HONOLULU — State and federal responders with the U.S. Coast Guard Western Maui Wildfire Emergency Support Function #10 (ESF #10) Unified Command, comprised of the U.S. Coast Guard, Hawaii Department of Health (DOH), and the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR-DOBOR), began the removal operations portion of the response in accordance with the Phase 2 outline. All operations continue to support the mission to restore Lahaina Harbor and surrounding waterways following the August 8th wildfire.
The Unified Command and the primary contractor, Global Diving & Salvage, have begun vessel recovery and removal operations in the vicinity of Lahaina Harbor. The response teams have carefully planned this operation, and a mission priority is preservation of the marine ecosystem. The teams also have cultural and archaeological monitors advising on the recovery of vessels and debris in this historic area.
To date, over 2,350 gallons of petroleum products, 200 pounds of hazardous materials to include multiple batteries, and eight vessels have been removed from the harbor. The Coast Guard met virtually with vessel stakeholders on September 28th to provide an update on operations, answer questions, and explain the extent of work completed.
The recovered vessels have been relocated to a nearby parking lot, designated as a temporary staging area. Vessel stakeholders will be notified when their vessel has been recovered. The State of Hawaii DLNR-DOBOR is the primary stakeholder contact for vessel adjudication, and the ESF #10 Unified Command is working with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for final disposition of the vessels.
The general order for vessel pollution mitigation and removal operations continues to be executed in a phased approach as described below. Due to the uncertain nature of removal operations, some phases may occur simultaneously. Specific timelines cannot be generated at this time due to the dynamic nature of the response.
Phase 0 - Pre-Operations: This initial phase of operations has consisted of the search for sunken, derelict, or displaced vessels, along with associated marine debris. The Unified Command has been working to identify and contact vessel owners to gather information about each vessel.
Phase 1 - Hazard Mitigation and Consultation: This phase includes equipment staging, area assessments for safety and pollution concerns, and consultation with local, state, and federal partners to create and formalize operational plans for the next phase. Cultural and archeological monitors will be in place to ensure operations are conducted respectfully. Monitors will continue to advise on cultural and archeological areas throughout all phases of the operation.
Phase 2 - Removal Operations: This is the physical recovery phase. Operations will include pollution mitigation and recovery, and removal of vessels and debris from the water to pre-designated staging areas. The Unified Command will closely coordinate with local authorities to facilitate access to impacted vessels for owners, operators, assessors, and other stakeholders.
Phase 3 - Closeout: The final phase of vessel pollution mitigation and removal operations. The Unified Command, with the concurrence of local, state, and federal partners, will determine that the mission assignment has been completed.
The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1988 authorized and funded this Mission Assignment for the U.S. Coast Guard that was agreed upon by the State and FEMA and delineates the work for vessel and debris removal operations.
For media inquiries related to the Western Maui Wildfire ESF #10 response, please contact the ESF #10 Public Information Officer at (505) 433-8759, or email WMWF-PIO@uscg.mil.
The Unified Command has created a Harbor Coordination Group to communicate with owners and operators of impacted vessels. Vessel owners and operators can contact the Harbor Coordination Group at D14-DG-SH-SecHono-MTSRU@uscg.mil.