Council members discuss potential rules for future Waikiki ‘floatilla’ events

Photo: Department of Land and Natural Resources

A Honolulu City Council committee discussed Tuesday potential rules to ensure safety during impromptu “floatilla” events off Waikiki.

During the last floatilla over the Fourth of July holiday, 10 people were hospitalized, including a 19-year-old woman in critical condition, for intoxication and injuries related to alcohol.

At least 10 more were treated at the scene.

A resolution currently before the city council would urge the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources to adopt rules prohibiting alcohol use and disorderly behavior at such events, similar to its ban on possession, use, or consumption of alcohol and disorderly behavior within the Ahu O Laka (Kaneohe Bay Sandbar) safety zone on designated weekends.

Click here to view the full resolution.

Tuesday’s discussion included several of the first responders involved in the Fourth of July floatilla response.

“As we know right now, no permit is required. They’re not on the city parks. They’re in the ocean outside our jurisdiction,” said Capt. John McCarthy with the Honolulu Police Department. “We tend to bring in other agencies, the DLNR (Department of Land and Natural Resources), the Coast Guard. We try to involve Ocean Safety and EMS (Emergency Medical Services) as well in our planning.”

“So we have to prepare as if this is a special event that doesn’t even have a permit, and we have to use city taxpayer monies and resources to save drunk people from the ocean?” asked Councilwoman Kymberly Pine.

“That’s correct,” McCarthy replied.

“It’s pretty ridiculous that we’re spending so much resources for a public drinking binge party, and there’s something really wrong with that,” Pine said.

“You asked about resources. We pulled every officer we have on Oahu to work that day,” said DLNR Enforcement Chief Robert Farrell. “It’s a huge burden for us as well in the offshore component, along with the Coast Guard, working with our HPD partners, our Ocean Safety partners, so it’s a huge burden for us as well.”

Farrell views the resolution as a good start, but not a complete solution to the problem.

“If the board sees fit to enact additional regulations that would assist us in mitigating these events, then I’m all for it, but I think it’s a comprehensive solution,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of tactical considerations that we can have at the front line that can mitigate some of it and in addition to some extra rules. I think we have to be careful in drafting rules to make sure it doesn’t affect lawful activities and also addresses the problem that we have. So a lot of times the enforceability component isn’t always there with some of the rules that we enact. So we want to get together and make sure that that is something that we all agree, this is an enforceable rule and it will get to the problems that we’re seeing.”

The Committee on Public Health, Safety and Welfare put the resolution out to the full council for a vote, which will likely be added to the next meeting’s agenda for Aug. 9.

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