Honolulu Star Bulletin (4/28/01)
By Ray Pendleton
I can't help feeling a little sorry for the folks running the Boating and Ocean Recreation division of Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources.
First, they recently managed to alienate most of their boat mooring tenants with a proposal of rent increases around the state. And now, state auditor Marion Higa's office has issued yet another gloomy assessment of DBOR's management of its boating facilities.
As I reported in last week's Water Ways, DBOR has proposed fee increases over the next three years for its 21 "small boat harbors."
These increases are needed, DBOR administrators said, because the present fees are not sufficient to pay for marina maintenance and operations.
"Hogwash," retorted one Water Ways reader and concerned boater. "User fees (should be) paid first to maintain the (boaters home-port) facility, then use the excess moneys to develop or support the other ports."
"DBOR worked back to front." she said. "(It) expanded the harbor system first, then thought about maintaining it."
Her point was that the Ala Wai harbor could possibly be self-sufficient were it not for the fact that a portion of its collected revenue is syphoned off to help defray the costs of less profitable marinas in places like Kaunakakai.
I'm sure DBOR would respond to that by pointing out it is trying its best to maintain the statewide recreational boating facilities it inherited from the Department of Transportation a decade ago. And with just the revenues generated from user fees in the Boating Special Fund to do it with.
The audit of DBOR's management of state boating facilities also points to the lack of revenues and maintenance. And, it says, little has changed since its audits in 1993 and 1998.
"The boating program's mismanagement and neglect have deteriorated facilities to the point where their continued use threatens public safety," it reports. "For example, 64 of 338 boating slips at the Keehi boating facility are closed for safety and liability reasons."
The auditors estimate this closure results in a loss of revenues of nearly $100,000 a year.
DBOR has responded that when it raised fees in March, 1994, it believed it would cover at least the debt service costs for needed slip repairs. But, among other things, after paying out 20 percent of its revenues to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) for "ceded lands" use, the increase was insufficient.
DBOR also notes that it has repeatedly attempted to get legislative approval of what it believes are more cost effective methods of management, such as marina privatization. But, to date, all such attempts have been rejected.
The auditors are additionally critical of the 750 parking spaces at the Ala Wai Harbor that are free to the general public. Most of those using them were not accessing boats, they say. Rather, they were carrying construction tools or were dressed in hotel uniforms.
Again, DBOR feels it is between a rock and a hard spot. When it attempted to contract for parking control services there, legislature bent to public pressure and passed a resolution requesting that parking be kept free for surfers and beach-goers.
Could all of this begin to explain why DBOR hasn't had a permanent administrator in years?
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