Boating fund pays to clean up Ala Wai
The uncovering of historic facts can apparently bring on a craving for similar historic verifications.
After last week's column, where I was able to finally identify 1951 as the year the dredging of Ala Wai Boat Harbor's direct channel to the ocean was begun, a few readers were quick to ask about other events of the past where the details have become somewhat obscure.
One reader observed, referencing my mention of Ala Moana Park, that "a lot of people would be interested in knowing what Kapiolani Park was like before it became a park," and I am sure they would. However Water Ways' focus is primarily on recreational boating.
Still, I will note historian Robert Weyeneth's observation: "Unlike Kapiolani Park (created in the late 1800s) and its nouveau-riche builders fascinated by polo, horse racing, and the Victorian landscape of leisure, Ala Moana Park was the product of the hard times of the '30s. From the beginning it was to be a park for all of the people."
Another reader asked a question that was a bit more germane to this column: When and why did the Department of Land and Natural Resources' Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation become responsible for cleaning all the debris that's washed down the Ala Wai Canal and into the harbor?
His question, I think, was not just about the physical aspects of this never-ending trash pickup, but the expenditure of thousands of dollars annually from the Boating Special Fund. And, unfortunately, I don't have a very good answer.
Without doing very much digging into historic documents, I can say from personal observations that DOBOR has, for better or worse, maintained a passive trap for floating debris under the Ala Moana Bridge for more than 15 years.
The trap utilizes a floating boom on the makai side of the bridge span next to Ala Wai Marine boatyard that captures tons of refuse after every rainstorm. But, like any trap, once it's filled it must be emptied before it can function again.
At times the DOBOR folks will bring in heavy equipment to remove the debris in a timely fashion, but it is expensive because a private contractor does the job.
On other occasions a shift in the wind to Kona conditions will push the accumulated opala back out of the trap, where eventually most of it takes the form of trash-bergs floating through the marina.
In any case, as many studies - or a rainy-day observation - can tell you, all of this water-borne garbage comes from throughout the Ala Wai watershed. That includes the Manoa, Palolo and Makiki streams, as well as every liter-clogged gutter and storm drain in Waikiki.
So, although the removal of this trash benefits the boaters and paddlers who use the Ala Wai, as they were not the source of the pollution, the question remains, why should the cleanup costs be paid from the Boating Special Fund?
I have long advanced the notion that the state should bill the city-county, as it is Honolulu's lack of a comprehensive street sweeping program that produces the lion's share of the problem.