Governor signs off on new Wailua River boating rules

New administrative rules for vessels and activities on the Wailua River designed to deal with user conflicts have been signed into effect by Gov. Ben Cayetano.

The amendments to Hawaii Administrative Rules have the effect of law, and are subject to enforcement by state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Conservation & Resources Enforcement.

The rules spell out times, locations, and numbers of commercial activities allowed to occur on the river, and were formulated over the course of several years with input from many users of the river, according to Vaughan Tyndzik, Kaua’i district manager for the DLNR Division of Boating & Ocean Recreation.

The new rules will make the river safer for all users, said Lynn McCrory, Kaua’i member of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources, which approved the amendments before they were agreed to by the state attorney general and signed by Cayetano.

“Oh, definitely,” the river will be safer for all users with the new rules, said McCrory, adding that the rules put teeth into the Wailua River management plan done six years ago.

Prior to the rules being in place, the only rule on the river was a “slow, no-wake” rule, said Carol Sh, DLNR boating regulation planner.

The new rules require both guided kayak tours and those in kayaks without guides to stay on the north bank of the river, and limit water skiing to a 700-yard are from the Kuhio Highway bridge to the first bend in the river.

Skiing is allowed the length of the river from sunrise to 9 a.m., and 5 p.m. to sunset.

Some skiers used to using the whole river the whole day are upset about the new rules, which also mandate that anyone being towed behind a boat have a leash, boot or some other mechanism to attach themselves to whatever is being used to keep them afloat.

“It’s government at its poorest,” said Greg Allen, an avid skier who lives along the river, after the BLNR passed the rules while not taking some suggestions he and Wailua Ski Club members suggested to the board.

The rules allow for just one commercial water-skiing company.

A portion of the rules that would have banned rented, unguided kayaks from the river was shot down by the attorney general as illegal and discriminatory, Tyndzik said.

“We couldn’t ban car-toppers because the AG (attorney general) thought it would be illegal, and we don’t want to discriminate against anybody,” he said.

Those individuals who rent kayaks commonly put them on top of their cars to transport them to the river, and hence are referred to as “car-toppers.”

“Some of the local people don’t have kayaks, and they’d love to go on that river. So we devised a way” for 48 people to be able to rent kayaks and use the river, with up to four companies to be issued permits allowing up to six potential kayaks each, for car-toppers, Tyndzik said.

No company has yet been issued any of the car-topper permits, but four will eventually be given, he said. As recently as few years ago, there were as many as 10 to 15 car-topper companies doing business along the Wailua River, Tyndzik said.

The rules say up to 15 permits may be issued to companies offering guided tours up and down the river. Currently, there are 12 permits in effect.

“We had to make these rules for the greatest good for the greatest number,” with safety and fairness in mind, Tyndzik said.

“We’re following the master plan,” which calls for a maximum of 200 vessels a day on the river. “We believe that everybody’s been cut a piece of the pie and, so far, the AG’s in concurrence that we haven’t excluded anybody, and I think that the public sees that we’ve done a pretty good job of including everybody,” Tyndzik said.

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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