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Ma‘alaea Harbor Improvements

Big upgrades bring pump-out stations, ferry terminal building, restrooms.

May 16, 2013
Susan Halas - Contributing Writer ( , Maui Weekly

After three years and an estimated $15 million in funding by a state and federal partnership, almost all the upgrades to Ma'alaea Harbor are in place and operating.

Stacy Masuda, acting division manager, and Nelson Kapono Alana, acting harbormaster, gave the Maui Weekly a tour of the new improvements. Both are longtime employees of the State of Hawai'i's Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR), which is part of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).

The division is responsible for operating Ma'alaea and some of the other small harbors and boat ramps in Maui County. DOBOR's jurisdiction includes harbor and state waters up to three miles from shore, with responsibility for permits, regulatory functions and moorings. They are not an enforcement agency.

Article Photos

This is a view of Mā‘alaea Harbor as seen from the second floor of the new ferry terminal building. The harbor recently completed a three-year, $15 million upgrade paid for with state and federal funds.
Photo: Susan Halas

According to the pair, there's a lot to like about the improvements, which include new public bathrooms; extensive new pumping facilities; a new, two-story ferry terminal with offices upstairs for harbor staff; and a wastewater treatment center on the ridge near Buzz's Wharf that treats water to a high level of purity. Extensive new fire protection, lighting, paving and walkways, as well as four new, small buildings for electrical equipment are all part of the recent improvements.

Among the most attractive features from a public point of view are brand new restrooms and plenty of them. The big, clean and well-maintained facilities near the Coast Guard Station are open to the public from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Additional public facilities will also be available on the ground floor of the completed--but not yet open--ferry terminal on the south pier.

Pumping Upgrades and Changes

With the conclusion of construction came a changeover in how boat waste is handled at the harbor. Until the end of April, the County of Maui reimbursed some pumping expenses for commercial users as part of the Pump Don't Dump program.

Going forward, two new pumping stations are now available. Use of pumps at the ends of the piers is limited to those with valid Hawai'i mooring permits. Most of those who qualify at Ma'alaea have already received keys or codes. Those with questions or visiting from other moorings are advised to call 243-5818 in advance during regular business hours (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; closed holidays and weekends). Masuda and Alana said the pumps at pier ends are locked due to security concerns and to ensure that no formaldehyde or petroleum-based products are mixed with the boat waste.

In addition, along the south pier, each slip has a gravity-flow receptacle. Two portable pumps that can be attached to those receptacles are kept in the DLNR office. They are available by appointment during regular hours of operation. The equipment is bulky and cumbersome, but, noted Alana, "It's an improvement; before we had no pumping of any kind." With the new gravity-flow receptacles in place, some of the commercial boats have already purchased their own portable pumps to hook up to them.

Those using the new pumping facilities--whether on the ends of the docks or individually located at each slip--are required to use EPA-approved biodegradable non-formaldehyde deodorizers and sanitizers in boat toilets. The rules say that boats shall not dispose of chemical cleaners, oils, fuel or other petroleum products in the marine pump-out facilities at Ma'alaea Harbor.

Masuda provided a list of three EPA-acceptable suppliers and their products (see "EPA-Approved Boat Toilet Chemicals" in the sidebar on below).

Ferry Terminal Building

Though construction is complete and almost all of the facilities are operational, there are still some loose ends. One unanswered question is whether Expeditions, the Maui to Lana'i ferry, will actually end up using the new terminal. The company previously used Ma'alaea Harbor, but during construction moved operations to Lahaina.

Masuda and Alana did not know the status of the terminal building or the company's current plans for the ground floor. They confirmed that with some modifications the DLNR offices will go upstairs in the building.

When asked for clarification, Bill Caldwell, Expeditions president, did not return calls from the Maui Weekly and later emailed that "the company has no comment on at this time."

The status of space below Buzz's is also uncertain. It is not known whether it will revert back to its prior occupant--the Ma'alaea Boat Club--once the DLNR new offices open.



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