(BIVN) – A state bill to fund a feasibility and cost study relating to the construction of a new boat ramp and pier in Puna – after the 2018 eruption of Kīlauea buried the Pohoʻiki boat ramp in sand – is still alive.
Senate Bill 472 SD 2, introduced by Hawaiʻi Island state senators Russell Ruderman, Lorraine Inouye and Dru Kanuha, made it through committees with recommendations that the measure by passed. The bill now waits for a full senate vote on third reading.
Its an important measure for Puna, which lost its only boat ramp when Kīlauea Volcano erupted on the lower East Rift Zone. The ramp was not taken by lava, but rather buried in new black sand due the voluminous ocean entry at Kapoho and Ahalanui to the north.
“In the past, Pohoʻiki was the second largest income-producing boat ramp in the State,” testified Luana Jones, a Puna resident speaking on behalf of local fisherman, tour boats, and the community. “At present there is NO safe ocean access along the whole Puna coastline measuring over 60 miles! Puna Fishing boats, tour boats, and people need safe ocean access to resume their livelihood, to provide for our families and community, ocean recreation and contribute to commerce in Hawaii.”
“Is it feasible or impossible to dredge the zillions of cubic yards of sand to open up the existing ramp?” wrote Steve Hirakami in his testimony. “If not, then where on the coast would be a suitable place for a ramp? Kalapana has State highway access, potable water, electricity, and a community that could use the economic upstart a ramp could bring.”
“Prior to the extensive sand deposits laid down during the recent Kilauea eruption, the Pohoiki Boat Ramp played a critical public role in affording ocean access for commercial and recreational fishing and sightseeing boats,” wrote Mayor Harry Kim in support of the measure. “Today, access is completely blocked and the feasibility of dredging the sand to restore the boat ramp appears to be diminishing, as currents and waves are depositing an additional 10 yards of sand per week with projections that by the end of the year there may be no surf conditions at the site. Commercial fishers are now forced to utilize a boat ramp in Hilo, which is approximately 33 miles, and an hour-long drive, from Pohoiki, thus, increasing the time and cost for each trip and adding to the economic losses experienced. These hardworking residents are eager to have the State restore access to waters along the Puna district’s prolific and valued fishing grounds.”
“Please dredge Pohoiki for all of us surfers and fishermen,” wrote Jeff Hunt. “Make Pohoiki great again.”
While the Senate Bill is moving along, the companion House Bill has stalled.
HB 641 was never heard by committee. However, Rep. Joy San Buenaventura says that although the bill didn’t move, “it doesn’t mean that its dead. Its just going to be funded elsewhere.”
The Puna representative notes that the legislature funded a $250,000 dollar safe swim study for Pohoʻiki last year. “We had an additional $250,000 for boat ramp repair, which they haven’t spent yet,” Rep. San Buenaventura said during a recent community meeting held in Pāhoa.