Councilman seeks restrictions

LIHUE — A Kauai County Councilmember is asking the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to help preserve the character of Hanalei Bay by restricting large vessels from its waters.

“The statement that I’m hoping to make is that Hanalei is a recreational bay not a commercial bay,” Council Chair Jay Furfaro said by phone Monday.

Furfaro said he drafted the measure in response to recent visits to the North Shore bay by huge boats.

Resolution 2014-49, which Furfaro is scheduled to introduce during the council’s meeting today, does not mandate anything. Instead, it requests the DLNR “takes an active role in prohibiting vessels longer than (75) feet from entering the waters of Hanalei Bay, with the exception of federal, state or county agency operated vessel.”

It also asks the state to enforce two extended swimming zones, one 50-foot seaward at the end of Hanalei Pier for a distance of 300 feet on each side and the other extending 300 feet seaward of the low water mark between the extended boundary lines of Hanalei Beach Park, including the area around the beach pavilion. 

But is the request achievable?

“We would have to analyze whether the resolution impacts federal navigable waterways and use of those waters under the U.S. Commerce clause,” DLNR spokeswoman Deborah Ward wrote in an email on whether the state agency would consider enforcing such a rule.

Besides interfering with the recreational character of the bay, Furfaro said big boats present a significant health and safety threat for individuals swimming in the area.

Princeville resident Dylan Thomas is co-owner of a 55-foot sailboat named “Compadre,” which he anchored in Hanalei Bay this summer after sailing it from Fiji. While his boat would not be impacted, he said arguments about larger boats posing a health risk are invalid.

Unlike small boats, large vessels are required to have holding tanks and are typically equipped with the best sanitation systems, Thomas said. 

“If their argument is from an environmental impact perspective, I think they’re going to lose that battle,” he said. 

While he is not aware of anyone local with a boat larger than 75 feet, Thomas said he would be careful about restricting such vessels, which usually bring wealthy visitors who spend money in town. 

In August, a $300 million yacht owned by Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko anchored in Hanalei Bay. The 394-foot vessel, named “A” after its 42-year-old owner and his supermodel wife Aleksandra Nikolic, docked for only a couple of days.

Furfaro said the growing use of the bay by large vessels will “detract from the quiet recreational character of Hanalei Bay.” Others said, however, everyone should be able to use the bay equally.

Kauai resident Jim Saylor, who owns a 30-foot sailboat, said he is not in favor of government mandating who can come and go, and hasn’t heard of any problems involving large boat owners or operators.

Saylor called the 75-foot threshold arbitrary and said he does not have a problem with having the occasional large vessel anchored in Hanalei Bay. 

“If all summer long we had monster yachts clogging up the bay, then I could understand,” he said of the resolution.

Today’s Kauai County Council meeting begins at 8:30 a.m. in the Historic County Building. 

Chris D’Angelo, environment writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or cdangelo@thegardenisland.com.

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