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Keauhou mooring, boat rule proposals head to Land Board

April 24, 2014 - 12:05am

The Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation is asking its governing body to weigh in on whether a plan to add boat moorings at Keauhou Bay triggers an environmental assessment.

The Board of Land and Natural Resources meets Friday in Honolulu, with the Keauhou Bay proposal as one of several items it will consider. A lawsuit, filed by the Keauhou Canoe Club, is pending on the proposal, with the first hearing scheduled for next month.

“One might think they are trying to slip it in there,” club President Bill Armer said Wednesday. “We’re very concerned about it.”

Armer said he plans to fly to Honolulu for the meeting to submit testimony and speak to the board members, if possible, about his club’s concerns about the proposal. In their lawsuit, filed in December, club officials said the bay isn’t big enough to support the additional moorings and the existing recreational uses. Installing those moorings, they argued, would effectively force the canoe club and its hundreds of members out of the bay.

DOBOR Administrator Ed Underwood said in his board submittal that he “disputes” those claims.

“The Keauhou Bay small boat harbor has been used for vessel mooring for decades,” Underwood wrote in the submittal. “The area where the 16 moorings are being installed is the same footprint as where the current moorings are located. The new mooring design will relocate the three vessels that are currently moored in the U.S. Coast Guard navigation channel and will ensure that all vessels have access to the bay, including the Keauhou Bay canoe club.”

Contacted Wednesday, Underwood said the department is still working with its attorney on the proposal and the lawsuit.

The board is also scheduled to consider proposed changes to boating rules. At a meeting earlier this month, West Hawaii boaters roundly panned the proposal, calling the rules convoluted and confusing. The rules included decreasing the number of commercial use permits at the various harbors, as well as limiting new permit applicants to two permits. Some existing companies have up to six such permits, and they will be allowed to keep them under a grandfather clause.

In West Hawaii, 35 permits would be allowed for Honokohau Harbor, 11 for Keauhou Bay, six for Kailua Pier, 10 for Kawaihae South, five for Kawaihae North and four for Puako. On the east side, Wailoa Small Boat Harbor would be limited to 10 and Poihiki to four.

Honokohau Harbor currently has about 50 ramp permits in place, officials said.