Boating fees to rise: Public hearings to be held in Kealakehe, Hilo

  • A boat floats at Honokohau Small Boat Harbor. (RONIT FAHL / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER)
  • Boats rest in their slips at the state-run Honokohau Harbor in 2016. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today file photo)

  • Boats are tied up to moorings at Keauhou Bay. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today file photo)
  • Fishing boats are docked at Honokohau Harbor. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today, file)

HILO — Big Island residents will have the opportunity next week to weigh in on double-digit increases in fees at small boat harbors and other facilities.

The amendments to fees and rules are an effort to align small boat harbor and boating facility fees with current market rates. Proposed fee hikes include those for moorings, utilities, facility-usage, storage, ramp and commercial permit fees. More than 10,000 boaters were informed of the proposed increases and were asked for comments and feedback, the Department of Land and Natural Resources said in a press release.

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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, DLNR said. Notices were sent to more than 10,000 affected boaters for informal comments and feedback, the agency said.

At the public meetings people can present their views either orally or in writing. Big Island meetings:

• Kealakehe High School Cafeteria, Monday 6-8 p.m.

• Hilo State Office Building Conference Room, Thursday 5-7 p.m.

“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 DLNR press release stated.

Two local captains interviewed in December 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 from 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.

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.

The proposed rule amendments can be viewed online at http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dobor/draft-rules or view them in person from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at any DOBOR district office.

Harbor fee increases proposed

Mooring fee (per foot)

CURRENT, PROPOSED

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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Annual boat ramp decal $40.00 $75.00

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

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