Mahukona projects get support


North Kohala residents appeared to support a new boat ramp and breakwater at Mahukona Beach Park so long as current activities, like swimming and camping there, remain, according to the Hawaii County Department of Parks and Recreation.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, along with Hawaii County representatives, conducted an informational meeting Wednesday at the park to provide a general overview of the North Kohala Navigation Improvement Feasibility Study process, present project alternatives and receive comment from the users. The federal agency seeks to improve Mahukona to provide a protected and dependable harbor facility with the county as a nonfederal sponsor.

About 50 people attended the meeting, providing an array of comments that appeared centered around keeping the activities, like swimming and camping, already allowed there in place should the bay be improved to a small boat harbor, according to the county department.

Currently, the closest boat launch site for North Kohala is at Kawaihae — about 15 miles from Mahukona.

No decision has been made regarding the project, which the Army Corps of Engineers estimated would cost between $5 million and $7 million. The federal share of an individual small navigation project cannot exceed $7 million, or 90 percent, of the project’s cost.

To improve the Mahukona area, the corps is considering seven alternatives: no action, two on-shore configurations, three off-shore configurations and upgrading the boat hauling capability, or boat ramp, according to the county. A breakwater is part of the project to provide a protected harbor area where waves at the dock will not exceed 1 foot.

The corps would be responsible for creating an entrance channel, turning basin and a rubble-mound breakwater, according to the county. Cost-sharing would cover the boat ramp.

A boat ramp, which currently doesn’t exist at the facility, would allow for boats up to 25 feet to be launched, according to the county. Currently, Mahukona has an old winch capable of lifting boats up to 18 feet in length.

The project remains in its early phase with ample time remaining for public input. The county anticipates it will hold another public meeting to answer questions raised during Wednesday’s meeting, as well as take additional comment.

It would then enter an environmental review process, with more public participation.

A Feasibility Cost Sharing Agreement was made with the county Department of Parks and Recreation in September 2008. If the harbor is built, it will be owned and maintained in perpetuity by the local sponsor, which is Hawaii County. A review plan was completed and approved by the corps’ acting commander in December 2012. Mahukona was identified for the project because of federal interest.

The project is being conducted under the Continuing Authorities Program, Section 107 of the River and Harbor Act of 1960. It began in 2003 with a letter from Parks and Recreation, requesting assistance in an investigation of navigational improvements in North Kohala.