North Kawaihae Small Boat Harbor

North Kawaihae Small Boat Harbor Environmental Assessment & Stakeholder Redesign

Located on the northwest side of Hawaiʻi Island, the North Kawaihae Small Boat Harbor (NKSBH) was constructed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in the late 1950s.  It is managed by the State of Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR), which operates and maintains NKSBH to service local fishers, small commercial and recreational users. NKSBH is located along the shoreline across the entrance channel to the Kawaihae Deep Draft Harbor (KDDH), which is operated by the State Department of Transportation (DOT) Harbors Division.

This shoreline is exposed to large waves and swells during fall and winter months. Because of its location, NKSBH has only has partial protection during winter swells and high waves frequently overtop the main breakwater.  Over recent years, waves have constantly slammed against the underside of a wooden wharf in the harbor. This wave action has caused severe damage over time, creating unsafe conditions for users. Waves also overtop the adjacent beach berm and flood the harbor parking areas and the approach to the boat ramp.

During the winter of 2019-2020, large swells repeatedly overtopped NKSBH’s main breakwater creating a 40-foot breach in the barrier structure. The wooden wharf was damaged to the extent that it was condemned by Hawai’i DLNR in January 2020 and was removed by April 2020. The majority of vessels berthed at NKSBH were forced to relocate out of the harbor.

With our extensive experience in ocean dynamics and harbor engineering, Oceanit is working with the community and DOBOR to complete an Environmental Assessment (EA) that will lead to redesign recommendations and eventual construction of a new harbor breakwater. The project goal will help NKSBH to better withstand winter swells, minimizing damage to harbor structures and allowing vessels to return and use the harbor.

Oceanit is conducting community meetings with local stakeholders who have used NKSBH for decades. Across three meetings in 2023, Oceanit met with the long-time president and members of the Kawaihae Canoe Club, fishers, boat captains, and many kupuna (elders) to gain insight and input on protecting and maintaining the harbor for future use.

Community input has led to additional modification recommendations for the harbor and ways to further improve conditions and safety, while also accomplishing the goal of enhanced protection for the harbor, ramp, wharf and other infrastructure. Oceanit will continue to lead discussions with community, presenting evolving options for NKSBH.

You can read the final Environmental Assessment for NKSBH, published in the February, 2024 Environmental Notice: