Small boat mooring fee boost among issues at DLNR public hearing

A proposal to increase fees by 35 percent for mooring at small boat harbors in Hawai’i – including four on Kaua’i – will be among key topics that will be taken up during concurrent public hearings the state Department of Land and Natural Resources has scheduled statewide on Oct. 5.

The hearings conducted by the DLNR division of boating and ocean recreation also will deal with numerous rule changes, including clarifying language for the salvaging of vessels, vessel inspections and construction at state boating facilities.

The Kaua’i public hearing is scheduled to be held at the cafeteria of Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School in Puhi between 1 and 4 p.m.

The agency is proposing increasing the mooring rates to generate additional funds for the maintenance of state boating facilities and to pay the debt service on new construction projects, according to Dave Parsons, boating planning manager with the division.

“There are reasons for the 35 percent increase. The fees have not been increased statewide since 1995. That is seven years ago,” Parsons said.

At Nawiliwili Harbor on Kaua’i, a boat owner currently pays a monthly berthing rate of $2.80 per foot for a boat. For a 30-foot boat, for instance, the owner pays $84 a month.

Because of recent improvements at the harbor, DLNR was proposing to raise the rate to $3.50 per foot for a boat, Parsons said.

Under the plan to increase mooring fees by 35 percent, the same boat owner would be paying $4.75 per foot, if the increased fees are approved, Parsons said.

In general, the fees paid by boat owners vary, depending on “amenities” or improvements at the small boat harbors, Parsons said.

And people who don’t have berths and use trailers to bring their boats to the harbors could be paying more to use boat ramps.

The DLNR division is proposing to increase the yearly rate from $25 to $120, Parsons said.

If approved, the fee increases are projected to generate an additional $3 million each year. They would go into a statewide boating fund to help upgrade state boating division projects, facilities, Parsons said.

Boat owners at small boat harbors at Nawiliwili, Port Allen, Kukui’ula and Kikiaola on Kaua’i would be affected if the rate increases are approved by the Land Board.

Other proposed changes include:

– Revision of procedures related to administrative hearings for impounding of abandoned boats.

– Establishment of an informal review and administrative hearing for people whose registration for a vessel, surfboard, sailboard or water sports equipment are suspended or revoked.

Parsons said O’ahu seems to have the highest number of cases of boat owners failing to pay mooring fees and leaving their boats.

That isn’t the case on Kaua’i though, he said, adding “We haven’t had a significant number of irresponsible boaters on Kaua’i.”

– Clarifying the language for the salvaging of boats and vessel inspections.

– Clarifying the language and requirements for limitations on commercial activity permits for vessels moored in another state boat facility.

– A requirement that construction or improvements at state boating facilities under the jurisdiction of the division would comply with requirements of the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

– Repealing redundant rules.

To expedite the process and save money, ten hearings will be held in all the counties throughout the day on Oct. 5., according to Mason Young, acting administrator for the DLNR division of boating and ocean recreation.

Holding all the meetings on one day is only possible because each of the seven board members agreed to sit in on the meetings as hearing officers, Parson said.

In cases where the board members can’t preside over hearings, a representative for the board member will conduct them, Parsons said.

Mason said funds are needed for improvements and construction at state boating facilities and anticipates timely action by the Land Board.

In cases of major change to any of the DLNR boating proposals, they would have to be brought back to the public hearing process.

And those recommendations that are not proposed for major revisions can be sent to the full board for action, Parsons said.

Written testimony can be sent to the division agency or the Land Board chairperson at 333 Queen St., Suite 300, Honolulu, Hawai’i, 96813.

The division recommendations can be seen on www.state.hi.us/dlnr/dbor.html. For people with special needs wanting to attend the hearings, they can contact Carol She at 1-808-587-1972.

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