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Despite failed settlement, activists still challenge scuba diving at Mala Wharf

<i></i><br/>A group of beachgoers filed a lawsuit over an increase of tourist
Lawrence, Nakia

A group of beachgoers filed a lawsuit over an increase of tourist

By ‘A’ali’i Dukelow

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    LAHAINA, Hawaii (KITV) — Conflict is escalating over a West Maui boat ramp some argue is being overrun with tourists.

A group of frustrated beachgoers filed a lawsuit over the matter a little over a year ago, but since that failed, they said they would try again. The debate stems from years of complaints that scuba divers in the area are harming marine life at Lahaina’s Mala Wharf.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) reported a biologist determined the area the divers are walking on is just rubble and hard bottom, and there is no evidence any coral was damaged there.

But in addition to citing environmental worries, those opposed to scuba diving companies operating out of the wharf claim the groups take up parking and space in the water — preventing people from fishing.

There have also been complaints about unpermitted tours.

“You have these people that move here. They start their businesses. They name these companies. They give it a Hawaiian name. Then they use our resources and exploit it for profit,” Lahaina native Tiare Lawrence said. “It’s basically modern day colonization and it’s very frustrating for us.”

Area Sen. Angus McKelvey pointed out the longtime diving companies follow the rules and respect other beachgoers.

“They tend to have good relations with the community insofar as the recreational boating community goes,” McKelvey added.

To help alleviate tension at the wharf, McKelvey secured nearly $4 million this legislative session to repave the parking lot and complete other repairs.

McKelvey and DLNR leadership are scheduled to tour the wharf and gather feedback from its users later in May.

“Taking an active role in listening to both sides of the debate of the use of conflict issues in Mala ramp will go a long way,” McKelvey said.

Lawrence agreed, adding, “we just want our voices to be heard, we want to be a part of the solution.”

In the past, DLNR has considered an overflow parking lot to ease crowding at the wharf.

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