The public will lose access to a well used and well loved beach inside the Kawaihae Harbor known locally as the Coral Flat or LSD (mentioned in my earlier post Kawaihae will lose its Beach Again). You can see in the first image above that the beach will be replaced by Pier 3. There is no current plan for its replacement.
This idea or concept of a replacement beach has been in the works for years after I first heard about the oncoming changes. It is to suggest that there are real possibilities. A new beach can be formed by dredging a channel to connect the harbor to Pelekane Bay, thus restoring the old shoreline that was buried under the coral flats of the harbor– simply to uncover part of the past. I hope it will solve a host of problems and create new opportunities as outlined:
- Public Ocean access
- Restore part of Kawaihae shoreline prior to the harbor
- Enhance the cultural significance of Pu`ukohola Heiau and Pelekane Bay
- Improve water clarity and quality of Pelekane Bay
- Improve Harbor security
Public Ocean Access
Locals prefer the Coral Flat inside the harbor for many reasons, but the main one is probably their ability to drive up and pitch a tent with friends and family. Public beaches such as Spencer and Hapuna are already crowded with tourists. Mauka Kea Beach and Maumae Beach are either private or semi private. The new Kawaihae replacement beach will be almost as long as Hapuna beach and longer than the one we are about to lose.
Restore part of Kawaihae shoreline prior to the harbor
Tracing the original pre-harbor shoreline for this project opens my eyes to more opportunities for ocean access for public recreation. The Kawaihae Canoe Club or other canoe club could relocate to a new home like the canoe clubs on the beach of Hilo Bay. Makali’i Voyaging Ohana could have a permanent home and beach access to the ocean. The new Kawaihae beach will become a county park or perhaps be part of the National Historic Site. It will follow examples of how beach parks are maintained and used throughout the island like on Hilo side.
Enhance the cultural significance of Pu`ukohola Heiau and Pelekane Bay
Pu`ukohola Heiau is a National Historic Site, its cultural significance is diminished by the construction of the harbor and the artificial peninsula. The harbor complex was built up tight to the NHS as though intended to engulf the entire site, but it stopped only as an afterthought given to that significant place . The water of Pelekane Bay and Spencer Beach are often muddy or murky—hardly a place fit for King Kamehakameha to have lived.
When Hawaiian kapunas commented in planning meetings for the Hawaii Island Commercial Harbors 2035 Master Plan , they wanted a circulation channel to help with the water quality . An evaluation study was done, but the results are not favorable due to narrow test data. In my opinion the report was prepared with the intent to dissuade the public. The sediment problem became much worse after the harbor was built. Not letting the ocean assist to disperse the runoffs naturally as it has done for millions of years is a terrible idea. Engineers are problem solvers. If the priority changed from improving water quality with a small circulation channel to a public beach with a larger channel designed to keep the water flowing, then they will come up with solutions.
Improve water clarity and quality of Pelekane Bay
Creating a new beach by restoring the original shoreline is a win-win for the community. Once the idea takes hold and gain public supports to make it a reality, the waterway will have to be created also. Hawaiian kapunas would want to see their dream of improving access to the ocean and water quality is realized. The new waterway connecting to the harbor will allow a greater volume of water to move through; and though the water may never return its former days without the harbor, it is a worthwhile endeavor to try to solve many problems at once. NOAA invested and funded nonprofits like Kohala Watershed Partnership in their efforts to stem erosion along the streams on the Kohala mountain to lessen sediment runoffs, but the problem still occurs at heavy rainfall. Pelekane Bay is filling up so much with years of sediment run-offs, it is quickly becoming a beach (read more)
Relocation area for coral
The construction of Pier 3 will occur directly over rich, diverse and live coral reef that has regrown and repopulated through the past sixty years after the harbor was dredged. Department of Transportation prepared a environmental impact study that clearly states “Final Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact improvements to Kawaihae Harbor”. Apparently, DOT did not look under the water in preparation of their assessment. I believe DOT ‘s jurisdiction stops at the water’s edge where DLNR presides. The construction will impact the coral reef severely. Coral colonies at that location will have to be moved to a new location prior to dredging and construction.
Improve Harbor security
After the waterway or channel is dredged and a new beach is recreated on the old shoreline, the man made peninsula will become an island. The harbor will have less vehicular access and better control points of entry. A bridge will allow the public to access Kawaihae South Boat Harbor, Pua Ka Ilima O Kawaihae Cultural Surf Park, and commercial traffic to access the rest of the harbor expansion.
Readily available material for construction
The land belongs to DLNR and National Park Service,so it is not private. All the material to construct a beach is readily available. The waterway will have to be excavated or dredged to its former depth or deeper, the extracted material can also be stored or reused elsewhere for the harbor expansion.
Why the Kawaihae replacement beach is a good solution
When I started this project, I thought the idea for a circulation channel to help clear Pelekane Bay made perfect sense. Now with the need for a replacement beach for recreation and ocean access is apparent, the solution for the combination of both needs is good and practical. There will be opportunities for the public and local community uses when the new beach area becomes available. Currently, the land sits idle and is wooded with impenetrable Keawe, where access is only possible through gravel and dirt trails. Kawaihae South Small Boat Harbor was recently improved with a new dock and facilities costing the taxpayers $10 million to the benefit of about twenty boat owners ($500,000 per boat), yet there is still no public access through a locked gate and restrooms ( read more). The construction of a new boat ramp as part of the improvement package is about to start. Certainly, funding can be raised to create a replacement beach that will benefit the greater public.
Without a plan for a replacement recreational beach, the closing of the Coral Flat will force many locals to compete for spaces with tourists on other beaches nearby. There will be many very unhappy people who would feel they had no voice in the decision to take away their beach. The locals do not ask much for their enjoyment on the beach as one can see when visiting the Coral Flat on a busy day. Hundreds of cars lined the shore three or four rows deep. People want a place to pull up and spread out. A few restrooms and running water to shower are all they need. I have contacted Representative David Tarnas and asked him to provide leadership in this important issue. He expressed interest and is willing to learn more from the other stake holders of Kawaihae Harbor plans, if any, for a replacement.
During the process of making composites by assembling old maps and new aerial photos of the area, I saw the restoration the old coast line with a new beach is a good common sense solution that resolves many issues dear to Hawaii: restoration of cultural significant places, improvement of water quality, protection of the coral reef, and most of all, ocean access. This effort to highlight what we are about to lose and coming up with a solution is to help people understand the issue. If more people and governmental agencies could see the same possibilities presented, then hopefully Kawaihae will end up with its new favorite public beach.
How can you help?
You can help by starting conversations with friends and family about losing the well loved Coral Flat/ LSD beach, and asked your elected officials what are taxpayers getting in exchange for giving up more of your public ocean access? Ask them to provide funding and other resources to start planning and construct a replacement beach.
If this is also important to you, please contact Honorable David Tarnas and ask him about plans for a replacement beach at Kawaihae.
House District 7
Hawaii State Capitol