Lahaina harbor reopening timeline depends on funds

Christiane Keyhani, program coordinator of Hui O Ka Wai Ola, fills up the bucket to test water quality at the Mala Wharf on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Mengshin Lin)

State officials say that “until funding becomes available, there is no way to set a timeline for reopening (Lahaina Harbor).”

Lahaina Small Boat Harbor sustained $30 million worth of damage in the Aug. 8 Maui wildfire and its destruction continues to hit Maui’s activities and attractions market hard, leaving many commercial boating operations and about 1,000 industry workers in limbo.


Most commercial ocean tour companies and recreational boaters moored at Lahaina Harbor lost vessels in the fire, others temporarily lost usage as the state tries to figure out a way forward. Some have lost even more and are grappling with deaths of family and friends and burned homes. After the initial losses, the waiting is the hardest part.

Lahaina Harbor is in a holding pattern after sustaining damage to all facilities, including docks, moorings, harbor office and utilities. Officials from the state Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR) and the DLNR Communications Office told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in a March 27 email that “until funding becomes available, there is no way to set a timeline for reopening (Lahaina Harbor).”

That has left a lot of West Maui commercial boaters in limbo, and the boating operations and businesses that support them are struggling. DOBOR and DLNR officials said there were approximately 95 vessels, both recreational and commercial, in Lahaina Harbor prior to the fire, and approximately 48 recreational vessels and 28 commercial vessels were destroyed.

Heidi Speedie, operations manager of Kolea Charters, which operates Reefdancer, a semi-sub destroyed in Lahaina Harbor, said the West Maui commercial boating fleet had hoped to get back to business for the reopening of Maui tourism last October.

Speedie estimates that fewer than a third of destroyed commercial vessels from Lahaina Harbor have been able to restart. She said another 16 or so boats owned by West Maui commercial operators also burned outside of Lahaina Harbor, and it’s unclear how many have resumed operations.

“We are thinking it could be a few years before Lahaina Harbor reopens,” Speedie said. “The timeline is unclear.”

DOBOR and DLNR have held Zoom and in-person community meetings to address Lahaina Small Boat Harbor, which is still closed, and Mala Wharf, which reopened in mid-October last year. Officials said they expect to hold the next meeting to reveal further plans for the harbor and the wharf once funding becomes available.

The U.S. Coast Guard completed the salvage of all Lahaina Harbor vessels in December and the state has begun addressing its checklist to safely reopen Lahaina Harbor, which could require dredging.

Eventually, an access route through Lahaina also will be needed to allow people to get to the harbor. But it’s unclear when that will happen given that restrictions are still present even for residents.

DOBOR and DLNR Communications Office officials said all permits are in a holdover status until Lahaina Harbor is rebuilt.

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