LIHU‘E — Wednesday, the state Senate’s Committee on Land and Water amended and removed Kekaha Beach Park specific portions of a bill that would require permits to drive on the beach.
Hawai‘i state law prohibits motorized vehicles on beaches, but Kaua‘i code allows users to transport people or supplies for picnicking, fishing, camping or swimming on the beach. County code specifies that driving back and forth or racing on a beach violates the code.
Senate Bill 178 calls for a Department of Land and Natural Resource-enforced two-year permit program to be piloted at Polihale State Park to allow driving on the beach.
Chair Sen. Lorraine R. Inouye recommended to pass the bill with recommendations, removing all references to Kekaha Beach Park, which belong to the county, not the state like Polihale does.
This removal is specific to the part of the bill that would create a separate program that would require DLNR to work with the county to determine the feasibility of establishing a similar pilot program for Kekaha Beach Park, which would be under the jurisdiction of the county.
County of Kaua‘i Managing Director Michael Dahilig, writing on behalf of the county in testimony last week, asked that this portion of the bill be removed.
“While we appreciate the Legislature’s efforts in thinking ‘outside of the box’ to generate revenue for the DLNR while regulating the transit of unauthorized vehicles on state lands, we believe this is a state matter and the DLNR is the appropriate managing agency,” Dahilig wrote. “We acknowledge enforcement and resource management have been challenging for the state.”
There was no discussion during the decision-making portion of the committee’s meeting, but Inouye’s recommendations passed unanimously. Sens. Bennette E. Mislucha and Kurt Fevella voted in favor, with reservations.
Enforcing beach driving has been a long-standing issue. Last summer, Polihale was shut down by the state for five months citing overuse, illegal activity and no way to enforce rules, including driving on the beach.
Board of Land and Natural Resources Chair Suzanne Case said the DLNR in testimony appreciated the intent of the bill, but DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement does not have the resources to enforce a no-driving moratorium or a permit system, as the bill would create.
The bill, which has companion legislation as House Bill 120 (which was referred to the House’s Water and Land Committee). If the bill is approved, the program would start in July and run through the end of June 2023.