Ala Wai too crowded for commercial use as well

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (03/25/00)
By Ray Pendleton

Are you one of those who rallied against the plan to allow commercial boating activities in the Ala Wai marina?

Believe it or not, so was I. And I hope that doesn't surprise you.

After receiving several e-mail messages taking me to task for what some readers viewed as my endorsement of this issue in last week's column, I apparently must make some clarifications.

As I reported last week, the state Board of Land and Natural Resources-supported bills (SB 2920/HB 2579) that would have authorized it to lease the Ala Wai and Keehi small boat harbors to private firms for their "redevelopment, management and operation" died in committee.

Personally, I believe such privatization, of the Ala Wai marina at least, is a good idea whose time will eventually come. But, that is not the issue here.

There was another bill (HB 2571, House Draft 1) that had been making the rounds through various legislative committee hearings which, fortunately, also met its demise (or, at least, was deferred until next year).

That bill, if passed, would have allowed the DLNR to lease adjoining harbor properties for non-maritime-related uses (restaurants perhaps?), and much worse, it would have allowed "limited commercial vessel activities within the Ala Wai and Keehi small boat harbors."

The revenues derived from these leases and activities would have gone directly to the Boating Special Fund.

Because I have had many conversations with scores of marina operators, I can readily understand why the DLNR would want to lease property to non-maritime businesses along some of its waterfronts.

To succeed financially and not over charge their tenants, marinas need more than just the income from mooring fees.

Had this bill only dealt with such business leases, I doubt there would have been any opposition.

But, to anyone who has spent time on or near the Ala Wai, just the thought of allowing commercial boating activities - i.e., sportfishing, dive boats, party boats, submarine tour ferries, or any other ferry service - there, is immediately dismissed as unworkable.

The marina, at the makai end of the Ala Wai canal, is more than just a place to moor about 1,000 pleasure boats.

Two of Hawaii's most active yacht clubs have facilities within the harbor and have provided public sailing instruction for children and adults along the main channel for years.

So far, recreational boaters have been able to avoid these inexperienced sailors, but can we be sure a ferry running on a tight schedule will always be able to do the same?

With the same reasoning, safety for the growing number of canoe paddlers and surfers passing in, out and across the narrow harbor entrance must be considered.

They are all low on the water and not easy to see in full daylight, much less before sunrise and after sunset.

To those who propose such commercial use for the Ala Wai, I would only ask that you visit the marina on any Friday evening around 5:30.

From the Ala Moana Bridge to the harbor entrance you will see dozens of sailboats preparing to race out the channel, while further dozens of canoes weave around and through the fleet.

Add to this picture several cocktail cruise boats and a ferry or two?

I think not.

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