Shoreline activities will remain prohibited due to safety concerns over the ocean water.

Lahaina’s popular Mala Wharf is scheduled to open up on Saturday morning for the first time since the Aug. 8 fire that destroyed much of the town and killed at least 98 people.

As of 6 a.m., recreational boaters will be allowed to use the wharf to access vessels moored offshore, according to the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

At the same time, a safety zone established by the U.S. Coast Guard that limits ocean entry and a Maui County restriction on land access in and around Mala Wharf will be lifted.

“Access to the ocean at Mala Wharf is an important step forward in our recovery efforts and will also give families more opportunity to reconnect with Molokai and Lanai ohana by traveling across the channels in their vessels,” Maui Mayor Rick Bissen said in a DLNR news release.

Commercial vessel operations are scheduled to resume on Monday.

Mala Wharf boats reopening preparations West Maui
The ramp and facilities at Mall Wharf will reopen full-time for recreational vessel activity on Saturday. People will be able to use the facility to access vessels moored offshore, according to the Department of Land and Natural Resources. (DLNR/2023)

Only those with existing commercial permits will be allowed access to Mala wharf’s ramp. Commercial operators can only use the facility Monday through Friday.

Weekends and holidays are reserved for recreational activities.

Commercial operators must shuttle their passengers to the ramp to reduce traffic in the surrounding area and minimize tourists attempting to travel through the burn zone. That’s the worst-hit part of Lahaina that was reduced to piles of ash and other debris in the fire.

Commercial shoreline activities, like snorkeling or diving, are still not allowed because of concerns about toxic ash entering nearshore waters.

Signs are posted warning of potential human health risks from exposure to contaminated ocean water.

Water testing results are still not in so it’s unknown whether fish caught in waters off Lahaina are safe to eat, according to the news release.

A trailer donated by Maui County will serve as temporary office space for state harbor agents stationed at Mala Wharf. A janitorial service cleaned the restrooms, which have non-potable water.

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by grants from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation.

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