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Caldwell Signs Bills Extending Lifeguard Hours, Increasing Penalties for Trespassing

Ryan Finnerty
Mayor Kirk Caldwell

Hours of service for city lifeguards will be extended from sun up to sun down beginning on July 1, 2021 under a measure signed on Thursday by Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

The majority of lifeguard services on Oahu currently operate between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. but officials say nearly 20% of ocean emergencies happen outside of normal hours.

The City Council unanimously approved the measure earlier this month.

Over the next year, Jim Howe, director of the Honolulu Emergency Services Department, the city Ocean Safety Division and city life guards will work on a plan and budget to extend the hours. The safety officials have until Jan. 1, 2021 to submit the program plan to the council.

The lifeguard services will be expanded incrementally around the island, based on the which beaches have the highest number of injuries and drownings.

Council member Kymberly Pine, who introduced the bill, said drowning is the top cause for visitor deaths and the fifth-leading cause for local residents.

“This measure will improve the quality of life for our lifeguards by giving them more flexible schedules and it will allow them to save more lives on our beaches,” she said.

Higher Watershed Tresspassing Fines

Caldwell also signed a measure increasing fines for people who trespass on watershed areas.

The fine for hiking through off-limit areas has been between $10 and $600, with the possibility of six months in prison. The measure increases the penalties to between $500 and $2,000 and maintians the possible prison time for violations.

The increases went into effect on Thursday after the mayor signed Bill 45.

At a September council committee meeting, the Hawaii Board of Water Supply supported the higher penalties to discourage trespassers from trespassing through the watersheds.

Some of the watershed areas popular with hikers but that are off-limits include Waihe’e waterfall, Hamama waterfall and Haiku Stairs. The board had hired special duty officers and security guards to keep hikers off Haiku Stairs, but trespassers continued to climb the steps.

"The Board of Water Supply appreciates the changes in the ordinance that recognizes the importance of Oahu’s watershed lands, as they are the source of our island’s precious drinking water supply," said in a board statement after the mayor's action. "[It] affirms that our watersheds need to be cared for, managed, and protected to remain healthy for future generations.”

The council approved the measure in early November, with seven members voting in favor and two absent.

Councilmember Heidi Tsuneyoshi, who introduced the measure, said the bill is "one step toward ensuring one of our most precious resources continues to be preserved." 

Ashley Mizuo
Born and raised on O’ahu, she’s a graduate of ‘Iolani School and has a BA in Journalism and Political Science from Loyola University Chicago and an MA in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.
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