Kikiaola gets $15 million

The federal government will spend $15 million to heighten boater safety at the Kikiaola Small Boat Harbor between Waimea and Kekaha.

The announcement was made by the office of Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawai‘i, Tuesday.

For 25 years, Westside Kaua‘i fishermen have complained about the persistent buildup of sand piles at the channel mouth and in the harbor channels — making the harbor dangerous to negotiate.

The danger in those situations will be lessened as the funds will facilitate needed improvements at the harbor. The improvements include dredging the harbor entrance and access channels and modifying the existing breakwaters to increase safe navigation, Inouye announced.

The harbor is used by recreational boaters and fishermen and a small number of commercial tour boats that ply the waters off the Napali Coast.

“This project, which was initiated more than 26 years ago, has continued to be a top priority for the people of Kaua‘i, and it, too, has been one of my key initiatives,” Inouye said in a news release. “I was pleased to learn today that the Army Corps of Engineers is committed to this initiative, and plans to begin finishing this project this year,” said the senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Joseph Bonfiglio, Army Corps spokesman in Honolulu, said he welcomed the good news. “This is a great example of partnership between the Corps, the state, local sponsors and the local community on Kaua‘i,” Bonfiglio said.

The state will contribute slightly more than $2.4 million for the work.

The Corps will monitor the work of the contractor, which will be selected through the bid process, and its compliance with the contract, he said. “We hope that we can award a contract this fiscal year,” Bonfiglio said.

Work had been delayed in recent years partly because the lowest bids came in higher than the money that was budgeted and because the Corps had reallocated funds to help the Gulf Coast recover after Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.

The proposed work also came up during a time not long ago when the idea of shuttling cruise ship passengers to the small harbor came up, partly because of concerns over the ability of Nawiliwili Harbor and Port Allen to receive increased numbers of cruise ships.

Although state officials and others studied the proposal for years, residents and fishermen spoke out against it, saying they would rather see the harbor reserved for use by longtime west Kaua‘i residents.

Others supported the project because they felt it would give west Kaua‘i an economic boost. The proposal, however, never got off the ground, apparently for lack of support.

The Senate Appropriations Committee in 2006 also approved $14.5 million for final improvements to the harbor.

Due to failure of the Republican-dominated Congress to pass the appropriation bill for energy and water development in fiscal year 2007, the “harbor project was thrown into limbo,” Inouye states.

A resolution passed earlier this year under the new Democratic leadership in Congress restored partial funding in areas the previous Republican leaders had failed to address, and it was up to government agencies — including the Army Corps — to determine how to spend the money, Inouye said.

“If necessary, I was prepared to seek funding for Kikiaola through the fiscal year 2008 appropriations process,” Inouye states. “But I am delighted that the Army Corps of Engineers’ commitment to Kikiaola Small Boat Harbor precludes me from doing so.”

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

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