State looks for alternative boat ramp sites

  • U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY photo In this photo from Aug. 31, a sand bar, comprised of black sand and lava fragments carried by longshore currents from the lava delta, continues to block the boat ramp at Isaac Hale Beach Park.

The fate of the Pohoiki boat ramp is uncertain after the Kilauea volcano eruption in lower Puna.

A state damage assessment of the boat ramp confirmed the ramp was undamaged during the eruption, although lava reached the edge of neighboring Isaac Hale Beach Park.

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However, the ramp was enclosed from the sea by an estimated 14,000 cubic yards of freshly deposited black sand, rendering it unusable for the time being.

Reopening the boat ramp would require reopening Highway 137 to Isaac Hale — county officials said contractors will submit bids for that project this week — and also clearing the black sand beach from the area.

While DLNR engineer Finn McCall said in a statement that clearing the beach appears possible, the department also is surveying other sites for a new boat ramp should restoring Pohoiki be impossible.

Whether the DLNR reopens the Pohoiki ramp or builds a new one, the project will require local community support, various permits and substantial funding, the DLNR said.

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While many visitors have already hiked to Pohoiki to experience the new beach — which encircles a small lagoon at the ramp’s entrance — the DLNR warns the area can be dangerous.

“There is a powerful undertow at these beaches and a swimmer or boarder could easily be swept out to sea,” explained State Parks caretaker Kyle Takeya.