State says it will listen to community on boating rules

HANALEI — Three Hanalei-based commercial boating companies that have been in

business for 20 years or more will lose their commercial use permits if new

rules proposed by the state Department of Land & Natural Resources are


Nearly 100 people turned out at Hanalei School cafeteria Thursday

night at an informational meeting to ask Carol Shé and Vaughan Tyndzik

of the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR) about the proposed

amendments to Hawai’i Administrative Rules.

The changes would do away with

commercial motorized and sail tour boating in Hanalei Bay.

A public

hearing on the issues is scheduled for Monday, June 26, at 3 p.m., again at

Hanalei School.

Attending the meeting was the same cast of characters who

have turned out at numerous Hanalei tour boat meetings over years past, minus

some of the major boating company operators who have successfully moved their

operations to the Port Allen and other southwest Kaua’i ports.


the state’s boating rules state that (1) “No commercial vessel shall operate

at or use the Hanalei River mouth or Anini Beach launching ramp for any

commercial purposes without a commercial use permit; (2) “No more than fifteen

commercial use permits shall be issued for the Hanalei River Mouth.”


proposed amendments add Hanalei Bay ocean waters to the first rule, and states

there will be no permits for commercial vessels at Hanalei, except for two

Kayak companies that currently operate there.

Mike Sheehan, who previously

ran the boat yard from which most of the commercial boats used to operate out

of along the Hanalei River, began the discussion by asking the DLNRofficials

“what assurance do we have that you will follow these changed rules, since you

haven’t followed the rules since 1988?”

He felt that the 15 permits called

for in the administrative rules should be made available, as that was the

intent of the regulations.

Tyndzik responded that the county facility at

Hanalei is the limiting factor, and they only assigned the number of permits

the community feels is appropriate.

“We need not max out that facility,”

he added, referring to the Weke Road boat ramp.

Others noted that the

“facility” was not the issue, since there was very little use of the boat ramp

by commercial boaters.

Kane Pa said the state has no jurisdiction at all,

and he asked the DLNR to recognize the kanaka maoli and the “Lawful Hawaiian

Government” of which he said he is a representative.

Brian Lansing of Na

Pali Catamarans, one of the three permitted boating companies, said: “We’re

definitely not being treated fairly by the DLNR Boating Division. It has always

been our understanding that DLNR was there to regulate and administer, not to

destroy existing businesses.”

He said the problems arose because, “the

DLNR allowed illegal boats to operate at Hanalei and turned a blind eye. They

let 30 boats run illegally. Ten years of illegal boating was ignored, that’s

what caused the controversy.”

Lansing, a partner of John White who started

his commercial operation at Hanalei in 1973, noted that several lives have been

saved by commercial boating operators, an important side benefit.


the DOBOR representatives what percentage of boats they would be knocking out,

he said that to eliminate just two or three percent of boats in Hanalei Bay was

an insignificant number, and not worth the effort. “There is no conflict

between users who go fishing and commercial operators.”

Vince Napolis, a

Hanalei taro farmer, disagreed.

“Hawaiian people aren’t complainers.

Perhaps they complain amongst themselves, but they don’t go to the source.” He

felt many Hawaiians in the community opposed commercial boating at


Tyndzik said that DOBOR has received just six or eight complaints

over the past two years, for such things as boats near a swimming zone or doing

repairs in the wrong area.

Stephanie Butler of Captain Sundown Catamaran

Kuuipo, brought forth several documents to back her questions. “Where does it

say zero boats,” she asked, referring to a DLNR supplemental document to

hearings in 1998.

Butler said Governor Ben Cayetano’s actions in

eliminating commercial boating at Hanalei were very unjust. She also asked why

the several hundred pages of existing boating rules were being reduced to just

38 pages, and why she couldn’t get a copy of the document.

Shé of

the DLNR explained that the 38 pages was just an internal working document, not

meant for public release. Shé added that when DLNR develops rules, they

first consider environmental impacts. If they are not significant, then

recreational use is looked at. If it appears there is room for commercial

activities, then, third and lastly, they consider commercial uses.


Marvin of Bluewater Sailing, a permitted operator of a sailboat charter at

Hanalei, said she recalled the last hearings where the community wanted the

Special Management Area rules enforced, which allows several small companies to


“I just remember the governor coming down and saying zero boats.

I’m not hearing that in the community. We’ve had a lot of letters of support.

This is a pretty heavy hit for a company that’s been in business for 20


North shore resident Tony Sommer reiterated the same question of

who the community is, and Shé responded that there have been many

sources of community input including Dave Parsons of DOT coming out twice a

month for two years, public hearings and meetings, BLNR meetings, as well as

numerous informal communications by letter and phone.

Johanna Gomes was one

of several wondering if there really were some statistics on the proportion of

pros and cons. “I think the DLNR should provide testimony on what the numbers

really are.”

Ralph Young, of Hanalei Sport Fishing and Tours, and a

permitted operator at Hanalei, said, “everyone has a right to their opinion,

but not a right to distort the facts.”

Young said the DLNR has made it

sound like community input is against the existing commercial boaters, and not

for them. He said the small number of permitted operators is not a problem for

the majority of the community.

“The river has always been a highway from

mauka to makai, this is about rights” to use the river, Young said. “Off with

their heads, they say. But what have I done? What crime have I


Ha’ena resident Jeff Chandler, a vocal opponent of commercial

boating, responded that “the community didn’t say yes to you.”

Referring to

companies who feel they should be grandfathered in, he said “my uncle’s

80-something years old, are you ready to grandfather him in too?

“I don’t

care how many boats you have, even if you have just one kayak company, it’s a

problem,” Chandler said. “Now they’re letting kayakers have a permit to camp in

our county parks at Ha’ena. We’re going to end up with the same mess we had at

Kalalau and Miloli’i.”

Judy Naumu-Stewart also voiced opposition to

boating. “Here in Hanalei, environment is number one,” she said. “We’re so

impacted it’s unbelievable. Hanalei Bay, we should leave it like it is. What

the heck do you think they (visitors) come to Hanalei for?”

Buddy Peters, a

Hawaiian owner of a kayak business at Wailua, said, “if they’re going to give

it (permits), give it to the ones who started it. You’re for protecting, I’m

for protecting, but we’ve all got to grow.”

Peters said he believes Kaua’i

is stuck with tourism as the base of our economy, and the community has to live

with the visitor industry and do the best they can.

When asked what impact

community input would have at the June 26 public hearing, Shé said, “if

the community says we’re right, we’ll move forward to the land board for


“If the people really say we want 15, or some, or no boating,

we’ll listen to what the community says,” she said.

Another issue to be

considered at the hearings is proposed rules for moorings and mooring fees.

Fishermen and local residents have voiced concerns about rules for the Hanalei

Bay Anchorage Zone. Signs advising of the new regulations are posted at the end

of Hanalei pier.


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