(BIVN) – The Hawai‘i County Council, once again, is pushing for the state to hire lifeguards to patrol the popular Kua Bay at Kekaha Kai State Park in North Kona.
Resolution 663-18, which the council voted to approve on September 5, requests that the Hawai‘i State Association of Counties (HSAC) 2019 legislative package include a request to the State Legislature to appropriate funds in the amount of $401,696 for Fiscal Year 2018-2019 to employ four lifeguards and to purchase a lifeguard tower and rescue equipment for Kua Bay, with an additional appropriation of $325,696 for Fiscal Year 2019-2020 to continue the program.
Kua Bay is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Land and Natural Resources and currently does not provide lifeguard protection. According to the council resolution, “the Hawai‘i State Department of Health, Injury Prevention and Control Division and the Hawai‘i Fire Department, Ocean Safety Division, have reported that from 2008 through 2018, there have been more than three fatal drownings, three near drownings, 10 spinal cord injuries, as well as cardiac arrests, shark sightings, other serious and minor injuries, and numerous distressed swimmers at Kua Bay.”
The Hawai`i Fire Department estimates annual operational costs to employ four lifeguards at Kua Bay would total $321,696. That would cover salary and benefits of $80,424 per lifeguard, to staff a two person lifeguard tower, seven days per week, the council resolution says. Start-up costs for equipment would total $80,000. That would be $60,000 for a lifeguard tower, $8,000 for an all-terrain vehicle, $8,000 for radios, $3,000 for rescue equipment, and $1,000 for personal protective equipment.
The County Council has passed similar resolutions in the past but has been powerless to prevent related bills from dying at the legislature, year after year. This legislative session may be different however. Kona councilmember Dru Kanuha could be in a position to shepherd the bill through the state senate himself. Kanuha just won the Democratic primary race for the 3rd district senate seat vacated by Josh Green. If Kanuha is victorious in November against Libertarian candidate Michael Last, he will take his seat in the senate in time for the 2019 legislative session.