Ala Wai Canal will close during World Conservation Congress this fall

A portion of the heavily used Ala Wai Canal will be closed for a few days this fall.

The decision was made by the Board of Land and Natural Resources Thursday due to security concerns during the IUCN World Conservation Congress Sept. 1-10.

The closure would extend from the Ala Moana Boulevard Bridge to the Kalakaua Avenue Bridge at certain times during those dates.

“We’re going to be mindful of fact that we’re spending taxpayer money on this, but we intend to use this to ensure that the public is safe, and the well-being and the safety of public is kept to the highest level possible during the conference,” said Jason Redulla, DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE).

Redulla says the public will likely see signage, vessels and floating booms during the closure. There’s no cost estimate for the closure at this time.

“We ask public to be flexible. We do know that as conference gets closer, there’s likely to be more security measures that will be implemented that will definitely have an impact,” he said. “Right now, we do know that the closure of the Ala Wai is necessary, so we wanted to bring that to the public early so that they’re aware of it and can plan accordingly.”

View the approved proposal here.

Numerous law enforcement agencies, led by the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE), requested the closure as an imperative safety measure to ensure the safety of the public and an expected 8,000-10,000 attendees of the conference.

DOCARE Enforcement Chief Thomas Friel explained, “This event will generate worldwide media attention and numerous Heads of State, Ministerial and Cabinet Level officials and other dignitaries are expected to attend.”

According to the submittal, the closure is necessary for the following reasons:

  • To maintain an area that provides for standoff distance where any safety and security threat in the vicinity of the canal near the Hawaii Convention Center can be detected and dealt with away from the Convention Center.
  • To maintain surveillance and control of the Ala Moana and Kalakaua Avenue bridges, the bridges closest to the Hawaii Convention Center. The bridges provide crucial transportation routes that the public and attendees will use to access the convention center and area hotels.

During the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference (APEC) held in Honolulu in November 2011, the U.S. Coast Guard established security zones that included the entire Ala Wai Canal. It is not yet known whether security requirements will require the establishment of security zones that include the Ala Wai Canal waters, under federal authority. Consequently, DLNR is requesting to close a portion of the canal waters under the Board’s authority to meet the security requirements of the IUCN-WCC meeting.

DOCARE, working with State Harbor Police, will be responsible for the physical closure of the canal and will use vessels and floating booms to accomplish the task. DOCARE Officers will monitor the area during the proposed closure.

DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said, “While we appreciate this will be a temporary inconvenience for canal users like canoe clubs, we hope everyone understands it is important to do everything possible to make sure, when the world’s conservation leaders are focusing on Hawaii, they do so under the umbrella of the utmost safety and security.”

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