Dredging begins at Wailoa Small Boat Harbor

Crews from American Marine work Tuesday dredging the Wailoa Small Boat Harbor in Hilo Bay. (Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald)

A $3.1 million dredging operation at the Wailoa Small Boat Harbor started Monday and is expected to be complete by the end of the year — if not sooner.

Depending on the location, sediment build-up and available funding, the DLNR Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation attempts to conduct dredging operations in state small boat harbors every five to eight years.


Dredging at Wailoa became a concern for Hawaii Island boaters after the Pohoiki Boat Ramp was surrounded by lava during the 2018 Kilauea eruption.

DOBOR, hearing community input, fast-tracked the contracting, permitting and design process for the Wailoa dredging, which could only begin once the Legislature appropriated funding and Gov. Josh Green released those funds.

”Only when the funds are released can we actually begin actions on a project. That includes design, permitting and environmental reviews.” DOBOR engineer Finn McCall said in a press release.

The process for Wailoa was about five months, compared to the nine months it normally takes.

So far this week, a shore-based excavator and front-end loader are moving dark brown soil from the harbor basin and spreading it along the shoreline, where ultimately it will be trucked away.

A barge carrying an excavator will move into the basin proper in the next few weeks, and while lengthy closures are not anticipated, McCall said he expects there will be periodic, short closures as the barge moves around.

“The frequency of dredging really depends on the amount of debris and sediment that flows into a harbor,” DOBOR administrator Meghan Statts said in the press release. “That material can block boats and create safety hazards.

“We’re excited this project is underway and ask for everyone’s continued patience as the work proceeds over the next few months.”

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