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Bill To Expand City Lifeguard Coverage Headed For Public Hearing

D'Arcy Norman

A proposal to expand lifeguard hours at Oahu beaches remains alive despite concerns that arose at a City Council committee meeting Thursday.

Councilmember Kymberly Pine authored a bill to station lifeguards at all city beach parks from dawn to dusk.

Lifeguards generally work from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Jim Howe, city emergency services director, says his department supports the bill's intent but not necessarily the measure itself. 

The department is already piloting a program at Hanauma Bay where lifeguards are on duty from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. He says it's been successful despite the heavy demands there.

"Lifeguards will tell you pretty uniformly that the most challenging and difficult location to work on the island is Hanauma Bay," Howe said, adding the populat visitor spot draws primary visitors who want to snorkel in the bay. 

"Snorkeling is the leading cause of death for visitors in the state of Hawaii. And there are many, many, many people there. They're all kind of floating face down. They don't wave and yell when they get in trouble. And so our lifeguards have to be extremely vigilant to every person in the water." 

Public Safety Committee Chair Tommy Waters initially recommended the bill be shelved since officials hope to slowly expand lifeguard hours at all city beaches. 

But he and the committee agreed to schedule the proposal for a public hearing while members continue to discuss potential costs and a plan for more lifeguard coverage. 

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