Shack stuck in Keehi Lagoon muck creates legal headache

Shack stuck in Keehi Lagoon muck creates legal headache

KEEHI LAGOON, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - All week long, canoe clubs from across the state have been teaming up with Honolulu Disposal, the city and state to clean up storm debris from Keehi Lagoon.

Thanks to their efforts, most of the trash and large debris swept into the lagoon during Tropical Storm Darby's heavy rains is now gone.

But there's still something in the water that no one's sure what to do with: A makeshift shelter that was once part of a floating homeless village near Nimitz Highway is grounded on Keehi Lagoon's shoreline.

For the better part of a week, volunteers have worked around the shack to clean up the coastline ahead of the Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association championship on August 6. All that time, two people were holed up in the shelter.

State Sen. Glenn Wakai, whose district includes the airport area, said it seems like there should be a simple fix to the problem.

"I think the greater good of the community is pull that thing out of here. Destroy it and get rid of it," he said. "But it's not as simple as that. The individuals who are living there have rights to their property even if it's not supposed to be there."

That means the shack stays -- at least for now.

On Wednesday, homeless outreach workers made contact with the couple, but they declined to move into a shelter.

Later, state Department of Land and Natural Resources workers posted a notice on the shack telling the couple they have to leave.

A friend of the couple tried to tow the structure back to the homeless camp but couldn't move it without damaging the frame.

Wakai says he wants the structure out of the water as soon as possible but is afraid to have anyone touch it. "The thing is so rickety that if we pull it on shore and it falls apart then, what, are we liable for putting it back together?" he said.

So the state is consulting with its lawyers on the issue to avoid getting sued.

"We have to figure out if we have to hold on to this structure for 90 days in case the two people want to reclaim it," Wakai said.

But race organizers are determined to have it out of the water -- and soon.

"We have a job to do over here," said Luana Froiseth, president of the Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association. "We have a state championship coming up next weekend. I guarantee you next week Saturday it won't be here."

A DLNR spokesperson said the agency is working on a solution to remove the structure. At this point there is no timeline on when that could happen.

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