By Wendy Osher
The state of Hawai’i and the US Coast Guard will hold a community meeting to present the security plan for the resumption of port calls by American Safari Cruises to Kaunakakai Harbor on Moloka’i.
The meeting will be held from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 17, at Mitchell Pau’ole Community Center in Kaunakakaki.
American Safari Cruises is scheduled to resume its port call into Kaunakakai Harbor on Saturday, January 21, 2012. The company cancelled its port calls last month in response to community concerns following a water blockade and protests.
Opponents had called for community input into decisions over tourism on the island, expressing concerns over impacts on the island’s lifestyle and resources. Supporters of the operation maintain that the 36-passenger Safari Explorer yacht supports local business, and helps to address the island’s historically high unemployment rate.
Since then, Moloka’i residents and officials have held meetings to discuss the future of tour operations in Kaunakakai, with Department of Land and Natural Resources Chairman William Aila participating in the discussions on behalf of the state.
“I am pleased that we have settled the situation with American Safari Cruises, which could not have been achieved without the coming together of all the concerned parties,” said Chair Aila. “This meeting is the next step in keeping an open dialogue with the community.”
Aila said the upcoming meeting will allow the state an opportunity to provide information regarding the resumption of port calls. He also thanked the people of Moloka’i in seeking a resolution.
Chair Aila will be joined by officials from the state Department of Transportation, the Maui County Police and the US Coast Guard who oversee and ensure environmental, public and navigational safety in the harbor.
“I am thankful that Chairman Aila, the community and American Safari Cruises have been able to reach a peaceful resolution to this matter,” said Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa.
The US Coast Guard will also be seeking public comment on a temporary security zone that has been established for the waters of Kaunakakai Harbor. Specific details on the security zone, including instructions on submitting comments, can be reviewed at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-01-13/pdf/2012-549.pdf.
State officials say the security zone will be enforced one hour prior to Kaunakakai Harbor entries and departures by the passenger vessel Safari Explorer. Notice of the zone’s activation will be provided by broadcast notices to mariners and the display of a red flag at the Kaunakakai Harbor Master’s building.
Captain Joanna Nunan, Commander Coast Guard Sector Honolulu, said, “Public safety in Moloka’i remains our top priority and we are committed to maintaining an open dialogue with community stakeholders on how we can best serve our shared interests.”