New boat harbor fees proposed

  • Sunset glows at Honokohau Harbor. (Photo courtesy / Steve Catsoulis, special to West Hawaii Today file)

HILO — Local boat captains are keeping a weather eye on new rules that increase fees at the state’s small boat harbors.

The rules, proposed by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, raise mooring, utility, facility, storage, ramp and commercial permit fees. The Board of Land and Natural Resources gave the agency the go-ahead Friday to schedule public hearings, according to a DLNR press release.

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“The proposal is an effort by (the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation) to align small boat harbor and boating facility fees to reflect current market rates,” the press release stated.

It’s been almost 25 years since the state last increased fee amounts for utilities and facilities at state small boat harbors and almost seven years for mooring fees, according to the DLNR. Notices were sent to more than 10,000 affected boaters for informal comments and feedback, the agency said.

Two local captains had concerns not as much with the fees themselves, but changes in how the fees will be determined as well as other issues at boat harbors.

Capt. Bill Murtaugh, who runs charters out of Keauhou Bay Small Boat Harbor, said the new rules will charge fees based, not on the length of the boats as it’s currently calculated, but by the length of the mooring area itself. This is especially difficult for Murtaugh, who recently increased the length of his mooring for safety reasons as outlined in a recent Army Corps of Engineers revamping at Keauhou.

The proposed rules specify that fees “shall be per foot of vessel length overall or maximum length of berth or mooring, whichever is greater.”

With offshore mooring fees rising by half or even doubling, depending on the location, and in-harbor mooring costs also rising, it’s difficult to also stomach measurement changes that could double the length of the boat for fee purposes, he said.

“It’s like we took the Army Corps of Engineers’ advice and now we’re being penalized,” Murtaugh said. “It just doesn’t make sense. It’s not like they can put in additional moors there.”

Capt. Jeff Rogers, a charter captain based at Honokohau Harbor, said there should be improvements at the harbor, such as bringing back the coin-operated electrical boxes, before fees are raised. He said wealthier boat owners on the other side of the harbor paid to have their own electric poles installed and can run electricity right into their boats, while he has to lug a generator to the harbor to recharge his battery.

DLNR does have that project on its deferred maintenance list, saying that the upgrade and replacement of existing electrical lines, conduits, lighting, circuit breakers and new power usage monitoring system for all slips in the inner harbor would run an estimated $4.3 million.

Rogers would like to see improvements precede fee hikes.

“They want more money for doing what?” Rogers asked. “They have not done diddly-sh*t.”

The proposed rule changes can be found at http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dobor/draft-rules/ (scroll to the bottom of the page).

Harbor fee increases proposed

CURRENT PROPOSED

Mooring fee (per foot)

Honokohau

Catwalk $7.79 $10.00

Tahiti Moor* $4.17 $6.00

Kailua-Kona

Tahiti Moor $3.87 $6.00

Kawaihae, north

Tahiti Moor $3.58 $5.00

Kawaihae, south

Catwalk $5.09 $10.00

Tahiti Moor $1.75 $6.00

Wailoa

Catwalk $7.25 $9.00

Tahiti Moor $3.58 $5.00

Not listed

Catwalk $10.00

Tahiti Moor $6.00

Offshore moor/anchoring

On state buoy, anchor, cable $1.52-$2.56 $5.00

On permittee’s buoy or anchor $1.03-$2.04 $3.00

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*Tahiti moor is mooring the boat perpendicular to the dock, rather than parallel