Trio of bills introduced for lifeguards at Kua Bay

  • A boogie boarder tumbles in a wave at Manini‘owali, also known as Kua Bay on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • A visitor gets slammed by a wave at Manini‘owali, also known as Kua Bay on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • A boogie boarder catches a wave at Manini‘owali, also known as Kua Bay on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Boogie boarders catch a wave at Manini‘owali, also known as Kua Bay on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Boogie boarders catch a wave at Manini‘owali, also known as Kua Bay on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • A boogie boarder catches a wave at Manini‘owali, also known as Kua Bay on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • A boogie boarder catches a wave at Manini‘owali, also known as Kua Bay on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • A visitor gets slammed by a wave at Manini‘owali, also known as Kua Bay on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • A boogie boarder flips in a wave at Manini‘owali, also known as Kua Bay on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Manini‘owali, also known as Kua Bay is a popular beach for visitors and locals. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Stairs to the beach at Manini‘owali, also known as Kua Bay, are a recent improvement made by the state at the popular beach. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Visitors to Manini‘owali, also known as Kua Bay, play in the shorebreak on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — Big Island lawmakers have renewed their efforts to secure lifeguards for Kua Bay in North Kona.

Two bills have been introduced in the Senate and another bill in the House to fund lifeguards at the popular beach site. One of the Senate bills has begun to make traction.

ADVERTISING


On Friday, the Senate Committee on Water and Land took up Senate Bill 654, introduced by Sen. Lorraine Inouye (D-North Hawaii). Headed by Chairman Kai Kahele (D-Hilo), the committee voted 4-0 to pass the bill with an amended effective date. Vice chairman Gilbert Keith-Agaran was excused.

The bill next needs to secure a hearing before the Senate Committee on Ways and Means no later than Feb. 15 to remain alive.

Inouye’s bill seeks $400,000 to fund four full-time lifeguard positions at the beach and an additional $80,000 to fund a lifeguard tower, all-terrain vehicle, radios and rescue and protective equipment.

From 2013-16, emergency medical services responded to 28 calls from the Kua Bay area with 19 of those calls resulting in hospitalization for traumatic injury. Since 2013, three people have died at the beach, according to state Department of Health statistics.

The nearest rescue or medical assistance to Kua Bay, also known as Maniniowali, is 15-20 minutes away with the Makalei and Kailua fire stations being the closest to the site.

Gerald Kosaki, co-chairperson of the Drowning and Aquatics Injury Prevention Advisory Committee, board member of the Hawaiian Lifeguard Association and a retired Hawaii Fire Department battalion chief who oversaw Special Operations, under which Ocean Safety falls, fully supports the bill.

“I understand that there are many budgetary constraints moving forward, however, we cannot put a price on a life. In my previous position, I can recount too many times having to be the bearer of bad news to local families who visit our beautiful beaches or to visitors who come to experience paradise that ultimately ends in tragedy,” he said.

A companion bill, House Bill 558, was co-introduced by Nicole Lowen (D-North Kona) and David Tarnas (D-South Kohala), among other off-island legislators.

The second bill in the Senate, SB 875, co-introduced by Sens. Dru Kanuha (D-Kona, Ka‘u) and Stanley Chang (D-Oahu) with Kahele as a co-sponsor, seeks unspecified funding for the DLNR to cover salaries and benefits for an unspecified number of lifeguard positions at Kua Bay.

Both bills have been referred for committee hearings in their respective chamber. No hearings had been scheduled as of press time on Friday.

Curt Cottrell, administrator of the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of State Parks, said the division is in full support of legislation seeking an additional $400,000 to “cover what would be the fifth State Parks beach and second Hawaii Island staffed with water safety officers.”

The popular spot, which once required a lengthy hike in or a four-wheel-drive vehicle, became more accessible to the public after access to and amenities at the site were completed by developer W.B. Maniniowali LLC as a community benefit assessment in 2005. The state recently completed other improvements, including the addition of concrete stairs to the south end of the beach, showers and a picnic area.

