KAILUA-KONA — A bill that would bring lifeguards to Kua Bay remains alive in the state House after securing a key hearing before the Committee on Finance.
The hearing was set Tuesday for the 13-member House committee to take up the bill at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in Honolulu. There are two Big Island representatives on the committee, Nicole Lowen (D-North Kona) and Chris Todd (D-Hilo).
“I’m glad it’s still moving,” said Lowen, who noted that ultimately the decision, particularly for funding bills, will ride on later budget negotiations.
To cross over to the Senate, the bill must get a favorable recommendation from the finance committee and pass a third reading in the House by March 8.
House Bill 2044 seeks unspecified monies for fiscal year 2018-19 for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to hire four full-time lifeguards to watch over the bay within Kekaha Kai State Park.
It would also provide $80,000 in general funds that fiscal year for a lifeguard tower, radios, protective equipment and an all-terrain vehicle.
In testimony submitted for an earlier hearing, the department said staffing the four positions at Kua Bay would cost about $340,355 annually. It also needs more money to cover increases to its current contracts with the county to provide
Attempts to secure lifeguards at Kua Bay have been pursued a handful of times over the years. Last year, a similar House bill made it to the Senate, but stalled when it did not secure a necessary committee hearing. It was carried over to the 2018 state Legislature but has not moved thus far.
Meanwhile, a similar bill is seeking unspecified monies for the DLNR to position lifeguards at state and county parks throughout Hawaii. House Bill 2097, of which Lowen is also a co-introducer, still needs to secure a hearing before the finance committee to move forward.
Looking to the future, situations like we have at Kua Bay lacking lifeguards should never be a problem in the first place, said Lowen. It’s “irresponsible,” she said, to open access without considering public safety.
House Resolution No. 28 and House Concurrent Resolution No. 34 offered Tuesday seek to address that issue by urging the department to “assess potentially hazardous ocean conditions at beach parks and ensure that safety concerns are addressed prior to undertaking access improvements that will increase use.”