards to Honokohau,” he said. “He’s got a lot on his plate.”