Pohoiki Boat Ramp Undamaged, Blocked by New Black Sand

A damage assessment of the formerly popular Pohoiki Boat Ramp area, along the lower Puna coast, shows no damage to the ramp itself, the Department of Land and Natural Resources reports.

However, an estimated 14,000 cubic yards of black sand, deposited during the recent East Rift Zone eruption, completely rings and blocks the entrance to the small boat ramp.

Finn McCall, an engineer with the DLNR Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation and DOBOR’s Hawai‘i island Branch Manager Stephen Schmelz flew to Pohoiki recently to get a close look at what Kīlauea wrought.

“We were here during the eruptive activity in mid-July and fully expected the ramp to be taken within a matter of days. Amazingly, while lava crept to the edge of the neighboring Isaac Hale Beach Park, took the county’s life guard stand, and surrounded the boat ramp off-shore, it’s still here,” Schmelz said.

Prior to the latest eruption, four companies with DOBOR commercial permits operated lava ocean tours from the ramp. The tiny bay leading up to the ramp was also a popular swimming spot and ocean-entrance for surfers and other water enthusiasts.

McCall took measurements on the newly formed, crescent-shaped, black sand beach and in the new pool created by the encirclement.

“We have a lot more analysis to do, but it appears, based on our initial assessment, that we could actually remove the black sand and re-create the entrance to the boat ramp,” McCall said.

The reopening of the Pohoiki Boat Ramp would be dependent on road access being restored, support from the local community, the securing of necessary permits, and most importantly – funding.

“DOBOR is now working closely with the County of Hawai’i on their plans regarding the road and the Beach Park,” said Mayor Harry Kim. “The County looks forward to working with the State on the development of this area.”

DLNR officials say there are no estimates now of how much it would cost or a time frame for potential work to begin.

McCall and Schmelz flew the entire Lower Puna coastline looking for other possible small boat ramp sites, in case Pohoiki can’t be resurrected. They’re reviewing video of the flight to try and identify alternate locations. They believe there may be a couple of options, but like at Pohoiki, a new ramp would require support from the community, permits, road access, and millions of dollars in funding for design and construction.

At MacKenzie, people are taken in by two new sparkling black sand beaches.  Prior to the eruption the parks coastline was punctuated by steep, rocky cliffs that dropped precipitously and directly into the ocean.  The larger of the pair of beaches is directly below the parking lot and still requires careful navigation down the cliff face. The beauty of the shimmering black sand beaches is underlain with danger, said DLNR officials.

“There is a powerful undertow at these beaches and a swimmer or boarder could easily be swept out to sea,” said State Parks Caretaker KyleTakeya who says there are now a total of seven black sand beaches, created by Kīlauea, between MacKenzie and Pohoiki.

From the northern boundary of MacKenzie SRA, it is just a few-minute walk to the edge of the newly formed lava flow – which remains within a restricted access zone.  On the first day of the reopening of MacKenzie, a National Guardsman walked out to the edge of the lava flow and spoke to numerous visitors about the risks and hazards associated with the newly-altered landscape.  In addition to the extremely sharp lava which creates unstable footing, there are pockets where the ground may look stable, but is not.  Road signs leading into MacKenzie SRA also warn people to be aware of the possibility of continuing volcanic gas emissions.

“We’re very pleased to now reopen MacKenzie,” said DLNR Division of State Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell. “It is critically important to enable shoreline access for our local community. As always, we request that people demonstrate responsible behavior and use judgment and common sense when venturing into any areas impacted by the Lower East Rift Zone eruption and avoid promoting excursions on social media – as it only increases the appetite for others often less skilled to follow.”

DLNR photo.