Lahaina harbor users call on authorities to work quickly to develop clean-up plan

They say they’re disappointed that work hasn’t begun yet.
Published: Sep. 7, 2023 at 1:24 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 7, 2023 at 1:54 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Before the Lahaina wildfire on Aug. 8, there were nearly 100 boats In Lahaina boat harbor. Today, just 15 are still floating in the harbor. Many others were destroyed.

Nearly a month after the flames ripped through the town, those who still have their boats and even those who lost vessels are calling on authorities to clarify what the clean-up process will look like.

They say they’re disappointed that work hasn’t begun yet.

“The first part included searching for bodies and doing recovery and stuff like that and now we’re coming into this phase of let’s get the harbor cleaned up,” said Keao Shaw, who owned Makai Adventures. “We’re hoping that’s going to happen as soon as possible.”

Shaw lost his boat business and home on Aug. 8.

He realizes the discussion of bringing back tourists to West Maui is a delicate one to have.

“I see both sides of the coin. I’m born and raised here four generations. I have two kids and I need to figure out a way to provide for them. I was always told, follow your heart and do what you want to do when you grow up. Do what you love when you grow up and I fell in love with boats,” added Shaw.

His plight, unfortunately, is all too common in West Maui.

“All the income and my future, gone. I lost three boats, three vehicles, six motorcycles, everything I had built up in 40 years out here,” said Dan Schaffer, owner of Kaanapali Ocean Adventures.

He wants a faster Coast Guard cleanup and a seat at the table when that process is done.

He also has goals he says should be relatively feasible to accomplish.

“We need the fuel dock opened up,” said Schaffer, who tells HNN without the Lahaina Fuel Dock, boats like his have to travel great lengths to fuel up.

“The fuel dock didn’t burn up. A couple of hoses burned up and the fuel dock is intact. Also, Malama wharf should be open today. I mean, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be. Nothing happened to the boat ramp. It’s in perfect shape. They’ve cleared the road,” added Schaffer.

Smaller operations like Peter Colombo’s Hawaii Ocean Rafting are pleading for the state’s boating authority to get creative. He also lost all his boats and his Lahaina home.

“With the options that we have, the biggest hurdle being just we’re not sure,” Colombo said.

“Even if I had a boat tomorrow where I could operate that boat out of because my permits are based out of Lahaina harbor and the harbor is not usable. So it doesn’t really give me a lot of options to even come up with a plan or begin to think about what we’re going to do.”

In an interview on Hawaii News Now Sunrise on Thursday, Coast Guard Capt. Asia Kirksey was pressed to provide a timeline for the cleanup process to be finished.

“It’s still very early in the response for us to be able to predict a timeline and I know that’s also frustrating. But what I can say is that with a response this complex, it’s it’s probably more frustrating for us to try to predict a timeline and to have that target move,” said Kirksey.

Harbor users like Dan Schaffer says that almost a month after the disaster, that answer isn’t enough.

“It seems like we don’t have a say in anything and we are hoping we will in the future,” said Schaffer.

Hawaii News Now reached out to the Department of Land and Natural Resources for comment. They declined our request for an interview.