Fishermen want access to Ko Olina boat ramp


POSTED: Sunday, March 08, 2009

Question: I was under the impression that Ko Olina Marina was supposed to reopen the public boat launch ramp that they removed several years ago. Could you please update the status on this needed project?

Answer: In November the state Land Use Commission issued an order requiring Ko Olina Development (master developer of Ko Olina Resort & Marina) to build a boat launch ramp, open to the public, inside Ko Olina Marina.

However, no deadline was set as to when that ramp has to be built, said a commission staff member.

In its Nov. 6 decision, the Land Use Commission ordered the developer to return within six months — by early May — and provide information on the proposed location of the ramp inside the marina; the regulatory permitting and construction requirements of the ramp; a schedule and time line for opening the ramp; and a schedule and time line describing any public outreach efforts it has made or will make regarding the ramp's opening.

In ordering that the boat ramp be located within Ko Olina Marina, the commission rejected Ko Olina's assertion that a smaller ramp at Kalaeloa Harbor, known as Phoenicians, was a suitable alternative.

We contacted Ko Olina to ask about the order and received the following statement from a spokesman: “;Since the state's LUC hearing last October, Ko Olina Resort & Marina has been working diligently to comply with the decision and order. We will update the LUC on our progress within the designated time frame.”;

Boaters and fishermen have complained that the Kalaeloa ramp, which was made available to the public in 2005, is unsafe and unsuitable for their needs.

After fighting for the reopening of a ramp at Ko Olina “;for almost 3 1/2 years, we finally got the commissioners to see our way,”; said Creighton Chang, a fisherman representing about 300 people.

Talk about a public boat ramp within the Ko Olina area dates back to the early 1980s, when the then-undeveloped area was owned by West Beach Estates.

In return for land use changes (from agriculture to resort) to allow construction of a resort, commercial and residential community, West Beach Estates promised to build a boat launch ramp within the development's marina that would be open to the general public.

In 1998, Ko Olina Development took over the project.

The boat ramp within Ko Olina Marina was available to the public for a few years, Chang said. But some fishermen complained because it was only accessible to the public from sunrise to sunset. They wanted the ramp to be open 24/7.

Ko Olina offered public access to the boat ramp at Kalaeloa Harbor as a more accessible alternative.

That ramp was opened to the public in February 2005 and a short time later, the Ko Olina Marina ramp and boat parking facility were closed to the general public.

“;They opened up the new ramp and rammed it down our throats,”; Chang said. “;That's when some of us fishermen started to make a lot of noise.”;

Many people do use the Kalaeloa ramp, but they “;are so desperate to fish”; that they are willing to risk damage to their cars, their boats and themselves, Chang said.

He described the Kalaeloa ramp, fashioned out of a travel lift (similar to the large lifts used to pick up shipping containers), as substandard.

“;The ramp is too shallow, there's a lot of limu buildup so you slip and slide, and because the ramp is so flat, your cars have to back down into the water,”; with the water sometimes reaching the front bumpers of vehicles, Chang said.