News

County Supports Water Quality, Circulation Study in Hilo Bay

August 18, 2020, 1:47 PM HST
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PC: Crystal Richard

Hawai‘i County is hoping to un-muddy the waters of Hilo Bay.

The county Planning Department wrote a letter of support to the US Army Corps of Engineers for a new study that could pave the way for improved water quality and circulation in the bay, according to a county press release. Hilo Bay’s existing breakwater, while protecting the harbor, inhibits the beneficial circulation of the water.

The new study, which will be led by the Army Corps of Engineers, will analyze the benefits of breaching portions of the breakwater and other measures. The study will identify the run-off into the Bay, and provide plans, recommendations, and measures to improve Hilo Bay’s water quality and circulation.

Hawai‘i County Mayor Harry Kim has long hoped to modify the breakwater to allow the water to flow through portions of the wall, which would foster the return of marine life to Hilo Bay.

In 2019, the mayor raised the idea with the State Department of Transportation’s Harbors Division, which agreed to do a technical study to develop the scope of the project.

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“Imagine how great it would be to be able to swim, paddle, and fish with no fear of contamination,” Mayor Kim said. “By modifying the breakwater to clean up the water, you’ll see all kinds of fish and shellfish come back. This will transform Bayfront.”

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The budget for the new study is estimated at $100,000, with the state and county paying $25,000 each, and the federal government providing $50,000.

Once the federal money has been secured, the study can start, according to a letter from Planning Director Michael Yee. The first two phases of the three-phase study are slated to be conducted from October 2020 through April 2021, with the third phase based on the outcome.

“Over the past years, water quality has continued to be degraded by both upland water run-off and water circulation issues, which we believe are caused by the breakwater inhibiting the circulation within the Bay,” according to Yee’s letter, which is dated Aug. 12, 2020.

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For further information, call the Planning Department at 808-961-8288.

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