The U.S. Coast Guard and the state of Hawaii’s plan to create a security zone around Kaunakakai Harbor received a combative response at today’s informational community meeting.
The U.S.C.G. announced Friday it will establish a temporary security zone for the harbor “during potential non-compliant protests involving the passenger vessel Safari Explorer to its intended berth in the harbor.”
Protesters who blocked the Safari Explorer on Nov. 26 had agreed to not interfere with the arrival of the boat this Saturday. As part of the agreement, American Safari Cruises would wait until after the last of four moku ‘Aha Ki’ole meetings to consider the island’s position on this 36-passenger cruise boat and tourism in general.
William Aila, chairman of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, explained his position outside the Mitchell Pau’ole Center. “We felt this was the prudent thing to do. We have to make public health and safety number one.”
USCG Captain Joanna Nunan said the security zone was planned to be “as small and short as possible.” The zone extends 1,375 yards out to sea from the middle of wharf road and is 770 yards wide. With the Safari Explorer expected to arrive at 7:30 a.m., enforcement of the security zone will begin at 6:30 a.m. and stop at 7:40 a.m. The security zone will resume again one hour before the boat leaves on Sunday.
Several residents expressed concerns about this security zone violating their rights. “We have to balance rights with public safety,” Aila responded.
Any unauthorized vessel in the zone will receive a warning. If it stays in the security zone, the vessel will be subject to civil penalties of up to $40,000 or criminal penalties including imprisonment for up to 10 years and forfeiture of the vessel.
Kanoho Helm, an organizer of the group I Aloha Molokai, stood up to say how this zone will interfere with boats and canoes used for gathering and fishing. Aila asked Helm when he plans to use the harbor area and they would try to accommodate him. “I practice my traditional Hawaiian rights all the time and without a $40,000 fine.”
Molokai Planning Commissioner Lori Buchanan said the state and the federal government are both in violation of their own processes in creating this security zone, which, she said, could lead to lawsuits. “This is not pono,” said Buchanan. “You are stepping up the aggravation in the community. This is the Superferry all over again.”
A designated area for protesters will be open along the fence line bordering Young Brothers. Once the security zone is set at 6:30 a.m., no additional protesters will be allowed in this area.
Concerns about invasive species coming to Molokai in the rubbish brought from Kona by the Safari Explorer were also raised. Aila said he would talk to Captain Dan Blanchard of ASC about returning the opala to the Big Island.
Local activist Hano Naehu said this security zone “makes us feel like terrorists … I feel like I’m being raped.”
“No one can guarantee that nothing is going to happen,” said Aila, “so this is a prudent action.”
Even supporters of the Safari Explorer questioned this action. “I don’t believe we need to go to these drastic measures,” said Clare Mawae, whose company Molokai Outdoors will provide ground transportation for the visitors. “There has always been a trust in this community.”
When asked if a simple patrol would work, Aila said it is difficult to enforce the area without a security zone in place. “That’s just the way it is … This vessel has the right to fair passage and that’s what we’re here for.”
Neither the DLNR nor the Coast Guard would say exactly how long this security zone would remain in place. While Safari Explorer has cruises planned until May, the security zone may be abandoned before then. “We don’t know for how long (it will remain),” said Aila. “Once the community is OK with it (the Safari Explorer) we can dial it back.”