Controversy over Modernizing Maui's Harbor

Ku Park
Ku Park
Mike Formby
Mike Formby

KAHULUI (KHNL) -- A move to modernize Maui's harbor is creating a lot of waves with Valley Isle surfers. The Department of Transportation is supporting two bills in the Legislature that would create major changes at the port.

Harbor users say many of Hawaii's piers, including one on Maui, are too crowded.

"We feel we're at capacity, and in places like Kahului we're overcapacity," said Ku Park of Horizon Lines shipping company.

The Department of Transportation's Harbors Division is working with the Hawai'i Harbors User Group, to develop a comprehensive and system-wide harbor modernization plan.

The Department of Transportation is asking the Legislature for $345.1 million to improve Maui's harbor.

"Maui is at capacity," said Harbors Deputy Director Mike Formby. "Maui has but one commercial harbor, and that harbor has three piers. So they're out of land. That's why they're top on our list of prioritization."

Surfers and paddlers who use the harbor are upset.

"There are current recreational users in the harbor," said Formby.  "They surf in the harbor, they paddle in the harbor. The surfers are concerned the breakwaters are going to eliminate their surfing spots. The paddlers are afraid the dredging is going to affect their canoe course. They're valid concerns but everyone has to realize it's a commercial harbor. You have to weigh commercial against recreational interests."

Park agreed.

"If we don't do it the cost will be even greater," he said.  "We'll have delayed ships, multiple handling of cargo on the pier because they have to stack things higher so it'll take longer to get them."

On Friday, the House Finance committee just passed out the House version, so there are still two bills moving on both sides. They will go to full House and Senate body votes before cross over.  Both bills ask for a total of $842 million to fix harbors across the state.

The anticipated cost of projects included in the Harbors Modernization Plan is as follows:

Maui: Kahului Harbor - $345.1 million

O'ahu: Honolulu Harbor - $257.3 million

Kalaeloa Harbor - $57.9 million

Hilo Harbor - $61.4 million

Kawaihae Harbor - $87.8 million

Kaua'i: Nawiliwili Harbor - $10.3 million§ Kalaeloa Harbor - $57.9 million

Hawai'i: Hilo Harbor - $61.4 million

Kawaihae Harbor - $87.8 million

Kaua'i: Nawiliwili Harbor - $10.3 million