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Project to dredge Lahaina Harbor channel slated to begin this week

By Staff | Apr 12, 2012

LAHAINA – A state project to maintenance dredge around Lahaina Harbor and remove a 50-foot section of the pier formerly used for the Carthaginian II is scheduled to begin this week.

Sen. Roz Baker, Rep. Angus McKelvey and Eric Yuasa, head of the Engineering Branch for the state Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, held a meeting at the Pioneer Inn Friday afternoon to explain plans for the $1.1 million project.

Yuasa explained that timing is a key factor – the dredging of 6,000 cubic yards of sand and silt must be done before summer swells make the work dangerous for contractor American Marine Corp. (AMC) and harbor users.

The dredging will make the shallow area outside the harbor entrance 12 to 13 feet deep at low tide. Due to the March 2011 Pacific tsunami and frequent south swells last summer, the harbor channel is now so shallow that deep draft sailboats can hit bottom or get stuck leaving the harbor at low tide.

AMC Project Manager Doug Frazier said the company will work with boaters during the dredging, expected to take 25-30 days if weather doesn’t impact the schedule.

Crews on the 82-foot by 26-foot barge will work from 5:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., transporting the dredged material four times a day to Mala Wharf.

During the job, workers will turn on VHF channel 68, the channel Lahaina Harbor boaters use, to monitor vessel traffic.

The dredged material will be dewatered and stockpiled on the northwest side of the wharf, with no impact to Mala Boat Ramp users, Frazier said.

If tests by the state Department of Health find that the dredged sand and silt aren’t contaminated, the material will be used for fill by the county and other users.

Yuasa explained that the Army Corps of Engineers’ permit for the maintenance dredging includes stringent steps to protect the environment.

The contractor must put silk curtains up to prevent material from spreading during dredging, monitor surrounding reefs, conduct water quality tests and stop if an endangered species enters the work area.

An element of the project that delayed its start for months is the removal of the Carthaginian II pier, because it involves removing coral growing on the walkway’s posts.

The state Department of Land & Natural Resources is conducting new tests with the coral, which divers began removing Friday.

Half is being taken to a state test site, and half will be taken to Maui Ocean Center, where the coral’s health will be evaluated at three, six, nine and 12 months.

Rep. McKelvey said the project could help coral repopulation efforts in the future.

Yuasa said keiki often jump off the old pier, creating an unsafe situation for boaters and the children. Posting signs, barricading the walkway and calling the police have not stopped children from playing on the pier, he added.

The pier is in the dredging area, so the state decided to address the safety issue, he commented.

Yuasa said Lahaina Harbor users will be impacted by the dredging work, as well as a project to replace the harbor’s outer marginal wharf in August. That walkway near the rock breakwall was badly damaged during the tsunami.

The outer wharf will be replaced in phases, impacting five to six slips at a time. Small boats can be pulled out and trailered, Yuasa said, while large commercial boats will have to moor offshore or in another slip at the harbor.

Yuasa said the state will work with Lahaina Yacht Club to provide additional moorings during the project.

Boaters at the meeting asked why harbor users weren’t consulted when the dredging project was planned. They said the inside area of the harbor needs to be dredged, and removing sand in front of Lahaina Public Library is unnecessary.

Some questioned if the state is dredging north of the harbor in anticipation of construction of an inter-island ferry pier in the area.

Yuasa said the projects are not related; the state is dredging around the harbor because sand migrates to the entrance and channel area.

U’ilani Kapu asked why Native Hawaiian groups were not consulted about the dredging and pier project. She said she’s really concerned about removing live coral.

A resident asked what will happen if the dredged material at Mala proves to be contaminated. Yuasa said tests were conducted at three sampling sites; naturally occurring arsenic “exceeding action levels” was found, but he believes the material will be cleared for unrestricted use.

Baker and McKelvey said additional meetings will be held to inform boaters about the upcoming harbor projects and discuss concerns.

The lawmakers emphasized that the harbor entrance must be dredged now. The U.S. Coast Guard could close the facility if it’s unsafe.