Kua Bay lifeguard measures moving

  • LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today Lifeguard Paul Tucker patrols the water on a rescue board at Hapuna Beach, one of four state parks throughout Hawaii that the state Department of Land and Natural Resources contracts with the county for ocean safety personnel.

KAILUA-KONA — Two bills seeking lifeguards for Kua Bay are moving in the state Legislature.

House Bill 558, co-introduced by Nicole Lowen, D-North Kona, and David Tarnas, D-South Kohala, along with legislators from other islands, passed its first committee hearing Wednesday.

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The House Committee on Water Land and Hawaiian Affairs voted 5-0, with two members excused, to pass the bill. It next needs to secure a hearing before the Committee on Labor and then the Committee on Finance.

The measure is a companion bill to Senate Bill 654, introduced by Sen. Lorraine Inouye, D-North Hawaii. SB 654 passed its first committee, the Senate Committee on Water and Land, on Feb. 1 and is awaiting a hearing before the Ways and Means committee.

SB 654 and HB 558 seek $400,000 to fund four full-time lifeguard positions at the beach and an additional $80,000 to fund a lifeguard tower, all-terrain vehicle, radios and rescue and protective equipment.

Another Senate measure, SB 875, co-introduced by Sens. Dru Kanuha, D-Kona, Ka‘u, and Stanley Chang, an Oahu Democrat, with Kai Kahele, D-Hilo, as a co-sponsor, seeks unspecified funding for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to cover salaries and benefits for an unspecified number of lifeguard positions at Kua Bay.

That bill is set to be heard Feb. 11 by a joint Senate Committee of Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs and Water and Land.

The state identified Kua Bay at Maniniowali as the next state park to receive lifeguards because “it has the most reported spinal cord injuries,” according to testimony submitted for SB 654 by DLNR Chairwoman Suzanne Case. The department supports the bill as long as it does not “replace or adversely impact” other priorities.

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To submit testimony on any of the bills, visit capitol.hawaii.gov.

Email Chelsea Jensen at cjensen@westhawaiitoday.com.

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