San Diego sets the standard for fair fees

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (8/11/01)
By Ray Pendleton

A recent e-mail message from a boater's organization called BoatsHawaii brought it to my attention.

"Did all of you trailerable boaters realize that the proposed fee for ramp permits for next year (will be) $120?" it asked. "That's a far cry from the $25 we have been paying."

Because the majority of boaters in Hawai`i own trailered boats, it was a good question.

For a number of years, the state has charged boaters an annual fee of $25 for stickers they attached to their boat trailers. The stickers permitted them to use any of the state's 54 launching ramps, washdown facilities and parking areas each calendar year.

Now, along with its new, higher fees for boat moorings, the Department of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DBOR) has proposed a monthly fee of $10 - or $120 per year - for its launching ramp permits. It contends the increase is necessary to defray the maintenance and fresh water washdown costs at those facilities.

The next question before us then is whether DBOR is out of line in hitting up Hawaii's boaters with a nearly-400 percent increase, or can this rate hike be somehow justified?

To lend perspective to the question, I called a number of boat launching ramp operations in California to get some idea of their rates.

Unlike Hawai`i, California's boat ramps are not operated by the state, but instead are managed by counties, cities, port districts and numerous private companies. And because of this, there is no consistent fee charged.

Both the city and port authority of San Diego came in with the lowest fees in my survey - nothing. Astonishingly, all nine of their combined ramp facilities offered boaters free access and parking, and all but one were open for use 24 hours a day.

Four geographically separated launching ramps came in second lowest with charges of $5 per day:

Santa Barbara, which has a coin-operated washdown and advises boaters to bring their own hoses.

Channel Islands Harbor, near Ventura, which hikes the rate to $12 if a vehicle or boat is occupied overnight.

Marina del Rey, which also has a coin-operated washdown and is open 24 hours.
Oceanside Harbor, which charges an additional $5 for overnight parking.

From there, the fees began to rise. Long Beach's Alamitos Bay charges $6 a day, Huntington Harbor, in Orange County, charges $7 with parking in metered stalls, and San Pedro's Cabrillo Beach gets $8 to use its ramp.

The highest rates, by far, were those given to me by the Newport Dunes Resort Marina in upscale Newport Beach. Reflecting, perhaps, the affluency of the neighborhood, its daily fee was a whopping $15 per day and it went up to $20 on weekends.

You will notice that none of the fees charged were yearly, so a true comparison with Hawai`i is difficult.

But, it's pretty easy to see that at even the $5 per day rate, just two days a month on the water would cost $120 in ramp charges.

Of course, you could always move to San Diego.

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