DLNR needs to come up with a workable plan

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin 07/27/02)
By Ray Pendleton

As veteran Water Ways readers know, I have occasionally written critically about the management and maintenance of our state's Small Boat Harbors over the past decade.

For those of you who are new to Hawai`i, SBHs are what most mainland communities call recreational boating marinas.

In general, my criticism has stemmed from the fact that the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation of the state's Department of Land and Natural Resources has appeared to be either horribly underfunded or unable to do business in a cost effective manner, or both.

In the mid-1970s, the Boating Special Fund began to be financed from revenues generated by mooring fees, vessel registration, and marine fuel taxes that were paid by boaters.

The fund is used to cover marina maintenance, management costs and the debt service on the boating program's capital improvement bonds, unlike other public facilities that are funded with General Obligation bonds.

About 10 years ago, the state shifted the responsibility for its marinas from its Department of Transportation to the DLNR.

I'm not aware of what precipitated the change, but unquestionably, the outcome was that DOT — which oversees huge revenue-producers like Honolulu Harbor and Kewalo Basin — lost a liability of sorts, and DLNR — with its limited potential for income production — gained one.

And to compound the problem, mooring fees continued to be set at an absurdly low rate — even when there have been wait-lists of up to five years.

Nevertheless, with its largest share of moored boats in Hawai`i, Ala Wai harbor has been seen as the cash cow of the system.

Now some believe, by allowing a private company to operate it and other businesses along its shore, its income potential could be developed further.

But not everyone agrees and that accounts for the recent contentious dialog surrounding the submittal of the Ala Wai development plan by an ad hoc advisory committee to the Board of Land and Natural Resources.

Everyone, I think, believes the Ala Wai marina needs improvement, but instead of attacking the problem in a spirit of renewal, the general emotion most evident so far seems to be one of fear.

Those who surf the break at Kaiser's fear the loss of their free parking in the old heliport area.

Canoe paddlers who have established a nearby halau fear the loss of free parking, as well as their canoe access to the sea.

The management of the adjacent hotels, such as the Hilton, the Ilikai and the Hawaii Prince, fear any new construction around the marina that would block their view plains.

And, of course, the boat owners in the Ala Wai share multiple fears:

Fear of the higher mooring rates privatization may bring and fear of an unknown management system.

Fear of suddenly having marina conduct rules enforced, i.e., use your boat or loose your slip, and fear of losing their low-cost housing.

Hopefully, the DLNR will address these and whatever other fears exist as soon as possible and at the same time, present a plan for the future we can all understand and support.

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