In 2007, the site welcomed some 162,300 visitors annually. Numbers are still being updated.

Though Kua Bay is one of the “most beautiful” locations in the islands, its hidden hazards, such as a dangerous shorebreak, can prove deadly.

“It is now easily accessible, so for the sake of locals and visitors alike, a lifeguard at that location is definitely warranted and would be much appreciated,” Mayor Harry Kim wrote in testimony supporting SB 654.

To submit testimony, visit capitol.hawaii.gov and enter either of the three bill numbers in the bill status/measure status box. From there, select submit testimony.

An ongoing battle

Legislators have tried to secure lifeguards for the beach since 2013, to no avail. But, it did come close a few times, including in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

In 2015, a House bill crossed over to the Senate, passing its first of two hearings, but was not given time before the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, effectively killing the bill. In 2017, another House bill crossed over to the Senate, passed its first of two hearings and failed to be heard by the Committee on Ways and Means.

Last year, House Bill 2044 followed nearly the same path, crossing over to the Senate and passing its first hearing but was unable to get a hearing before the Committee on Ways and Means.

However, another bill that had lifeguard funding tacked on, House Bill 2097, was eventually signed into law as Act 181 by Gov. David Ige on July 10, 2018.

The measure, which deals mainly with lifeguard liability, includes appropriation of $500,000 from the Special Land and Development Fund and $1 million in general revenues for DLNR’s Division of State Parks to contract with the counties for lifeguard services at designated state beach parks.

DLNR Chairperson Suzanne Case had sought $2.9 million from the bill, making a plea to fund future salary increases and lifeguards for Kua Bay.

ADVERTISING


Cottrell said the $1.5 million in funding released by the governor was enough to cover the division’s current contracts with at Kee on Kauai, Keawaula on Oahu, Makena on Maui, and Hapuna on Hawaii Island.

The division, this session, is requesting another $1.5 million to cover salary costs that have been increasing due to collective bargaining and fringe benefit costs –“without a commensurate increase in DSP’s operating budget to offset the increase.”

  1. IRLOYAL February 4, 2019 1:46 am

    So the State has thrown $500,000 into the ocean to “Investigate the feasibility of space ports in Ocean View and Hilo” the last nine months, and a great majority of constituents DO NOT want this. However, since special interest (cronies) have padded the pockets of the legislature it keeps coming up.

    Fast Forward to the county government and they can’t decide on whether to spend $800,000 on public safety. This is insane.

    Yet we Hawaiians keep voting for the democrats to run this state. Time to get some good constitutional or libertarian type representatives who are fiscally responsible, who want to place people and Aina over padding their pockets or getting re-elected.


    1. Bob February 5, 2019 9:09 am

      Be careful what you wish for. We need jobs for the kids of the militants that don’t want new industry. You can’t eat culture. Status quo is fine if you don’t have kids to feed.


  2. metalman808 February 4, 2019 9:31 am

    The states ready to spend a million dollars on a study at the Pohoiki boat ramp. The people come second on this island. It’s like we will try swing some money up for some new ambulances. Studies for the buddies. Remember we the people are tax slaves for THEM.


  3. briala February 4, 2019 9:47 am

    Is there no one willing to life guard for less than $100,000 per year?


  4. Kaipo Wall February 4, 2019 10:40 am

    I used to walk into Kua , once before there was any Queen K and then in the years after but before there was a Kukio or 4 Seasons Hualalai . An easy walk north from Makalawaena , or down the old Hualalai Ranch road and then south . It was such a special place . I , or I and my lady friend , would be the only one(s) there . There was a small lava cave back of the beach , pure white sand floor , a wonderful place to spend the night . Nowadays , I will not even go down there . It’s a zoo . I prefer my memories .


    1. joedriver February 4, 2019 6:55 pm

      And bread used to cost 30 cents..


  5. KonaDude February 6, 2019 4:21 am

    Why can’t they charge a fee like Hapuna(.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email hawaiiwarriorworld@staradvertiser.com.