Honolulu Star Bulletin 10/12/02)
By Ray Pendleton
I DOUBT you could find a boat owner in our state who could honestly say Hawaii's current mooring fees -- ranging from $2.80 to $4.10 a linear foot per month -- aren't a real bargain.
But you certainly don't have to look very far to find those who think the state's proposed fee increases are somewhat out of line.
Part of the problem seems to be that the state has apparently decided to suddenly make up for lost time. It hasn't adjusted its rates since 1995, so it's now proposing increases varying from a low of 35 percent in most harbors to a high of 185 percent in the Ala Wai marina.
And that's just for starters. By 2009, it intends to charge $15.70 per foot for slips in the Ala Wai, more than $9 in Lahaina and between $5 and $6.50 elsewhere.
Another part of the problem is that the state, by historically not charging enough to maintain and/or replace its aging docks, is now asking boaters to pay mainland rates for largely run-down Third World facilities -- with only a promise of better docks to come.
With the state's track record in marina management, is there any wonder why such a promise is looked on with a jaundice eye by boaters? In the private sector, fee increases usually come after improvements are made.
Perhaps the one bright spot in the state's proposed slip fee increases is for those owners who are presently mooring their boats in the nearly 180 slips that were recently replaced in the Ala Wai marina.
They are still paying the old rate, so if and when the rates go up, they, at least, will be getting something close to their money's worth.
As a comparison, and with thanks to this year's annual survey in Sea Magazine, we know what boaters in Southern California are paying.
For example, $6-to-$8.50 seems to be the going rate in the various marinas from Santa Barbara south to Oxnard in Ventura County.
NOT SURPRISINGLY, as one moves into the more populated Los Angeles and Orange counties, the slip fees begin to rise in response to supply and demand.
Monthly fees starting at $9 per foot and topping off at $19.50 at the private 500-slip Marina Harbor in Marina del Rey are pretty standard.
And Marina Harbor is just one of 16 marinas offering a total of some 4,400 moorings -- all privately operated -- in Marina del Rey's county-constructed harbor.
Further south, in the Los Angeles/Long Beach harbor area, the supply and demand effect remains, but other factors such as proximity to industrial areas or, in the case of Long Beach, income from offshore oil revenues tend to lower the average rates.
Still, for more than 7,500 boat owners in that area, fees range from $5-to-$9.50 per foot a month.
Understandably, the highest fees can be found in swank Newport Beach for an estimated 9,500 boat owners, where the mostly private marinas have rates that start at near $12 and then rocket up to more than $29 a foot per month.
What do you suppose those boaters would make of Hawaii's proposed fee increase controversy?
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