CANOE CLUBS LEERY OF ALA WAI
Paddlers must vacate Kaimana
The city will not extend permits set to expire after 30 days
At least three canoe clubs do not know where they will practice this summer -- after learning yesterday that the city will not allow them to continue at Kaimana Beach when temporary 30-day permits expire.
The Outrigger, Kumulokahi-Elks and Lokahi canoe clubs have been practicing at Kaimana Beach since a 48 million-gallon sewage spill polluted their regular practice venue, the Ala Wai Canal, in late March.
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Members from the Lokahi canoe club paddled to practice from Kaimana Beach yesterday as Rose Ratliff relaxed on the shore. Lokahi is one of three canoe clubs that has been practicing at the beach park near the Waikiki Natatorium with a temporary permit. The clubs obtained the permits due to the sewage spill in late March at the Ala Wai Canal. The city has told the clubs to leave once their 30-day permits expire.
The city gave the clubs temporary permits to use the beach with the understanding that they would return to the Ala Wai Canal when water conditions returned to normal, city Parks Director Lester Chang said yesterday.
"We were breaking our own rules internally to allow them there" at Kaimana, Chang said, and they will not be allowed to stay.
Ala Wai- and Magic Island-based clubs that relocated to Maunalua Bay and Keehi Lagoon might be able to stay at those locations because there is more room to store canoes, Chang said, but that is not certain, either.
Chang said the city will "try to do our best to accommodate" canoe clubs at other locations, but he does not know yet where or how.
"We've got to see how many people want to move, and how to be fair," he said.
Last week, the state Health Department said water quality in the Ala Wai has returned to pre-spill conditions. But the Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association and Na Ohana O Na Hui Wa'a announced early this week that none of their member clubs that use the Ala Wai want to return there this year.
"I think they (the city) heard we're not going to move, and now it's their turn -- they tell us we have to move," said Hiram Manoi Jr., Kumulokahi-Elks head coach. He said his club's permit expires May 25.
"We do not want to go back to the Ala Wai for the rest of this season," said Jenifer Bossert of Outrigger Canoe Club. "We'd like to give it time to flush more, even though they (the Health Department) are saying it's back to pre-spill levels.
"They're saying we always paddled there at risk before now -- but we didn't know it," said Bossert, who is chairman of the club's canoe committee.
The Ala Wai Canal's water quality far exceeds the state guidelines for recreational waters -- which is a geometric mean over five samples of seven colony-forming units of enterococcus bacteria per sample. The most recent water tests on Monday in the canal ranged from 90 to 1,400 colony-forming units of enterococcus, used as an indicator of the likelihood that people might get gastrointestinal illness or skin infections from the water.
Robert Viernes, assistant coach for Lokahi Canoe Club, said he has paddled in the Ala Wai for 25 years but does not want to go back now. "Not really, nobody wants to go into that water. I don't even want to put my toes in."
Paddlers said one concern is whether rainfall or boat activity would stir up sewage sediment that sank to the bottom of the 10- to 12-foot-deep canal.
Peter Young, director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, said state land on Sand Island could be made available for clubs if they request it.
Young also said he hopes to meet with city officials about whether dredging the Ala Wai to remove sewage sediment would be possible. The department oversaw a $7.4 million dredging of the canal in 2002-03.