Kawaihae Will Lose Its Beach Again

Kawaihae Reef before harbor
Kawaihae Reef before harbor

History is about to repeat itself when the State of Hawaii Department of Transportation Harbors Division implement its 2035 Commercial Harbor Master Plan for Kawaihae Harbor in the near future.

Kawaihae had a mile long beach that stretched from the north small boat harbor all the way to the Heiau of  Pu`ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site, prior to dredging the reef and construction of the Kawaihae Harbor. The decisions that lead up to the destruction of the largest reef of the island to build a peninsula from coral remains and a harbor in the windiest part of the area would rest on local business interests and the expertise of the Army Corps of Engineers, at the expenses of local families who had to relocate (some stayed while others’ properties were condemned, so they were forced to relocated elsewhere) and of course the coral reef.

A project such as this today would be absolutely impossible. We are now thankful for environment impacts studies, regulations and education about the critical roles the ocean and corals contribute to our well being.

The Harbor was constructed from 1957 to 1959 and the town of Kawaihae lost its beach and easy ocean access, but gained an industrial zone on a man made peninsula. Fortunately, over the years the relationships of the entities: DOT, DLNR, US Military, Young Brothers, commercial boat touring companies and lastly the public that shared the usage of the Harbor work well. Every one had access in one form or another. The area that is left open and unplanned is often referred to as the Coral Flat or LSD, landing ship dock.

kawaihae coral flat
kawaihae coral flat or LSD

The public used this as their easily access beach, where families can drive up and pitch a day tent. The water is clean and protected so children and play along the sand. This one thousand feet long man made beach is the last place on the island to be accessed this way. All the other beaches on this side of the islands though are accessible to all, are made more difficult through public or private ownership: residences, resorts, state beach parks.

Labor Day at Coral Flat/LSD
Beach at Coral Flat/LSD

This beach where many locals grew up playing on the sand and water with their families, uncles and aunties, cousins and friends. This beach where some of the best shells can be found. This beach where one can have it all to oneself during certain times. This beach will be lost. Gone.

In its place , a new Pier 3 according to the Master Plan.

concept MP 2035 Kawaihae Harbor
Concept MP 2035 Kawaihae Harbor
Pier 3 to replace beach
Pier 3 to replace  Coral Flat beach

If this is a hard concept to believe and to accept, here is a before and after comparison:

It is easy to imagine what the beach looks like with a new Pier 3, one only has to look back at the existing Pier 1 and container yard across the water.

Reading briefly through the Master Plan, I found no mention of a replacement beach once this little beach is being planned out.

Compatibility with Recreational Uses

Kawaihae Small Boat Harbor (South) is located in the southwest corner of the Coral Flats.  Dedicated access to this facility has to be provided to recreational users that are outside of the maritime security area. The challenge is to identify a separate roadway alignment that will provide dedicated access for recreational users.

According to the plan, recreational users will be allowed to access the Kawaihae South Small Boat Harbor and Pelekane Bay. This plan looks good from a Google Map or aerial point of view: we see proximity to the water, but once on the ground, we find there is no easy access  for the locals to wade into the water. Pelekane Bay is polluted with mud from runoffs, the water is dark brown and is infested with reef sharks. It is also becoming more more and more shallow. Last checked, a person can walk in knee high water to the mouth of the Bay from shore.  In a very short time, within years, Pelekane Bay will become a muddy beach.  At best, non boating recreational users will have use of the new boat ramp to be installed in the next phase of the South Small Boat Harbor, to access the ocean in the harbor.

The taxpayers are paying for another set of ventures that will eventually remove them from the decision making process.

I have a nagging feeling that though some of the public are aware of the changes known as harbor improvements, but they are not aware that they are about to lose another fundamental thing that Hawaiians and all who live here are entitled to: easy access to the ocean.

Update 6.4.19: Thank you for reading about this important issue. I have contacted David Tarnas Representative for District 7, and he is interested. I urge those who are interested in this issue and want to do something about it to please contact him.

Lorraine R. Inouye

Senate District 4
Hawaii State Capitol
Room 210
phone: 808-586-7335
fax: 808-586-7339

David A Tarnas

House District 7
Hawaii State Capitol
415 South Beretania St.
Honolulu, HI 96813
Room 328
phone: 808-586-8510
fax: 808-586-8514

Some Contact Information:

Directory of the Harbors Division


Hale Awa Ku Moku Building
79 South Nimitz Highway
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813-4898

Hawaii District Commercial Harbors

Port of Hilo
80 Kuhio Street
Hilo, Hawaii  96720
Phone (808) 933-8850/933-8853/933-8854
Hawaii District Manager – Jeff D. Hood (808) 933-8850
Business Services Supervisor – Ana Marie Aiu (808) 933-8850

Kawaihae Harbor
P.O. Box 44904
Kawaihae, Hawaii  96743
Marine Cargo Specialist – Debra L. Kuntz (808) 882-6213
Fax (808) 882-6212

10 thoughts on “Kawaihae Will Lose Its Beach Again

  1. Adrianne Reply

    What else are they going to take away from the kawahie family’s that spend their life at this place? This is so sad how people can think about money projects and not about the livelihood of the people. People work hard but make the time to spend family time at the one beach that they grown-up and now share with their kid’s and grandchildren and now to take it away for money projects is very sad.

