Canoe paddlers, thrill craft operators fight for space in Keehi Lagoon

The Dept. of Land and Natural Resources is making changes regarding Jet Ski operations on Keehi Lagoon and they’re looking for the public’s input.

The Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation said it wants to relocate the thrill craft zone for “safety purposes” through a proposed amendment.

Keehi Lagoon is divided into zones for activities like canoe paddling, swimming and boating. The DLNR is thinking about moving the thrill craft zone that’s currently near the reef runway to an area between Kahaka-Aulana Island and Mokauea Island.

A spokesman said it would be a safer area for Jet Ski riders. Canoe paddlers, however, said it’s a bad idea because it brings the thrill crafts closer to their designated canoe area.

“It’s safety that we’re concerned about,” said Healani Canoe Club coach Kapuni Patcho. “We’re a club of about 90 kids, and if we look to the water with all these motorboats, you really can’t see heads popping in and out of the water. It becomes a water problem.”

While Jet Skis were zipping through the canoes’ area, Patcho said “that’s illegal. There’s signs posted there … this whole stretch is no-wake zones. On a daily basis, people always ripping by.”

DLNR’s proposed amendment for Keehi Lagoon presents a host of problems the paddlers plan on addressing at the upcoming public hearing on Thursday.

“They know our presence here,” said Kea Paiaina, the club’s head coach, “the 67 canoe clubs with 200 paddlers each. My main concern is our kids and the keiki program.”

KHON2 reached out to a few thrill craft companies but haven’t received a response yet.

The meeting about the proposed amendment will be held at the UH Marine Education and Training Center, 10 Sand Island Parkway, from 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 20.

All interested parties are invited to attend and to present their views on the proposed amendment, either orally or in writing.

Written comments may be submitted at the public hearing, or via email to dlnr.HarReview@hawaii.gov, or hard copy to the DLNR Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, 333 Queen St., Suite 300.

Testimony will be accepted the day of the hearing and up to one week following the hearing date.

The proposed amendment to Title 13, Chapter 256, Section 93 and repeal of Title 13, Chapter 256, Sections 94 – 97, Hawaii Administrative Rules would relocate a recreational thrill craft zone within Keehi Lagoon and update the exhibit map depicting Keehi Lagoon use zones.

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