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Mahukona winch still out of operation after high surf

January 29, 2014 - 9:13pm

The winch for lifting boats at Mahukona in North Kohala has been out-of-service since being damaged by high surf in December, forcing some boaters to find alternate locations from which to launch their vessels.

The Hawaii County Department of Parks and Recreation confirmed Wednesday that the winch, capable of lifting boats up to 18 feet in length, was damaged enough in warning-level surf that hit the island’s west- and north-facing shores in late December to render it inoperable. The winch sustained a bent iron support and may have incurred further damage to include the winch’s connection to the pier, a department spokesman said.

Some boats, such as kayaks and small fishing vessels, can still be launched from the Mahukona facility, he said. Other boaters must travel 15 miles to the next nearest launch facility located at Kawaihae.

The department spokesman said the county is actively working with a local fishing association, for which he said he was unable to get the official name, to assess the extent of damage and potential repairs. He said the department partners with the association to assist with maintenance at Mahukona. Previously, he said, the county has provided material and equipment while association members contributed labor for maintenance projects at the park.

A date on when the winch might be operable was unavailable Wednesday.

Hawaii County Department of Parks and Recreation Director Clayton Honma did not respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers North Kohala Navigation Improvement Feasibility Study remains ongoing, the spokesman said.

The federal agency, which entered into a Feasibility Cost Sharing Agreement with the county in 2008, is looking to improve Mahukona to provide a protected and dependable harbor facility with the county as a nonfederal sponsor. A boat ramp, which would allow boats up to 25 feet in length to launch at Mahukona, is among the proposed improvements.

Attempts to reach the study’s project manager Debbie Solis with the Army Corps of Engineers for an update were unsuccessful. An additional request to the public information office for information was also not responded to as of press time Wednesday.

Mahukona, which comprises a camping and pavilion area, as well as the pier and boat launch area, is among 200 facilities that fall under the auspices of the county Department of Parks and Recreation’s Maintenance Division. Both sides of the park currently are open despite the inoperable winch, the spokesman said.

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