State, feds working together on Kikiaola

Responding to public concern over the ever-growing pile of sand blocking the access ramp to Kekaha’s Kikiaola Small Boat Harbor, representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a federal entity, and the state’s Department of Land and Resources’ Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation sat down this week in Honolulu to begin to figure out what should be done.

“DLNR is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to address the concerns raised by the community about the harbor dredging and safe passage of boaters using the facility,” DLNR spokeswoman Deborah Ward said in an e-mail.

State Rep. Roland Sagum, D-Kaua‘i, who was among those in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting at the Legislature, said Thursday that the parties agreed to revisit the engineering studies that led to the removal of a pair of spurs attached to the breakwater, a decision that boaters are blaming for the increased sand buildup.

“The Corps realizes that the public is concerned with the sand movement within Kikiaola Harbor during the construction of the breakwater and we regret the inconvenience to the boating public,” Joseph Bonfiglio, chief of public affairs for the Army Corps’ Honolulu Engineer District, said in an e-mail.

“We ask that the public please be patient while the Corps, the state and our construction contractor work together to complete all the harbor features which are designed to improve navigation safety, make boat access in and out of the harbor more efficient and help to prevent further shoreline erosion west of the harbor.”

The Army Corps further eased boater concerns by pledging to assist in obtaining legal clearance for the harbor users to remove the sand from the entrance ramp in advance of the Nov. 15 start of bottom-fishing season, longtime fisherman Greg Holzman said.

According to DLNR Land Board member Ron Agor, boaters were surprised and happy to learn of the impending clearance, which could come as soon as this week. When asked who would be footing the bill for any immediate sand removal, Agor said he had a suspicion the users would work together to handle the project themselves.

“As a DLNR board member, I don’t have any problems with that,” he said in a Friday phone interview. “In fact, if they do, I’ll jump in the water with them. … I think it’s good that they’re going to take their destiny into their own hands within the law.”

Looking beyond immediate mitigation, Sagum indicated the larger project would continue to move forward with engineers from both the state and federal entities working together to take another look at what factors led to the rapid increase in inner-harbor sand.

Agor said the Army Corps’ past models were all conducted under the assumption that the spurs would be removed, and expects the engineers will this week be conducting new studies to determine how replacing them would impact water and sand movement.

However, even if it is determined that the spurs should be replaced, Sagum said it is now too late for the current contractor to handle that task. Any further mitigation will likely require a new contract and further funding on top of the more than $20 million in state and federal funds that have already been pumped into the project.

The next step in the planning process will likely be a yet-to-be-scheduled public meeting with representatives of the Army Corps and DOBOR talking directly to the boaters, a conversation that Sagum believes is necessary.

“Everyone has their own jurisdiction and their own concerns, but I think the way the project is moving forward is pretty positive,” he said.

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