Residents and lawmakers are outraged by the failure to make even a temporary fix.

State efforts to restore fresh water for drinking fountains, restrooms and showers at one of the Big Island’s most popular beaches are facing more delays, causing significant consternation among local residents, visitors and state lawmakers.

Big Island

The Department of Land and Natural Resources had targeted a short-term solution for Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area by Monday, but that didn’t happen. Now, due to design changes among other issues, the work is not expected to start until the end of September.

“To say I’m furious would be grossly understating my feelings,” said Sen. Tim Richards, who represents Hawaii island’s north shore.  

Located on the sun-baked Kohala Coast, Hapuna Beach is consistently ranked as one of Hawaii’s top beaches because of its sugary white sand and clear, turquoise water.

Fresh water at Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area has been unavailable since October. (Courtesy: Lynn Beittel/2023)

Despite its popularity among tourists and locals, the water system has been dry since October and has had problems for years. It has leaked on and off since 2018 and at least 41 attempts have been made to fix it, according to DLNR.

The plan was to run temporary, above-ground water lines to the showers and bathrooms at Hapuna while an engineering study was carried out for a permanent solution.

That work was supposed to be finished by the end of July, but the design elements underwent a “major change” after the topography was inspected, according to an update State Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell provided Rep. David Tarnas, who represents North and South Kohala.

Cottrell told the lawmaker in an email that people who planned to bid on the work asked for an extension, which he granted. The new deadline for bids was Friday. Agency staff will review them and award a contract by Aug. 14. The work is now expected to begin Sept. 25.

Because the fresh water system has been broken for months at Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area, visitors must use portable restrooms. (Courtesy: Lynn Beittel/2023)

“I expect additional delays due to the acquisition and shipping of the pipe materials to the site,” Cottrell wrote.

Cottrell could not be reached for comment. David Arnado, state parks district superintendent for Hawaii island, said he could not speak to a reporter without permission from DLNR’s communications office.

DLNR’s communications office provided a lengthy email with a bullet-pointed timeline outlining the delay. It referenced additional permitting consultations with the State Historic Preservation Division and the Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands, as well as shifts in the type of contracts to be awarded.

The agency has $3.7 million in capital improvement funds to redo Hapuna’s water system.

Cottrell assured Richards in February and as recently as May that the water would be turned on by July, the senator said.

“They broke their word,” Richards said Thursday, summing up the problem to bureaucracy.

Tarnas said the community is very frustrated by the additional delays.

“We have several more months to deal with unacceptable conditions at Hapuna,” he said by email.

Tarnas vowed to continue pressing state officials to expedite the project or, at minimum, reduce any further delays in its completion.

Volleyball is among the popular activities at Hapuna Beach. (Courtesy: Lynn Beittel/2022)

Regular users of Hapuna Beach are scratching their heads, wondering why the repairs have taken so long.

“It’s pretty outrageous,” said Lynn Beittel, a Waimea resident who uses Hapuna on a weekly basis. “It makes DLNR look totally inept.”

Beittel said she knows several farmers and ranchers who regularly run irrigation lines to their crops and livestock who find the Hapuna Beach situation confounding.

Richards, a large animal veterinarian and cattle rancher, agreed that running “500 feet of pipe,” in his words, shouldn’t be that hard.

Keven Rinkenbach, a Kapaa resident, said he’s worked as a general contractor for four decades and plays volleyball at Hapuna Beach every Saturday.

“To not have the water fixed by now, it’s just unconscionable,” he said.

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