Let Molokai Ranch handle Hale O Lono

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (5/02/98)
By Ray Pendleton

Do you know where Hale O Lono is?

If you answered yes, you are probably a canoe paddler, a kayak paddler, a fisherman, or a sailer and have found refuge in that small, man-made harbor on the southwest corner of the island of Moloka`i.

Of course, Department of Land and Natural Resources and Molokai Ranch personnel know about Hale O Lono because the ranch, along with the Honolulu Construction and Dredging Company, have been leasing the property from the state for the past four decades.

As I learned from information provided to me by the Hawaii Boaters Political Action Association's Bill Mossman (the full text appears in this month's Hawaii Fishing News), the ranch and HC&D had originally built the harbor for shipping, primarily sand and rock from Moloka`i to O`ahu.

The original lease agreement with the Territory of Hawai`i, dated April 10, 1958, licensed them to construct and then maintain the harbor, breakwater, range lights, navigational aids, frontage site, wharf, and stockpiling area for a period of 40 years. They were also to provide access to the general public.

The state was to maintain control and supervision of the harbor and make all operational rules and regulations, and at the end of the lease, the property and all improvements would revert back to the state.

Last week, Hale O Lono was the subject of a senate hearing co-chaired by senators Randy Iwase and Malama Solomon. Under review was House Concurrent Resolution 103, which would "authorize the lease of both fast and submerged lands (there) for redevelopment, management and operation by a qualified private entity for recreational purposes."

As the Molokai Ranch is apparently the only "qualified private entity" interested in the harbor, Sen. Solomon directed her questioning to DLNR Chairman Mike Wilson, whose department has and will have the responsibility for looking out for the state's and the public's interest in such a lease.

After hearing testimony describing the harbor as needing repair and becoming a health hazard, she wanted to know why the DLNR had accepted the return of Hale O Lono from the ranch this year without ascertaining that it was in good condition, as stated in the conditions of lease imposed on the ranch 40 years ago.

Wilson indicated that he was not sure, and that unfortunately there was no one in attendance from the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation to help, but he would have an answer for her by the following day. Apparently he hadn't noticed Dave Parsons, DBOR's recent administrator, sitting quietly back in the third row.

Perhaps because of the strong wording added by the House Committee on Ocean Recreation and Marine Resources directing the DLNR to ensure that the terms and conditions of the previous lease were met - along with provisions for the new lease - the Joint Senate Committees voted to pass the resolution.

With a party of the original lease now the intended new tenant, it would seem logical to give the go-ahead for a new agreement, provided that the DLNR takes the necessary steps to protect the public's interest and access.

Given the state's current dismal economic picture, almost any private sector project that would promise to improve even one small portion of our maritime infrastructure would seem to be almost too much to hope for.

Quick - let the Molokai Ranch do it before it changes its mind.

Last week's Column -|- More Water Ways

Hele On