  2. Jedediah Kay Reply

    Please, for the love of all that is holy, STOP. We don’t need another Oahu. Leave Hawai’i Island Country. Let people access the beach, fish, swim, and continue ohana traditions. Once the natural resources of this aina are gone, they are gone. Wake up!!

  3. Lea Francisco Reply

    Thank you for the information as I will now use it to visualize that this will NOT HAPPEN AND THAT IT CAN AND WILL BE STOPPED. The article written is suggesting where we are already losing a beach which is a plan but has not actually occured, it creates hostile and negative energy. It is possible to prevent this from actually happening. Our Island and coastlines will be preserved, and there are many ways this will be prevented. Your information provided will be very useful in its protecting process.

  4. runninbear Reply

    our isle is on an on going growth its made with tubes caves life grows made kind lives on it will and may happen the needs too lives right now we the people the government at we stand gives all good things that become end end no were too stand..life is growth were do life starts from our sea we are the needs to live.why our sand our need grows in god we trust living together has grow and its we people persons life is were we live.There an say sun of a beach and mother nature has an an place too spend an weekend.not riding an office chair or an bed give the wealth the the need place give an hand to our mothe nature and control your growth one day there wkill be no were too stand .

  5. Rudy Kok Reply

    Why do we need more dock space in Kawaihae? The log ships don’t come any more and there’s enough room for the container and fuel barges that go in there. Also, the location of proposed pier 3 is exposed to the northwest swell and would be unusable many days in the winter.

    1. onei Reply

      Excellent questions Rudy. I do not have any of those answers. I opine that more containers and stuff do not lower the cost of goods nor does it lowers the cost of fuel. We will still pay more for things shipped here. Those cost are not going down if fuel price are rising. More things for landfills and or will end up in the ocean. Better for all of us if we are more self sufficient as island dwellers in sustaining ourselves.

      1. runninbear Reply

        also trucks hauling roads travel in been somewhat danger and trucks follow like they only them on road your right they had hilo to dock but in the past the state would weigh containers at the harbor but how to me trucks are hauling over weigh an we the government the people have to put up with the states understanding from their chair to receive their needs but when its for the goods that we have too put into needs with weigh taxes taxe at add the pump for 15 cent more shipment came in store over stock they report lost but when the needs to take a brake with family they don’t care it needs is important for us

  6. Katabas Reply

    Is there anything that can be done to help fight this other than emailing our representativesl, or is it a “done deal”?

    1. hai Reply

      Thanks for your comment regarding what is there to do about these issues. We are still trying to figure out how to move forward. This is a complex situation. Here is what we do know:

    2. DOT is planning to proceed with what they want to do to accommodate“growth” as described in their 2035 Master Plan. Coming up with a replacement plan to accommodate local people’s use of a beach within its jurisdiction is not its responsibility.
    3. It is not a done deal until the construction starts.
    4. I wrote letters to Tarnas, Inouye, Ige, BLNR, and Harry Kim. So far Tarnas is the only one who replied in earnest. We do not know if they understand the situation because there is not much feedback.
      We are asking Kohala Center, Sierra Club, and Nature Conservancy for their help to organize and leadership.

      We as citizen have to know what we want the outcome to be. Generally, folks will want to kept things as they are, but we need a permanent solution: a public access beach just like the one we are used to. The Coral Flats beach is for locals, children, and older folks, because it is protected and clean. If there is enough resistance to stop the harbor from expanding and forgo any more construction that can do harm to the reef and the environment, then that is the best outcome. But we also need to plan ahead for the more likely event that DOT will get what it wants.

      We all need to agree that we like to have a permanent replacement beach that met the basics needs of the locals. There maybe other solutions, but we feel that restoring part of the Kawaihae shore line that was covered up when the harbor was constructed is the best solution going forward. We describe in detailed here : https://wp.me/pb5iSG-n9 . Then we can pressure the elected officials to put it on their agenda to create funds to make it happen.

      We need all the help we can get from everyone to learn about what we are about to lose and solutions to be had, so that we are united in what we hope to achieve. If you want to help, more than writing letters, please talk to as many folks as possible and tell them to do the same. We are learning as we go because, we do not know if asking the State Of Hawaii to uncovered, and restored a portion of the coast line that was buried since Hawaii was still a territory has been attempted. However, we deeply believe that the solution is a win win for everyone. Thank you so much for your interests and following us