ALIOMANU — Nobody yet knows for sure what’s been rolling around on the outer reef of Kauai’s east side Aliomanu beach.
Some think the metal and concrete object is part of boat, or part of a lid for an oil well. Some say it’s a buoy, and others take a more fantastical approach to the object that’s recently been pushed ashore.
“It’s definitely a UFO,” said surfer and Kapaa resident Bright Krinsky, who was out checking the waves on Tuesday and stopped to inspect the object. “Or, it’s part of an oil rig.”
The object’s mystery has garnered it’s nickname “UFO” or “unidentified floating object” over the past several months.
Area resident Skip Schaefer has been watching the object since May, checking on it during daily walks.
He reported the object on the outer reef to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources in mid-May.
“Initially, when it was on the outer reef, I thought maybe even the Coast Guard could come pick it up,” Schaefer said.
It’s DLNR that’s generally in charge of removing marine debris within the state, and different divisions within DLNR have responsibility depending on where it’s located. Special circumstances involving marine animal response can fall within different jurisdictions as well.
After making a few phone calls, Schaefer finally found the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation.
“They said they’d put bids out, and they did. Three weeks, no response,” Schaefer said. “But how do you know where to find them (requests for bids)? Hard to find, that’s why there wasn’t any response.”
As of Tuesday morning, DLNR has put requests for bids out again on the online Hawaii procurement system removal of the object under the solicitation title “Q20000220 Marine Debris Removal and Disposal.”
Removal of the marine debris has to, by law, be out on the state’s electronic procurement system.
Getting requests for proposals out on Kauai has been difficult for DOBOR as they haven’t had trained staff to put those requests online — they’ve been sending them to Oahu to be posted.
That’s changing, according to DLNR.
“DOBOR staff is finalizing training as we speak. The one person that was trained was out on leave and just returned,” said DLNR spokesman AJ McWhorter.
After DLNR put out initial bids and the state failed in procurement, August’s King Tides pushed the object closer to shore causing confusion about who’s responsible for removal of the heavy UFO, and a few more days of delay in starting procurement.
It’s sitting right in the surf, but below the high water mark. In general, anything located above the high-water mark is county jurisdiction, according to the county.
Even though the procurement process has started, it’s going to take at least a month to see any removal action on the beach because of the steps involved in processing the purchase order. Bids close on Aug. 14, though a bid could be approved before then.
After it’s approved, it takes about 30 days for the company to receive the go-ahead for removal.
“We understand people want these things removed quickly, but the state has to follow the legal procurement process and it does take some time,” said DLNR spokesman Dan Dennison.
Schaefer says now that the object is closer to shore, on the sand between two sets of rocky coasts, it’s going to be more difficult to get out.
He also says the community doesn’t necessarily need to wait for the state’s red tape on removing the UFO — they should do it themselves.
“One neighbor has already granted access to get down there,” he said. “I’m sure there are plenty of akamai guys out there to change this from mission impossible to mission possible.”
Meanwhile, the UFO is collecting sand and a few little creatures as it sits in the surf, and drawing attention from curious beachgoers.
“To me it looks like something from off a dock or fishing boat,” Schaefer said. “No inscription on it.”