Hilo breakwater study likely to be delayed

  • Mike Brestovansky/Tribune-Herald Construction of the breakwater began more than a century ago, and the structure may be partially to blame for poor water quality in Hilo Bay.

A study investigating the possible benefits of opening a gap in the Hilo Bay breakwater will likely not happen until at least October.

The $100,000 study, funded by the County of Hawaii, the state Department of Transportation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was approved by the Hawaii County Council in January and would seek to determine whether creating a hole through the century-old breakwater could improve the water quality in Hilo Bay.

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Previously, the study was expected to begin in the spring of 2020. However, Derek Chow, director of the state Department of Transportation’s Harbors Division, said it will most likely not happen until October at the earliest.

“I think the Corps of Engineers are waiting to use their fiscal year 2021 budget on this,” Chow said, noting that the 2021 fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

The Corps of Engineers has committed to contributing $50,000 to the project, with the remaining $50,000 split between the Department of Transportation and the county.

“Of course, all of us are going to be looking at our budgets now to see what gets cut,” Chow said, explaining that the massive economic fallout of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will have unknown ramifications on federal and municipal budgets alike.

“We’ll all have to see what our priorities will be,” he said.

However, Chow was optimistic that the study will survive the eventual budget cuts, saying that the financial commitment for all parties is small enough to be tolerable.

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“Unless we all have a bunch of $25,000 projects that we cut all at once, I don’t think this one is such a big deal,” Chow said.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com

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