Kawaihae Harbor’s north end closed due to high surf damage

  • Kawaihae Harbor-North is closed indefinitely following damage caused by high surf that battered west-facing shores over the New Year’s holiday. All vessels that dock there have been moved to either Kawaihae Harbor-South or Honokohau Harbor in North Kona. Boaters are asked to use the recently completed boat launch ramp at the south harbor in the interim. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)
  • Waves continue to crash over and through the breakwater at Kawaihae Harbor-North on Friday. The north end of the harbor is closed indefinitely following damage caused by high surf that battered west-facing shores over the New Year’s holiday. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)
  • The wave action over the New Year's holiday damaged the Kawaihae Harbor-North entire loading dock and breached a large section of the breakwater. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)
  • The wave action over the New Year's holiday damaged the Kawaihae Harbor-North entire loading dock and breached a large section of the breakwater. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)
  • Waves continue to crash over and through the breakwater at Kawaihae Harbor-North on Friday. The north end of the harbor is closed indefinitely following damage caused by high surf that battered west-facing shores over the New Year’s holiday. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)
  • A small boat waits at Kawaihae Harbor-North on Friday. The north end of the harbor is closed indefinitely following damage caused by high surf that battered west-facing shores over the New Year’s holiday. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)

KAWAIHAE — Kawaihae Harbor-North is closed indefinitely following damage caused by high surf that battered west-facing shores over the New Year’s holiday.

The wave action damaged the small boat harbor’s entire loading dock and breached a large section of the breakwater, Department of Land Natural Resources spokesman Dan Dennison said Friday morning.

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“The jetty was severely damaged and the surf knocked down a section which is approximately 40 (feet) across,” Dennison said via email.

The dock has been deemed neither safe nor usable and will need to be replaced, he added.

“Engineers are determining the feasibility of putting in a new dock or if the jetty would need to be repaired first. A jetty repair will cost millions of dollars and a study and estimated cost for the jetty repairs are underway,” he said. “The facility will no longer be able to be used as a small boat harbor until it is repaired.”

All vessels that dock there have been moved to either Kawaihae Harbor-South or Honokohau Harbor in North Kona. Boaters are asked to use the recently completed boat launch ramp at the south harbor in the interim.

“Boaters can use that ramp immediately,” Dennison said.

Wave heights of 8 to 10 feet had been forecast by Honolulu-based National Weather Service forecasters through early Wednesday.

Rick Hodak said the waves were much higher than that and removed more rock from the already compromised breakwater and completely damaged the dock. Both had been partially damaged during prior bouts of high surf over the years, including winter 2015.

“They were more, about 12 to 15 feet,” he said of the high surf as he washed down his boat after hitting the water Friday morning.

Hodak who has been fishing four days a week for the past nine years out of Kawaihae Harbor-North continued to use the boat launch ramp Friday despite being told it was “condemned“ by a state worker.

“All these guys that are fishing are jumping of of here,” said Hodak, who was unaware of the opening of the Kawaihae Harbor-South to boaters until speaking with the newspaper.

A couple other boats utilized the intact boat ramp, but no other facilities at the north harbor.

Kawaihae Harbor-South and North are small boat harbors administered by the state DLNR, while the main Kawaihae Harbor is administered by the state Department of Transportation.

Kawaihae was a major port throughout the 1800s with sandalwood and cattle traversing its port. After the 1946 tsunami, in which the harbor experienced a 12-foot tsunami, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction of a main commercial harbor and breakwater to accommodate larger vessels. The harbor was completed in 1959 with the northern end becoming a small boat harbor.

Plans to construct a small boat harbor on the south end dates to the 1970s, with the state developing plans in the 1980s. Breakwaters for the harbor were completed in the late 1990s. A master plan for the small boat harbor dates to 2003.

Kawaihae Harbor-South’s first phase of construction was completed in 2014 and included an American Disabilities Act-approved 435-foot long floating dock, moorings and a comfort station. The cost was $4.7 million.

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The second phase of the project, bringing to the site water and a paved access road, was completed partially in 2016, with the remainder of the work completed late last year at a cost of over $1.5 million. The $2 million boat launch ramp, which is 45 feet wide with more than one lane, was recently completed and opened following the surf damage.

Asphalt pavement, for trailer and vehicle parking, is projected to be completed this year.

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