Maui Discussion

Ask the Mayor: Conflicting use of Ukumehame Waters, Drone Complaint

September 15, 2014, 11:35 AM HST
* Updated September 22, 12:36 AM
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Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to be used to improve irrigation practices and crop yield at HC&S. Photo by Wendy Osher.

This Unmanned Aerial Vehicle was introduced in 2013 to improve irrigation practices and crop yield on Maui.  At the time of its certification, it was the only FAA approved UAV in Maui County. Since then, many private citizens have purchased smaller UAVs for recreational use. File photo by Wendy Osher.

The mayor answers questions from the public in this series.

By Mayor Alan Arakawa

Q: I am writing to make a complaint about excessive private businesses at Ukumehame Park. Large tour buses have been regularly pulling up and dropping off very large groups of patrons who are escorted to all sides of the park and loaded into at least 40 kayaks. The kayaks then encroach on the surf areas and waves, making it dangerous for surfers and swimmers as the kayaks are in shallow water and deep reef areas where the surfers wait for waves. In addition, there are multiple surf schools operating from trucks and clogging the surf areas in the ocean. If that weren’t enough, the surf schools are using flying drones equipped with video cameras out in the surf. A drone was level with my face and only a few feet in front of me when I was on a wave. Drones are dangerous, noisy and remove the peace we find in the surf. They are infringing on our privacy by filming all surfers. What are the rules on private enterprise and what is your plan to ensure enforcement? I appreciate your response and help in this matter as many of us residents are upset.

A: While Ukumehame is a County park, the task of monitoring the use of flying drones over the ocean falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration. According to the FAA website, these business-use drones fall under the “Civil” category of what the FAA labels “Unmanned Aircraft Systems.” Civil UAS operators may obtain a Special Airworthiness Certificate, Experimental Category, by demonstrating that their unmanned aircraft can operate safely within an assigned flight test area and cause no harm to the public. To file a safety-related complaint about at a UAS, visit www.faa.gov/contact/safety_hotline or call 1-866-835-5322 and dial Option 4. Regarding the issue of commercial activities, I checked with our Parks staff on the number of Commercial Ocean Recreational Activity (CORA) permits at the site. We currently have 11 vendors holding a total of 13 CORA permits at Ukumehame; these permits were grandfathered in when the current CORA rules went into effect in September 2009. The total includes 8 surfing permits, 3 kayak and 1 SCUBA permit for the park. Ukumehame is also used by certain vendors who hold secondary permits for utilizing the park when the weather conditions are blown out at other parks, which may explain why you have seen a high number of people in the water. The rules regulate vendors’ use of parking spaces and allow no more than 14 individuals (including patrons and instructors) at a time, per surfing permit. For kayaking, no more than 22 individuals are allowed at a time, per permit. For SCUBA, nor more than 18 individuals are allowed at a time, per permit. Enforcement of CORA activities is limited to the three rangers who make their rounds on a regular basis; however, we will again ask the Council next budget cycle for funding to hire additional rangers. To voice your suggestions or concerns regarding this issue, you can attend one of the community budget meetings this Fall or Council budget hearings next Spring. To view CORA rules online, visit www.mauicounty.gov/Parks and select “CORA” from the left menu.

Want to Ask the Mayor?

Submit your questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa via email: [email protected], phone: 270-7855 or mail: 200 S. High Street, 9th Floor, Wailuku, Hawaii 96793. Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the Ask the Mayor column.

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