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State officials detail plans for new ferry pier at Lahaina Harbor

By Staff | Oct 27, 2016

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources proposes to build a new ferry pier 70 feet to the north of the existing public pier at the Lahaina Small Boat Harbor. It will be approximately 115 feet long and 20 feet wide, supported on piles.

LAHAINA – It’s been ten to 15 years (depending on who’s talking) since the initial Lahaina Small Boat Ferry Pier Improvements project was presented to West Siders.

Its design and usage have been modified over the years to meet federal, state and county regulatory changes and to address the multiple concerns voiced from the diverse quarters of our Lahaina community – Hawaiians, boaters and surfers and local residents, business persons and non-profits, to name a few.

And on Thursday (Oct. 20), state officials came to Lahaina to throw what might become their last pitch effort.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) proposes to build a new ferry pier approximately 70 feet to the north of the existing public pier at the Lahaina Small Boat Harbor. It will be approximately 115 feet long and 20 feet wide, supported on piles (see map on our website).

Five additional site improvements are included in the concept drawings: construction of a shade roof consisting of four open-sided, roofed structures, 14 feet high, connected by three open trellises on the ferry pier to shelter passengers during arrivals and departures; building of two sewage pump-out stations; addition of a concrete gangway measuring 16 feet by 70 feet to connect the existing pier with the new pier structure; replacement of the existing harbor administration office; and resurfacing of a portion of Wharf Street to facilitate safe passenger/pedestrian movement in and around the small boat harbor.

A team of governmental officials attended the meeting hosted by Na ‘Aikane O Maui held at their Cultural Center on Front Street. Eric Yuasa facilitated discussions.

“I am the Engineering Branch head for the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation. I have been the project engineer for DOBOR since the project was initiated in 2003,” he explained.

In an e-mail interview on Friday, Yuasa told the Lahaina News: “I believe that we have worked with all parties to come up with an acceptable plan that will alleviate congestion at the public loading dock while minimizing impacts to the environment, cultural and historic properties.”

“The Lahaina Small Boat Harbor is the busiest small boat harbor in the state,” Yuasa continued. “The existing loading dock contains the Harbor Master’s Office, a ferry kiosk, a fish hoist, three fuel dispensers, two vessel sewage pump-outs and docking facilities.

“It is used for loading and unloading passengers onto recreational and commercial vessels, including the interisland ferries, cruise ship tenders, tour/dive boats and chartered fishing boats. The existing loading dock is unable to efficiently and safely support the current level and anticipated future level of usage.

“The new ferry pier,” Yuasa added, “once completed will provide the ferry with preferential use of the pier and could be used by other vessels when it is not needed by the ferries, alleviating congestion at the existing loading dock.”

“This is not for the cruise ships; this is for our ferries and to allieviate an already congested situation in our harbor,” Yuasa stipulated.

It’s a neat package, but there have been challenges.

According to Yuasa, “The biggest challenge was working with NOAA-NMFS (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-National Marine Fisheries Service) to resolve their concerns on potential impacts to corals and endangered species.”

Yuasa informed stakeholders gathered at the center: “The pier that we chose was a pile-supported pier, so the wave energy would go through the pier. We are not dredging anything We’re not affecting the reef it will not impact the surf sites.”

There are no plans to move the surfer stairs.

Ke’eaumoku Kapu of Na ‘Aikane O Maui has been monitoring the progress of the project for the past ten years from a cultural and historic point of view.

“The plan kind of changed three times,” Kapu said. “This one has been drastically downsized from the original – from being a two-story building obstructing the whole view plane of this town and the historic district.”

“We don’t want to forget our character, our identity.”

As the Environmental Impact Statement process has been completed along with preliminary designs, the next step is the comprehensive and oft-lengthy permitting stage.

“We have contracted Mitsunaga and Associates (represented at the meeting by Chris Ball) first to prepare the concept drawings and EIS; and now to prepare the plans and specifications and permits,” Yuasa explained.

Ball described how permitting protocol could become complicated.

“It involves a number of different jurisdictions. We have federal agencies, state agencies and county agencies. We need to work really closely to have all the agencies review the plans in detail and essentially move the project into a construction phase,” he said.

This includes an Army Corps of Engineers Section 404 permit; state Department of Health Clean Water Branch Section 401 Water Quality Certification; Coastal Zone Management approval; Conservation District Use permit; county Historic District application; and shoreline setback variance.”

Funding is shared, with the feds paying 80 percent and the state contributing 20 percent.

“So far we have $9 million that has been committed from the Federal Transit Administration for this project. We are going to the legislature to ask for $5 million in state matching funds,” Yuasa advised.

“If all goes well,” the state DOBOR official advised, “and we can get the permits approved, the plan is to make the design in October 2017; and construction will begin in early 2018 and take approximately a year to complete, so completion is in early 2019.”

Tenth District State Rep. Angus McKelvey was present and assured attendees: “It’s pretty good that the money is not going anywhere. We’re moving forward.”

However, the lawmaker stipulated, “We cannot go another ten or 20 years – the funding will disappear; we don’t have Senator Danny (Inouye) anymore.

“We just have to work with the community to come up with a design everybody can agree to.”

“The permitting process,” McKelvey observed, “will include more hearings and outreaches.”

“The community will be informed,” he promised.