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Fishermen Await Dredging of Wailoa Rivermouth

Fishermen illustrate how shallow the sandbar is during low tide, preventing boats from accessing the docks at Wailoa State Park.

Posted on April 15, 2024

The state is moving up the timeline plan to dredge the Wailoa Rivermouth in Hilo. Local fishermen have been unable to get in and out smoothly and to access the docks at times, due to a build-up of a sandbar.

Especially during a negative low tide at the Wailoa Rivermouth, boats are unable to get in or out.

Bunnie Harrington has been waiting for her husband to return from a fishing trip but the tide created conditions too shallow for a boat to return to Wailoa State Park, “so he would have been home already, but he won’t be home,” she said, “so right now he’s 22 miles away, just waiting. Waiting for the tide to rise so the boat can get through.”

“If you go out on low tide, you’re going to hit the bottom, that’s for sure. Not even a boat length wide,” Community leader Ikaika Marzo said. “You know, they’ve got to go out at high tide. Sometimes they got to wait, or sometimes they got to go at an excess amount of speed to come in.”

“You know, there’s been a couple of fishermen who got stuck with their haul and turned sideways in the current. When the current gets going strong, you lose control of the boat. And it could just be tipped over in a moment’s time,” Fisherman Kenny Pantalion said.

“People that needed being rescued off of the cliffs here,” Glen Nekoba explained, “what happens if one of us get into harm’s way or something? You know, we can’t get the Coast Guard here?”

Marzo and other fishermen here got the news that the state has pushed up its timeline to start dredging. The state DLNR could begin this summer.

“Fishermen have been paying their rent fees for many of years,” Marzo said, “The fish that is brought into this harbor, 90% of them, 80 to 90% of those fish stay locally here in Hawaii.”

A long-term solution might be more complex, “it used to be millions of gallons of fresh water that used to flow out of here in the 70s, the late 60s. And that’s what kept the sand out, because we had so much water with so much force coming out,” Dean Fukuchi said, “Today, we get less water, and I think that’s because too many people are tapping into our aquifer.”


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