Pohoiki improvements urged

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Two lawmakers want to increase safety at a popular Puna swimming spot and vet the feasibility of a harbor at Kapoho Bay.

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Two lawmakers want to increase safety at a popular Puna swimming spot and vet the feasibility of a harbor at Kapoho Bay.

State Sen. Russell Ruderman and state Rep. Joy San Buenaventura, both Democrats who represent Puna, say Pohoiki is a longtime, heavily used swimming area but becomes dangerous when swimmers and boat traffic mix.

Pohoiki contains the only boat ramp in Puna.

“On a hot sunny day, there will be 50 kids down there, all bouncing along in the water, and a boat comes along and the kids all swim out of the way,” Ruderman said Wednesday. “It’s an incredibly dangerous situation. There have been so many close calls, and it’s only a matter of time before someone gets hurt.”

The lawmakers are requesting $250,000 which would fund a feasibility study for a designated swimming area at Pohoiki.

The proposal is filed as two concurrent bills, Senate Bill 841 and House Bill 1200. HB 1200 is scheduled to be heard today by the House Committee on Water and Land.

Ruderman and San Buenaventura also are requesting $200,000 to fund a feasibility study for a harbor or port at Kapoho Bay.

Kapoho is a “naturally protected bay where it may be feasible to establish a harbor or port to accommodate vessels that transport cargo and passengers,” the bill reads.

Kapoho could theoretically serve Puna boat traffic, San Buenaventura said Wednesday, and a state presence at Kapoho would also increase ability to secure funding down the road for amenities such as restrooms.

However, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has submitted testimony opposing the idea. The Corps says a Kapoho Bay harbor already has been considered twice in recent decades and was deemed “not feasible … because of the bay’s natural features and the extensive dredging and infrastructure construction required for the harbor facility.”

Ruderman’s Kapoho proposal, filed as SB 842, has been deferred. San Buenaventura’s concurrent measure, filed as HB 1199, had no hearing scheduled as of Thursday.

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Ruderman said even if the Kapoho study isn’t funded, he hopes to see a designated Pohoiki swimming area created, which he believes could coexist with its current boat ramp.

Email Kirsten Johnson at kjohnson@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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