Boaters want better: Public hearing brings out testifiers wanting improvements if fees are going up

  • Wailoa harbor is seen Friday. (HOLLYN JOHNSON/Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

HILO — Boat captains were united in their comments at a Thursday evening public hearing on a state proposal to raise docking and mooring fees — What are we paying for already?

A group of about 20 people applauded and nodded their heads as speaker after speaker went to the microphone to describe deteriorating ramps and docks, vandalism, drug use and theft and a lack of amenities such as electricity and water. They’ve been paying dock fees for decades, several said, and they’ve seen little to no upkeep.

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“We already pay far more than the services we receive,” said Debbie Weeks, who keeps a sailboat at Wailoa harbor. “If we need to raise fees because of the costs, then what are the costs and should we be considering new management?”

Testifiers said boat owners at Big Island harbors have paid substantially out of their own pockets for such amenities as establishing electric hookups and making moorings compliant with Army Corps of Engineers regulations.

“It is what it is. Nobody shows up and you have to take care of it for yourself,” said Robert Duerr, who’s kept a boat at Wailoa harbor since 1986. “When it goes up, are we going to get anything? Probably not.”

It’s been almost 25 years since the state last increased fees for utilities and facilities at state small boat harbors and almost seven years for mooring fees. The proposal is an effort by the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation to align small boat harbor and boating facility fees to reflect current market rates.

But market rate fees should translate into market rate amenities, several testifiers said. Some asked that fees be raised incrementally, rather than making up for years in a single year.

“I’ve seen the slow degradation of every harbor in the state because of the deferred maintenance,” said Rick Cowan, who’s kept a boat in the state for 28 years. “I do think we should see far better facilities if we’re going to pay the same as on the mainland with far better facilities.”

Local officers for DOBOR were on hand at the meeting, but as is common at a public hearing, simply listened to the comments but didn’t address concerns or answer questions.

The public has until March 15 to submit comment. Comments can be submitted by email to dlnr.harreview@hawaii.gov. Please include “Title 13, Section # (i.e. 13-230), HAR” in the subject line, by fax to (808) 587-1977, Attn: Title 13, Section # (such as 13-234), HAR or by mail to the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, 4 Sand Island Access Road, Honolulu, Hawaii 96819. Attn: Title 13, Section # (i.e. 13-256), HAR.

Proposed rule amendments are at http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dobor/draft-rules. They can also be viewed 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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