Clogged canal funds on way

The state is on the verge of releasing $1.1 million to clear sandbars at the Waikaea Canal mouth in Kapa‘a that have vexed boaters for more than a year.

The canal is a favorite launch point for scores of Kapa‘a boaters and fishermen, but because of the buildup of sand, they have had to wait until high tide to guide their boats through the canal mouth, said one Kapa‘a fishing enthusiast. She asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions. Boaters pay a fee for launching from a ramp there.

“People have had to wait and wait (for the repairs),” she said. “But why wait.”

In some cases, boaters have had to jump out of their boats upon entry into the canal and walk their craft over it.

During rough conditions, that maneuver could result in injuries and damage to boats, opening an avenue for lawsuits.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division and Boating Ocean Recreation, which manages small boat harbors, became aware of the problem before protests were recently lodged, DLNR spokeswoman Deborah Ward said Friday.

“Our boating division has sent the request (for the release of $1,144,492 ) to the governor’s office to award the contract to Hawaiian Dredging,” she said.

Hawaiian Dredging was the only company that submitted a bid — $1,144.492 — to do the work, Ward said.

“The request is being reviewed and the approval is pending,” she said. “Once we receive the governor’s approval, then we can enter into a contract with Hawaiian Dredging to proceed with the work.”

Contrary to what critics have said, “(DLNR is) acting, and is in the process of making this project happening,” Ward said.

In an e-mail, Kaua‘i resident Donna Chu said her husband and son recently wanted to start fishing and were surprised by the sandbar conditions.

She said she contacted Kaua‘i Sen. Gary Hooser, the Senate majority leader, and 14th District House Rep. Hermina Morita to rectify the problem. The legislators, or their representatives, told her state help is on the way.

In a letter to Hooser, Lingle said DLNR submitted a request for an allotment of funds in January but that the money has not been released yet, pending clarification of “funding issues,” which have to be resolved.

Lingle said in the letter the state Department of Budget and Finance is now processing the allotment request.

Ward said DLNR conducts regular maintenance of streams or canal mouths statewide, mostly on Kaua‘i, because the island has the largest number of streams.

However, 40 days of near-constant rain in March 2006 contributed to the piling up of sand at the mouth of the Waikaea Canal, she said.

Joe Borden, acting district manager for DLNR’s boating division office on Kaua‘i, said sand will pile up because the canal is man-made and is fed by irrigation ditch water mauka, or on the mountainside, of the canal.

“People should realize that this is not a natural river,” he said. “So there is no natural flushing of the sand (out to sea).”

Borden said the problem should be corrected soon. “We have been working to get this thing moving. So as soon as (Lingle) releases the money, we will be good to go.”


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