Lanai's billionaire owner Larry Ellison wants to build a temporary "winter base" for his yacht sailing team at the island's Kaumalapau Harbor, according to environmental documents recently filed with the state.
Ellison's Oracle Team USA wants to use the site between December and March to "conduct research and development on a high-performance sailboat for competitive sailing events," according to a draft environmental assessment for the project. The vessel is described as a 72-foot catamaran-class sailboat with a 131-foot-high sail.
Ellison - ranked by Forbes as the third-richest American - founded the sailing team that carries his software company's name in 2000. The team swept top honors at this year's America's Cup World Series races in San Francisco, which is hosting the 2013 finals. Ellison's team in 2010 won the one-on-one America's Cup main event.
BMW Oracle Racing owner Larry Ellison raises the America’s Cup trophy after winning the 33rd edition of the sailing classic against Alinghi on Feb. 14, 2010, in Valencia, Spain. Ellison wants to build a temporary “winter base” for his yacht sailing team at Lanai’s Kaumalapau Harbor, according to environmental documents filed with the state.
The draft environmental review says winter conditions at the team's home port in San Francisco "are not optimal for research and training activities." Other sites in New Zealand and Australia, as well as Lanai's Manele Small Boat Harbor, were considered.
The team expects to spend about $345,000 to put up temporary facilities at the state-owned Kaumalapau Harbor, Lanai's only commercial harbor located on the southwest coast of the island Ellison bought most of in June from David Murdock.
The temporary facilities would be built for use by about 50 people. The project calls for installing:
* A 200-foot-long floating dock to be moored to the existing dock to facilitate crew access to the support boats and sailboat.
* Eleven 40-foot sea freight containers for tools, materials and equipment.
* Three portable office trailers in the upper parking area. Two pipe awning tents - each 30 feet by 30 feet - erected adjacent to the office trailers to provide shaded areas.
* Four workshop containers forming a U-shape for minor maintenance, repair and parts fabrication.
* A free-standing tent - measuring 60 feet wide, 150 feet long and 38 feet tall - on the wharf to house the sailboat's wing sail for maintenance and repair work or in the event of a storm.
* Three temporary moorings to be placed in the harbor, each comprised of one to three weighted anchors placed on the seafloor.
"Following completion of the (Oracle Team USA) training and testing program, all components and equipment used for the temporary base of operations, including the temporary moorings, will be demobilized and removed from Kaumalapau Harbor and the harbor facilities will be cleaned and restored to pre-existing conditions," the study, completed by R.M. Towill Corp. of Honolulu, said.
Public comments on the proposed project will be accepted until Oct. 23.
Because the harbor is used for deliveries and shipments by Young Brothers, Ellison's crew proposes relocating the sailboat and up to four support boats every Tuesday night to allow the shipping company to conduct business as scheduled on Wednesdays.
The team appears to want to make the most of its time, noting that crews will conduct activities at the harbor six days a week, including four sailing days. On the Wednesdays that Young Brothers uses the harbor, the team "will take the day off for rest."
The environmental assessment notes no anticipated adverse impacts for nearly all of the review categories, including impacts to air and water quality, flora and fauna resources, traditional sites and marine biological resources.
A survey of seafloor conditions in the harbor basin was conducted earlier this month to assess marine resources at the proposed sites for the temporary mooring anchors and found: "No adverse effects to corals are anticipated to result from the placement of the temporary mooring anchors. Based on the results of the marine resources survey, bottom conditions at the five alternative mooring locations are characterized as sand, silt and loose rubble."
The environmental assessment says the team's sailing trials aren't expected to affect marine life in the area, but notes that the site is located within the Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Sea trials and testing will be held Feb. 1 to March 15.
The team lists several precautionary measures to ensure protection of the whales, including:
* The vessels will use an operating area located about 30 miles southwest of Lanai, outside of the whale sanctuary boundary, for sailboat training and testing activities.
* The vessels will position personnel trained to visually detect the presence of humpback whales on support boats. Whale sightings will be communicated to mariners on all vessels who will be directed to avoid any physical contact or disturbance to the whales.
* When sailing, the fleet will be accompanied by a fixed-wing airplane to watch for whales. The airplane will have direct communication with the sailboat skipper and support boats to alert them to the presence of whales.
The study says the team will be charged harbor use fees, but a state Department of Transportation spokeswoman said those charges have not yet been set.
"We haven't determined a fee yet; it's sort of something new," said Caroline Sluyter of the Transportation Department. She said the number of boats and how much land space the group uses will factor into the costs.
"Though relatively minor in scope and duration, the proposed project is expected to enhance the future long-term economic and social welfare of the Lanai community and state of Hawaii through harbor use fees collected," the environmental study said. "Compensation for the use of the harbor will indirectly benefit the community and region by helping to maintain basic public infrastructure necessary to trade and commerce for the island of Lanai."
The environmental assessment may be viewed online at oeqc.doh.hawaii.gov.
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.