Improvements delayed at Westside’s Kikiaola Harbor

Improvements at Kikiaola Small Boat Harbor between Waimea and Kekaha — a longtime docking port for generations of West Kaua‘i fishermen — will be delayed until more federal and state funds can be secured, a state official announced yesterday.

Even the lowest bids on the contract to repair two breakwaters and dredge the harbor’s 4.5-acre interior came in way over budget, said Richard Rice, administrator for small harbors for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation.

Rice said that the low-bid norm of $18 million was about twice the amount budgeted for the work.

“We are going to look at options, but it looks like we are going back to Congress for extra funds,” he said. “We need a new grant.”

Government officials will probably ask Congress for more funds, although when those funds could be made available is not known, Rice said Tuesday during a break at the 45th Western States Boating Administrators Association Conference at the Courtyard by Marriott Kauai in East Kaua‘i.

The event started May 14 and ends May 17.

Rice’s counterparts from Western States, Guam and American Samoa shared information on ways to encourage safer boating by the public on rivers, lakes and the ocean.

The DLNR held a meeting last year over the proposed improvements at the West Kauai harbor and has tentatively scheduled another meeting at the Waimea High School cafeteria on May 24.

Rice said 80 percent of the project was to be federally funded and the remaining 20 percent would come from state sources.

He said Congress has not set aside more funds because federal funds were diverted for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects to help rebuild the Gulf Coast following the destruction by Hurricane Katrina.

To complete all the work planned, Rice said it will take more than the $9 million currently slotted for the Kaua‘i project.

“Kikiaola is unique because of the nature of the sand and the breakwater,” Rice said, indicating incremental funding will not be acceptable.

“You can’t do it piecemeal,” he said. “It would be inefficient. It just doesn’t work.”

Rice said the repeated force of wave action over the years has continually forced sand to seep past the breakwater and fill the interior of the harbor, limiting its use to small boat owners, primarily.

The proposed work is identified in a master plan developed for DLNR and has been in the talking stages for at least ten years, he said.

In years past, there has been talk of enlarging and improving the harbor to accommodate luxury passenger liners that would dock off the west coast of Kaua‘i.

Plans call for ship passengers to be shuttled to shore aboard small motorized boats. Proponents of the proposal said the spending by the visitors on one-day visits would give an economic boost to West Kaua‘i.

But some longtime West Kaua‘i fishermen voiced opposition, saying the facility has been used for recreational fishing for generations and should remain so.

Supporters of the proposal characterized the fishermen’s opposition as short-sighted.

Interest in the proposal by luxury liner owners waned, however, apparently because they are content using state facilities at Nawiliwili Harbor despite heavy traffic, Rice said.

The Nawiliwili facility also is used by container barges.

Officials from California, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming and Nevada, as well as Pacific islands under the jurisdiction of the United States, also discussed programs to encourage boating safety, Rice said.

“Ultimately our goal is to reduce boating accidents and fatalities,” said Kathy Poole, the program coordinator for the Recreation Boating Safety Program for the U.S. Coast Guard for western states and Pacific region. “We are trying to save lives, bottom line.”

“(It’s) a lot of networking,” Rice said of the conference. “A lot of finding out what California is doing, and finding out what Hawai‘i is doing.”

Some of the key issues discussed revolved around conflicts among users, budgets, boating programs and boating education and safety.

Rice’s counterparts are responsible for implementing government boating rules and laws for safe boating practices on rivers and lakes and ocean waters.

The division Rice heads manages 21 small boat harbors and 59 boat ramps statewide, and the Hanalei and the Wailua River on Kaua‘i. The Kaua‘i rivers are the only two navigable waterways in Hawai‘i, Rice said.

For 2007, Hawai‘i is projected to receive $1.1 million in federal funds for implementation of water safety programs statewide, and the state is projected to chip in another $4 million to trigger the release of the federal funds, Poole said.

The $1.1 million anticipated for Hawai‘i is up from $700,000 the DLNR received this year. Rice said better lobbying efforts by Poole and Coast Guard officials in Washington was partially responsible for the boost.

“You have to give her and the Coast Guard credit,” Rice said.

Like all states receiving similar federal funds, Hawai‘i’s funding is based on the state’s contribution and the number of boats that are registered, Poole said.

In Hawai‘i, 15,357 boats are registered with the government, Rice said.

Saturday marks the beginning of National Safe Boating Week.

• Lester Chang, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and lchang@kauaipubco.com.

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