HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Board of Land and Natural Resources approved a motion Friday that officially bans alcohol at the Kaneohe Bay sandbar, also known as Ahu o Laka.
The ban only applies to certain three-day holiday weekends including Memorial day, Labor day and when Independence day falls on a weekend.
The state says the ban makes the area more friendly to the general public.
The original ban was put into place under an emergency 120-day rule last year after holiday gatherings at the sand bar got out of hand, with one alcohol-fueled altercation on Memorial Day 2011 leading to a fight, in which 26-year-old Maka Torres died.
Some boaters who testified before the board felt the rule allowed Department of Land and Natural Resources enforcement officers to board and search their vessels for alcohol instead of cracking down on disorderly and drunken behavior.
"Not one was cited for acting unruly, vulgar or being on drugs," charter boat captain Rick White told the board. "They were all basically cited for possession of alcohol, and some of them didn't even know that they had alcohol on their boat."
"I think right now the perception is they're going to come in and they're going to just board everybody, they're going to search everybody," said board member Jerry Edlao, drawing murmurs from the audience. "I don't think that's the intent here, at least in my mind."
DLNR chairman William Aila said there's a rule that already says that officers must have probable cause to search a vessel. And that rule will be followed.
"If an officer sees somebody with what appears to be alcohol, that's a probable cause to verify whether there is alcohol aboard," Aila said.
The state also approved a motion that requires all recreational boaters to take a safety course in order to run power-driven vessels in state waters.
The DLNR said the rule was needed because Hawaiian waters are becoming more crowded. It also said the state has spent $860,000 in the last ten years to remove boats that ran aground or sank in state waters.
"The people who are more likely to be the perpetrators are the younger groups of individuals, who I could probably guarantee you are not boating safety certified," Heather Lammers said to the board. She was against the language of the alcohol ban at the sand bar, but was in favor of the safety courses.
"We've had an increasing number of boating fatalities as well as boating accidents, and the idea is with education, we can reduce accidents and fatalities," said Aila.
Aila also said the board is still considering action against other ocean events that involve alcohol, such as the 4th of July "Flotilla" off Waikiki, because of safety concerns.
The two new rules still require approval from the governor. The alcohol ban will take effect ten days after his signature, while the safety course requirement will take effect two years after approval.