Senate bill better alternative

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin 02/23/02)
By Ray Pendleton

In last week's Water Ways I addressed several negative aspects of House Bill 2540 that is under consideration in the state legislature this year.

In a nutshell, it is a measure that attempts to create a new revenue source for the Boating and Ocean Recreation Division of the Department of Land and Natural Resources by allowing a limited number of vessels to use the Ala Wai's small boat harbor for commercial purposes.

To nearly everyone presently using the Ala Wai marina, as well as the adjacent canal, the bill's passage would open the door to activities that would constantly threaten boating safety.

There is, however, another bill making its way through the legislature, Senate Bill 2377 , that would appear to have the potential to produce substantially more revenue than HB 2540 , and do it without the boating safety side effects.

SB 2377 proposes to transfer jurisdiction over Kewalo Basin from the Department of Transportation to DLNR, return the income from the Hilton Lagoon Pier to the Boating Special Fund and to repeal the diversion of federal fuel tax funds from the Division of Conservation and Resource Management back to the Boating Special Fund.

Clearly, this bill produces no new revenue, but simply takes operations and/or funding from one division and gives it to another. So, it would seem, that will be the point on which it will either succeed or fail.

It could be easily argued that when DLNR took over the administration of the state's recreational boating facilities from DOT a decade ago, Kewalo Basin should have been a part of the package.

As the predominate boating activities operating from there are sportfishing charters, whale-watch tours and dinner cruises, they would seem to fall into the "ocean recreation" category quite nicely. And, unlike noncommercial recreational boating, these operations create a significant revenue source.

Likewise, the income generated from the Hilton Lagoon Pier is primarily from the Atlantis Submarine ferry operation. Once again, the department administering ocean recreation would appear to be the most logical one to receive those revenues.

REGARDING THE REPEAL of the present diversion of federal fuel tax funds -- up to $250,000 a year -- that has been going to a special fund for "the development, management and maintenance of trails and trail accesses," it's hard to believe it was ever made a part of our statutes to begin with.

What kind of thinking takes funds from the fuel taxes paid by boaters, and puts them to use building and repairing hiking trails?

Again, SB 2377 does not create any new revenue, it merely redistributes a part of the state's present income and, in the case of the Kewalo Basin, gives DLNR another marina to manage, albeit one with considerable income potential.

Will this bill become law? It certainly seems possible, but only if legislators understand the boating division's burning need for revenue to maintain its marinas in addition to its slip rental fees.

And, it would be my guess the bill's passage may also be determined by the amount of protest put up by those agencies that stand to loose revenue in such a redistribution.

Last week's Column ~|~ Water Ways Archives

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