City Council to hear proposal that would crack down on 'floatilla' events

City Council to hear proposal that would crack down on 'floatilla' events

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - City officials plan to take up a resolution aimed at restricting ocean party events, like the popular Fourth of July "floatilla" off Waikiki.

Floatillas have grown bigger and more chaotic over the years, but this past Independence Day was said to be the biggest.

Officials estimate as many as 9,000 people gathered off-shore in Waikiki on inflatable devices, kayaks, paddleboards and boats. Hundreds of people had to be rescued from the water and 30 were treated for alcohol-related injuries -- 10 were so severe they needed to be hospitalized, and many of them were teens under the legal drinking age.

According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, it cost the city and state more than $12,000 to police the event. That covered the increase in man power, other resources and overtime.

It's a dangerous combination: partiers, many with only basic swimming skills, out in the open ocean drinking all day in the hot sun.

Yet despite the obvious risks, officials have struggled with how to crack down on floatilla events because it's not illegal for anyone 21 and up to drink in the water -- so long as they're not operating a motorized vessel.

One of the obstacles officials face is holding someone responsible for these type of events -- and that's because there typically isn't an organizer. Floatillas attract large crowds by worth of mouth and on social media.

Otherwise, officials say they'd be able to crack down on whoever is holding the state marine event permit for the event. These type of permits need to be submitted a month in advance with proof of insurance, and while they don't allow for exclusive use of an area, officials say they can help ensure that ocean activities are kept separate for safety reasons.

State records indicate a marine event permit has never been requested for floatilla, which is why officials need a new approach.

Tuesday morning, Honolulu City Council members will take up a measure designed to prevent alcohol use at these ocean gatherings.

The resolution is largely symbolic because the city does not have the power to restrict water use -- only the state Department of Land and Natural Resources can do that, which is why the measure simply urges the state land board to adopt similar rules like the ones in place at the Kaneohe sandbar.

Alcohol is off-limits at Ahu O Laka during certain three-day holiday weekends. The rule was created a few years ago after repeated problems with intoxicated individuals causing large fights.

DLNR officials say the limitations at Ahu O Laka are the result of a special case based on numerous incidents of out-of-control behavior at the sandbar during holidays, but that it would be difficult to impose such rules on broader, less confined open ocean areas like Waikiki.

Resolution 17-189  will be heard at 9 a.m. at Honolulu Hale.

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