Kaunakakai Harbor to be Dredged

By Jack Kiyonaga, Reporter 

Molokai depends on barge deliveries for food, fuel and other essentials. The barge depends on being able to dock at the Kaunakakai Harbor, which must be kept at a certain water depth for it to be usable. Maintaining the harbor depends on the US Army Core of Engineers (USACE), the authorities responsible for monitoring 28 harbors across the state. Dredging is essential to maintaining necessary depths by removing the sediment that collects in the harbor over time. Fifty years after it was last dredged, Kaunakakai Harbor is slated for maintenance dredging this fall. 

Work is scheduled to start after Oct. 8 and should be done in one month’s time. According to USACE, the dredging will not affect harbor activities like launching boats, swimming or fishing.  

Originally built in 1934 by USACE, the harbor was last dredged in 1973. The 1,500 by 600-foot basin was originally built to a depth of -23 feet. Currently, the depth may be as low as nine feet below the surface in certain areas, explained USACE Project Manager Nani Shimabuku. 

“Our main intent is to come in here and maintenance dredge…so that there will be safe navigation,” said Shimabuku. She added that the goal of the project is to return the harbor to its original dimensions. There will not be any new digging, according to Shimabuku, that could be used to accommodate larger vessels like ferries or sea planes. 

In 1973, approximately 50,000 cubic yards of sediment were pumped from the harbor. Now, USACE estimates that 30,000 cubic yards must be removed. 

Walter Rawlins, one of the attendees at the June 21 community meeting, remembered vividly the mess and accumulation that occurred during this previous harbor dredging. 

“Pipes laid all over the beaches…the whole beach was just chocolate mud and everything,” said Rawlins. 

According to Rawlins, most of the dredged sediment was deposited behind the gas station and still sits there today. 

USACE has been working with Molokai residents to create a manageable plan for dredging that will alleviate concerns over pollution and harbor access for Molokai residents. 

“Since 2021, [USACE] been working with the community to better understand how you guys use the harbor,” said Shimabuku.  

Part of this work with the community has been an explanation of exactly how the dredging will be accomplished. 


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