Divers find little trash at sandbar
The search comes after concerns of possible damage at Ahu o Laka
A four-man dive team searched for signs of an underwater trash problem at the Ahu o Laka sandbar in Kaneohe Bay yesterday but concluded that there is none.
After searching more than an hour at depths up to 45 feet along the mauka side of the 3-acre submerged sandbar, the divers found fewer than a dozen bottles and cans.
"It's what I expected," said Earl Omoto, harbor agent of the state's Heeia Kea Pier and team leader. "This boating community is pretty responsible."
The sandbar is a popular spot for boating parties. But after a rowdy Labor Day concert at the sandbar, some residents of Kaneohe and Kahaluu have questioned whether things have gotten out of control there.
Concerns expressed at a Nov. 3 meeting included loud music, crowded conditions and injuries from fights at the Labor Day event. Some also questioned whether boaters who anchor at the sandbar throw trash overboard and whether enough respect is being shown for the site, which was the site of a famous Hawaiian chief's death.
The dive yesterday was conducted by employees of the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation: Omoto, fellow Heeia harbor agent Randall Kunichika, Waianae harbor agent William Aila and Haleiwa harbor agent Paul Sensano.
"This is not a representative sample," said Kunichika as he emerged from a dive with a couple of discarded beer bottles and cans. "This is everything I saw."
The team did collect a small boat ladder and saw a car tire, which they did not retrieve.
Division of Aquatic Resources divers plan to survey the sandbar for trash next week, after the holiday weekend, said administrator Dan Polhemus. After that check, a decision will be made on whether a community cleanup is needed.
In other responses to concerns raised about Kaneohe Bay safety:
» Today and tomorrow, DLNR enforcement officers and the Coast Guard will be patrolling Ahu o Laka, with an emphasis on enforcing alcohol-related laws, said Roy Yanagihara, acting Oahu district manager for boating. Operating a boat while intoxicated carries the same punishment as drunken driving, he said, and the likelihood of injury to boat passengers increases when they consume alcohol.
» Heeia Kea Pier now has reserved parking places for police and fire officers, and DLNR enforcement personnel will be able to use harbor boats, if needed.
Yanagihara said it might be possible to resolve concerns about the sandbar by enforcing existing rules, rather than attempting to make any new ones.