DBOR's proposed rate increase unexpectedly high

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (4/21/01)
By Ray Pendleton

The often noted "price of paradise" appears to be going up for boaters.

As I reported just a little over a month ago, boat owners have been waiting anxiously for the Boating and Ocean Recreation division of Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources to calculate how much it will raise the mooring fees in its 21 "small boat harbors."

Naturally, any fee increase will have a profound effect on boaters statewide because, unlike other states, DBOR holds a near monopoly on recreational boat mooring facilities. And according to DBOR, the fees it currently charges aren't enough to pay for their proper maintenance and operation.

The suspense was over last week when DBOR's proposed revisions to the related sections of the Hawaii Administrative Rules were posted on its Web site.

As expected, a rate hike has been proposed, but I doubt many expected it to be quite so high.

At the Ala Wai marina in Waikiki, where boat slips have been renting for an incredibly low $4.10 per linear foot a month, the new rate will begin at $11.70 and then rise to $13.55 in three years.

The boat owners in less favorably located harbors, or those with fewer amenities, such as Keehi, Maalaea or Nawiliwili, will only see their rates go from the present $3.50 per foot a month, to $4.75 and then to $5.50 in three years.

Interestingly, Lahaina's harbor tenants will have a rate hike between those two, going from today's $3.50 a foot, to $7, and then to $8.10.

At all other harbors, including Waianae and Haleiwa, the rates will go from their present $2.80 a foot, to $3.80 and then up to $4.40 in three years.

Because I have always believed the state wasn't charging anything near the fair market value for its marina slips, I can't argue with the present proposal in general.

But I do think the initial rate jump for the Ala Wai - nearly three times the present $4.10 a foot - is a bit drastic. Agreed, it is the most sought-after marina on O`ahu, but even the private sector would have problems justifying such an increase without some serious improvements to its infrastructure beforehand.

If DBOR initially just doubled the rates - and even that would chase some boaters out - it would seem that increase would begin to create enough revenue for making improvements to the marina's facilities. Then, over several years, it could ramp up the fees commensurate with their condition.

Why DBOR made its new mooring rates a flat fee per foot for all boats is another question. By doing so, it makes a small-boat owner pay more per square foot of space in the marina than a large-boat owner.

For instance, at the $11.70 rate, the owner of a boat that is 20 feet long and seven feet wide, will pay $234 a month, or $1.67 for each square foot it occupies in the marina. The owner of a vessel 60 feet long and 17 feet wide, will pay $702 a month, or $.69 per square foot, less than half of the smaller boat's charge.

Before the required public hearings are held, DBOR's proposal must be approved by the state Attorney General's office and then by Governor Cayetano. I guess we'll soon see how the governor really feels about recreational boaters.

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