Kaneohe Bay gets extra attention
Law enforcement will be trying to keep the sandbar a safe spot
Recreational boaters and other people enjoying the waters of Kaneohe Bay are seeing more law enforcement this Memorial Day weekend.
The increased enforcement, meant to curb rowdy behavior and improve safety in the bay, is also the kickoff for a pilot project to improve water safety in other state waters, especially during long holiday weekends this summer, officials said.
Officers from the Department of Land and Natural Resources are working with the Coast Guard to perform random safety checks of vessels and watch for violations, such as using thrill craft in the wrong zones and boaters operating their vessels drunk.
Some Windward Oahu residents praised the additional law enforcement, saying it will prevent previous problems like fights on Ahu o Laka, the sandbar at Kaneohe Bay, which also bears cultural significance.
"It's something good for the community," said Rocky Kaluhiwa, a member of the Kahaluu Neighborhood Board. "It's a good idea because we want to see our community have a safe holiday."
Community complaints about a lack of enforcement in the bay prompted the additional enforcement this weekend, state officials said.
In a brawl at the sandbar last Labor Day, three people suffered injuries, although no one was arrested at the time. In 2005 a riot broke out on the sandbar following a concert on the 3-acre strip of land.
This weekend, hundreds of people are expected to converge on the sandbar, drawn by the longer weekend and the unofficial start of summer, said Ed Underwood, administrator of the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation. The low tide this weekend is expected to only swell the numbers at the sandbar, he said.
"It's a big party out there," he said. "It's like a beach."
Boats tie side to side all the way down the sandbar, he said.
Officials will focus on alcohol consumption, linked to past problems at the sandbar. The legal drinking blood-alcohol limit while operating a boat is 0.08 percent.
According to the department, penalties for a conviction for boating under the influence include a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail. The individual's automobile driver's license may also be revoked.
Boaters should have a designated pilot if they plan to consume alcoholic beverages, Underwood said. There is no age requirement to operate a boat, he said.
Officials will also be checking to ensure boaters have the proper safety equipment on board.
"There'll be a shoreside team on the pier educating mariners as they put their boats out and come in for fuel, but also in the bay and around the sandbar area," said Coast Guard Lt. John Titchen. "It's more an educational effort than it is the law enforcement side. This isn't necessarily a crackdown. ... That's something of a preventative action."
"We just want to make sure that everybody goes out there with a safe environment to boat in," Underwood said. "We hope everybody does have a good time."