Study to look at future of Pohoiki boat ramp

HILO — The future of the Pohoiki boat ramp could become more clear in the coming weeks.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources hired consultant Sea Engineering to determine the feasibility of restoring access to the ramp. A report is expected to be done by June 10.

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The ramp, the only one in Puna, is surrounded by a new black sand beach that formed from last year’s Kilauea eruption, making it unusable for fishermen.

Reopening it would require dredging at least some of the beach, a hurdle that state Sen. Russell Ruderman says is likely insurmountable.

During a community meeting last week in Pahoa, he said the boat ramp has been “deemed not repairable.”

Ruderman, D-Puna, Ka‘u, told the Tribune-Herald he got that information from DLNR.

“I made this comment, not off the cuff, but DLNR informed me that they’ve gotten to the point of getting results of that study, and they do not consider the Pohoiki boat ramp repairable,” he said. “That’s the comment from DLNR based on the consulting company they hired to look at it.”

For its part, DLNR isn’t commenting on potential outcomes, at least not publicly.

“These are all questions the study will answer,” Dan Dennison, DLNR senior communications manager, said in an email. “No conclusions have been made by (Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation) as the division has not received the engineering report. Any conclusions at this point would be highly speculative.”

The state Legislature approved $500,000 this session for planning and design for a new boat ramp.

While the report is not done yet, Dennison acknowledged Sea Engineering and DLNR has examined a potential new site in Kalapana.

Rep. Joy San Buenaventura said she has a similar “impression” as Ruderman on the issue, “but I’m not going to say with any certainty that a decision has been made.”

She is planning to hold a community meeting sometime in July so DLNR can address the public on the report’s findings.

San Buenaventura, D-Puna, said the boat ramp is important for the area’s economy.

“Obviously, we need it,” she said. “We need a place for fishermen who fish off of Puna, without adding significantly to their costs by having to dock out of Hilo. And it’s part of Puna recovery.

“It’s difficult to recover when you cannot even have a way to make a living.”

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Reporter John Burnett contributed to this report.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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