Scratching Cayetano's 7-year itch

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (5/19/01)
By Ray Pendleton

If there is any truth in the old adage, "Patience is a virtue," Hawaii's recreational boaters must be considered particularly virtuous.

After all, it has been seven years since Governor Cayetano offered five steps to addressing boaters' concerns and expressed his desire to "create a world-class boating program within the Department of Land and Natural Resources."

First, he proposed to put major emphasis on more direct operational management and appropriate support for all state boating facilities.

Second, he promised to release priority maintenance funds to jump-start the maintenance needs of all boating facilities.

Third, he vowed to immediately begin to investigate how to more efficiently and appropriately use the lands and facilities within the DLNR's jurisdiction to bring in much needed revenues to make the program truly self-sufficient.

Fourth, he spoke of evaluating the placement of "some law enforcement authority with the state's harbor agents," and to assure appropriate security and response to the needs of boaters.

And fifth, he expressed the need for a comprehensive statewide boating program that would include clearly defined responsibilities and operational standards for all facilities and boaters.

I am sure anyone who has seen any part of our state's boating facilities, or has read the state auditor's dismal management evaluation of DLNR's Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, would tend to write it all off as nothing more than political rhetoric.

Still, there now seems to be a glimmer of hope that some of our state's recreational boaters - those in the Ala Wai and Keehi small boat harbors - may finally see the kind of "world-class" program the Governor proposed.

After recently signing the legislature's privatization bill into law, Governor Cayetano has now announced he hopes to revitalize the whole state small boat harbor system through the privatization of those two marinas.

In other words, the plan is now to offer a private marina management company, such as Westrec, the opportunity to redevelop and operate the two most preferred and potentially profitable marinas on O`ahu. In return, the state would receive revenues to finance the maintenance of its other small boat harbors.

For many boat owners in the Ala Wai and Keehi marinas, the change will be difficult because, as the old card shark says, "The guy with a full house doesn't want a new deal." Boat owners here have been paying the lowest mooring fees in the nation for years.

Under private management, slip fees will undoubtedly go up, but boat owners will get a functional marina and management in return. And don't forget, the DLNR's Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation has already proposed substantial fee increases.

I would surmise that a private management company would be loath to price itself out of the market, so any increases will have limits based on keeping the boat slips filled.

And just as Ko`Olina's new private marina provided Hawai`i with a new standard of excellence (at reasonable rates), I suspect the revitalization of the Ala Wai and Keehi marinas will ignite demands for similar marina improvements statewide.

Hope to see you there.

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