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Marina deleted from Ewa Beach resort

The cost of digging a channel and lack of demand for boat slips prompt the shift

By Andrew Gomes


A marina in Ewa Beach planned as part of the Ocean Pointe and Hoakalei Resort communities had been dramatically downsized and reconfigured a few times in the last 30 years, but now it's slated for elimination.

Developer Haseko (Hawaii) Inc. plans to convert its 54-acre Ocean Pointe/Hoakalei marina site between White Plains Beach and Oneula Beach Park into a recreational lagoon with no surface connection to the ocean.

The decision was largely based on a lack of demand for market-priced boat slips and the cost to excavate a channel, the company said.

Though Haseko already dredged the marina interior and constructed jetties, the company said it couldn't justify further investment connecting the area to the ocean with a channel roughly 300 feet wide, 1,500 feet long and 20 feet deep.

Haseko said the change to a recreational lagoon will allow the company to fulfill the general vision for its $1.4 billion waterfront community sooner while opening the area to wider public use.

"Creating a lagoon enables us to achieve our long-held vision of a vibrant waterfront community in a more timely and efficient manner," said Sharene Saito Tam, a Haseko vice president.

Lagoon features would include crescent-shaped sandy beaches, a canoe hale, an amphitheater and a floating pedestrian bridge, according to a conceptual plan.

Activities in the brackish water would exclude motorized equipment but include swimming in a shallow area as well as canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and sailing in deeper areas.

Other elements of the plan include a mile-long path between the lagoon and the ocean, commercial space renting watercraft, restrooms, showers and about 150 to 200 public parking spaces.

The marina channel was a source of contention for some, including the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which years ago argued against it because it would affect traditional shoreline activities of Native Hawaiians.

Tesha Malama, a 41-year Ewa Beach resident, said some boaters will be disappointed along with fishers who looked forward to slips and a public boat launch ramp that were planned along with the marina, but that the conversion to a lagoon is beneficial to the broader community.

"I think you'll have more of the general public users," she said. "The change will be better for the greater community."

Local economist Paul Brewbaker of TZ Economics said in a report Haseko commissioned that the lagoon will benefit the developer as a resort amenity but that the public benefit will be greater.

"(Haseko's) intention to provide extensive public access to its lagoon, promenade, cultural and archaeological sites and to integrate its shoreline reaches with a continuum of beachfront park and recreational opportunity stretching from Oneula Beach Park in Ewa Beach to White Sands Beach in Kalaeloa is uniquely an attempt to privately produce a public good, for the benefit of the community and for the enhancement of the resort's commercial and activity-oriented businesses," Brewbaker wrote in the report.

The envisioned change is among the biggest for the 1,100-acre master-planned project initially proposed in 1979 by Colorado-based MSM & Associates which sought to create a community built around a marina with branching waterways like Hawaii Kai.

The original project, long known as Ewa Marina, gained a key approval from the state Land Use Commission in 1984, allowing development of up to 7,200 homes around a marina with 2,500 boat slips and 8.5 miles of waterways.

Haseko bought the property and development entitlements in 1989 for the project that by then called for 1,500 slips in a marina still similar to Hawaii Kai's, along with about 5,000 homes and a 27-hole golf course.

Construction began in 1997. In 2001 Haseko amended its master plan to reduce the size of the marina from 120 acres to 70 acres by eliminating an inland basin in conjunction with redesigning the golf course with 18 holes.

Later, Haseko cut the number of boat slips to between 600 and 800 on 54 acres.

The marina is one of three commercial pieces of the Ocean Pointe/Hoakalei community yet to be realized. Haseko has built about 3,500 of 4,850 homes, and the Ernie Els-designed golf course opened in 2009. Still to be developed are 950 units of hotel or time-share accommodations and a complex with retailers, restaurants and other businesses.

Saito Tam said there is no timetable for the visitor accommodations or commercial complex. She said the west side of the lagoon next to an archaeological and wetlands preserve could be open by the end of 2015 if permits and environmental approvals are obtained.

Some issues that will need to be examined in an environmental assessment or impact statement include water circulation and storm water drainage.

The lagoon's brackish water circulates naturally through porous rock below but would be enhanced by pumping ground water into the lagoon from a new well to refresh the lagoon four times a day, Saito Tam said.

The marina was to serve as an outlet for 10-year flood drainage. Saito Tam said Haseko plans to add more retention ponds on the golf course to catch runoff along with a couple of ponds next to the lagoon.

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