LIHUE — Approximately two dozen people showed up to the public hearing about proposed amendments pertaining to the rules and regulations governing boating activities at county beach parks on Tuesday morning.
The rules apply to the five permitted boating companies operating in Hanalei at Black Pot Beach Park. The area encompasses county-owned property that the Weke boat ramp rests on.
“We’ve been through this process many years ago,” said Chandra Bertsch, general manager of Holo Holo Charters, a 20-year-old, locally owned boat tour company. “Little did we know the rules never got finalized.”
Bertsch was under the impression that it was agreed upon years ago that Sunday operations were allowed, she said during her testimony.
She was talking about a public hearing that transpired in 2012, said Mel Wills III of Holo Holo Charters. At the time, the company was told that the “rules were shelved,” he said.
But, according to Special Management Area (SMA) rules and regulations, which is under the jurisdiction of the Kauai County Planning Department, some transpired unbeknownst to commercial boat operators, Wills said. For example, on July 27, 2016, a rule passed stating that permitted, commercial boating activities are not allowed within county parks on Sundays.
“That one day a week is very critical to our business,” Bertsch said.
Bertsch recommended that the rule be removed because she said, “it’s unnecessary and arbitrary.” Not operating on Sundays would slice business by almost 15%. Moreover, the business only operates in Hanalei six months out of the year, she said.
Aaron Pearlman, an employee of Holo Holo Charters, shared the sentiments of several other testifiers when he said that not operating on Sundays would make it difficult “to live.”
“It makes a huge financial burden on all the employees,” he said.
He also spoke about the proposed inability for companies to use certain areas to load and unload passengers. For example, one of the amendments proposes that the boat ramp off Weke Road be used only to transfer supplies to vessels twice a day and not for loading or unloading passengers. But commercial operations, which are a fraction of what they were 20 years ago, have been using Weke boat ramp safely and effectively for years, Wills said.
Tides and other natural elements make designating passenger loading and unloading to certain areas risky and “reduces our ability to make quick decisions on changing conditions,” Pearlman said.
“It limits the ability to keep everybody safe,” he said.
He suggested that they not have restrictions and be “confined” to the two Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources ingress and egress locations: one near Pavilion Beach Park and another by a portion of Black Pot Beach Park close to the river mouth.
Tim Hamilton, manager of Na Pali Catamaran, said that the boat companies in Hanalei are already “self-regulated” and don’t need new rules.
“We’re all members of the community. We care about the community and we care about Black Pot and we want to be as low impact as possible,” he said on Tuesday.
Bertsch also added that her company doesn’t use public facilities, including bathrooms and trash bins.
“Our impact on the park is very limited,” she said.
There was one amendment to the rules that Bertsch said she appreciated which was that commercial boating activities be permitted one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset rather than between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Ultimately, what Wills said he would like to see happen is for the SMA rules to be completely revised. His goal is to be able to continue working with the county and get things “smoothed out,” he said.
Coco Zickos, county reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.