(BIVN) – On Wednesday, the Hawaiʻi County Council could decide to lend its support to the community seeking input into the location of a new boat ramp in Puna.
Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz has introduced Resolution 218-19, urging the Hawai‘i Department Of Land And Natural Resources Division Of Boating And Ocean Recreation to “consult and work with Puna lawai‘a, community members with familial and cultural ties to Puna, and the County of Hawai‘i on planning and construction of a boat ramp in Puna.”
Isaac Hale Beach Park was closed to the public in May 2018 when the eruption of Kīlauea Volcano on the lower East Rift Zone threatened to isolate Pohoʻiki on either side with lava flows. In July 2018, lava covered a portion of Pohoʻiki on the north side and filled in part of the bay, but ultimately spared the park. A new black sand beach now stretches across the shoreline and grows larger every day. The boat ramp was also spared, but the entrance was blocked by the deposited sand.
On June 10, the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources identified an alternative location for a boat ramp in Puna. It would be expensive to recover the boat ramp at Pohoʻiki, an engineering report found. Instead, Kaʻakepa – referred to as “Mālama Flats” by the DLNR – just south of McKenzie State Recreation Area, could be a reasonable alternative location.
On July 13, Puna families and fisherman filled the Sacred Hearts Church building in Pāhoa to speak in favor of reestablishing a boat ramp in the area of Pohoʻiki, and against any consideration of developing a new boat ramp at Kaʻakepa to the south.
Resolution 281-19 reads:
A RESOLUTION URGING THE HAWAI‘I DEPARTMENT OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES DIVISION OF BOATING AND OCEAN RECREATION TO CONSULT AND WORK WITH PUNA LAWAI‘A, COMMUNITY MEMBERS WITH FAMILIAL AND CULTURAL TIES TO PUNA, AND THE COUNTY OF HAWAI‘I ON PLANNING AND CONSTRUCTION OF A BOAT RAMP IN PUNA.
WHEREAS, the 2018 Kīlauea volcanic eruption rendered Pohoiki Boat Ramp, the only boat launching facility in the district of Puna, inaccessible and unusable; and
WHEREAS, Pohoiki Boat Ramp, which is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, is located at Pohoiki Bay adjacent to Isaac Kepo‘okalani Hale Beach Park, a public recreational asset owned and managed by the County of Hawai‘i; and
WHEREAS, prior to being buried in sand, Pohoiki Boat Ramp provided an ocean access point for Puna lawai‘a (fishermen/fisherwomen) to exercise gathering and subsistence rights, and was a source of livelihood, playing a significant role in food security and sustainability, and as a major economic driver for the local and state economy; and
WHEREAS, with Pohoiki Boat Ramp no longer accessible, the nearest launching facilityis the Wailoa Sampan Basin and Boat Harbor in Hilo, which results in Puna fishers incurring substantial additional costs to access their usual fishing grounds off Pohoiki Bay; and
WHEREAS, the Department of Land and Natural Resources engaged O‘ahu-based Sea Engineering, Inc. to determine the feasibility of restoring access to Pohoiki Boat Ramp, a potential relocation site, and cost estimates for both concepts; and
WHEREAS, Sea-Engineering made a one day visit to Pohoiki Bay and the proposed alternate ramp site, but neglected to engage those with knowledge of and familial and cultural ties to the area, those with experience gathering and fishing in Puna, or representatives at the County of Hawai`i, all stakeholders with unique and valuable perspectives as well as vested interests in the area; and
WHEREAS, the study proposed an alternative ramp site be developed at Ka‘akepa, a wahi pana (sacred and storied place) without considering the cultural and historical significance of the place, and incorrectly referring to this site as Mālama Flats; and
WHEREAS, in examining the feasibility and potential of boat ramp options, the estimated financial cost cannot and should not be the only driving factor in decision-making; the impact to community, culture, and environment should also be considered when evaluating possible concepts; and
WHEREAS, the process to restore safe, ocean access for Puna fishers must be accelerated, as it is of utmost importance and key to overall regional recovery; now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE COUNTY OF HAWAI‘I that the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation is strongly urged to consult and work with Puna lawai‘a, individuals with direct familial and cultural ties to Puna, and the County of Hawai‘i, which is coordinating disaster recovery efforts, on all aspects of planning and development of a boat ramp in Puna.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that DLNR-DOBOR should consider establishing a Puna Boat Ramp Working Group made up of State, County, lawai‘a, and community stakeholders to affirm partnerships, share information, discuss planning, process, permitting, funding, action steps, and timeline for creating ocean boater access for Puna lawai‘a.
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the County Clerk shall transmit a copy of this resolution to the Honorable David Ige, Governor, State of Hawai‘i; Suzanne Case, Chair, Department of Land and Natural Resources; Robert Masuda, First Deputy Director, Department of Land and Natural Resources; Members of the Board of Land and Natural Resources; Edward Underwood, Administrator, Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation; Stephen Schmelz, Hawai‘i District Manager, Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation; Reid Siarot, State Land Surveyor; Russell Ruderman, State Senator – District 2, Hawai‘i State Legislature; Joy San Buenaventura, State Representative – District 4, Hawai‘i State Legislature; Honorable Harry Kim, Mayor, County of Hawai‘i; Roxcie Waltjen, Director, Department of Parks and Recreation;Michael Yee, Director, Planning Department; Joseph Kamelamela, Corporation Counsel; Tina Neal, Scientist-in-Charge, U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory; Leila Kealoha, President, KAPONO; Michael Trask, President, Big Island Fishermen’s Association; Ku‘ulei Cooper, Trustee, Kealoha Estate; and Mililani Trask, Member, Na Koa Ikaika Ka Lāhui Hawai‘i