Thursday, April 24, 2014

By CHELSEA JENSEN

Stephens Media

Fee increases and new safety requirements for state small boat harbors users are back on the table.

All of West Hawaii's state small boat harbors, including Honokohau, Kailua Pier, Keauhou Bay and South and North Kawaihae, and the Wailoa Small Boat Harbor in Hilo are listed in the amendments to Hawaii Administrative Rules proposed by the Department of Land and Natural Resources' Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation. The rules were last updated in 1994 with some amendments to parking and mooring fees implemented in 2010.

The division is seeking increases to various fees, including mooring, launch ramps, electricity, water and storage. It also is looking to add a new requirement that any person operating a power-driven vessel must possess a certificate proving the operator has completed a safe use and operation course from the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, according to the proposed amendments to Hawaii Administrative Rules Title 13.

"The subject rules propose to increase the fees to use facilities such as moorings, launch ramps, and the like," reads a small business impact statement submitted last week by Ed Underwood, Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation administrator. "Increasing fees may benefit business as DOBOR moves forward on capital improvements located at small boat harbors."

Underwood, however, told Stephens Media that there are no specific capital improvement projects marked to receive funding derived from a possible fee increase. The increase will help the department "break-even" as the division's larger harbors are often keeping the small boat harbors afloat, he said.

No public meeting notice has been released by the department, however, Underwood confirmed public meetings will be held at a later date. Public meetings are required to be held by law when any amendments are proposed to Hawaii Administrative Rules.

Kailua Pier, Keauhou Bay and North and South Kawaihae, which used to be contained in a different category from Honokohau, will now be included in the same rate category as Honokohau, Underwood said. That change essentially puts the first four small harbors in a higher mooring rate category.

The proposed changes also include removing bow/stern mooring in favor of Tahiti- or Mediterranean-style mooring.

Underwood explained that assessing mooring rates based upon bow/stern mooring is incorrect since, traditionally, bow/stern mooring means a boat is not connected to land, but rather moored from both ends to buoys in an open water area.

A boat secured using the Tahiti style is anchored to a bouy on one end while the other is connected to land, like currently occurs at Honokohau, he said. While the rate will be higher, Underwood said it is necessary to help pay for facility maintenance since the boats are actually moored to land.

With Tahiti mooring boaters at Honokohau who now pay $4.17 to park their boats using a state buoy will be charged $7.64 per foot of vessel length. Along catwalk fees will remain the same as amended in 2010 at $7.79 per foot of vessel length, according to the proposed amendments.

Also on the table for the amendments to Hawaii Administrative Rules is a proposal to increase the fee for commercial boaters who use launching ramps and other facilities from $75 to $200 per month, or three percent of gross receipts, whichever is greater.

The proposed amendments also include adding a new section to Hawaii Administrative Rules Chapter 13 to require any one operating a power-driven vessel must possess a certificate proving the operator has completed a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators course on the safe use and operation of such vessels.

Those issued a valid license for maritime personnel by the U.S. Coast Guard would be exempt from the requirement.

While the initial proposed rules removed the department's North Kawaihae Small Boat Harbor from the administrative rules, Underwood said the omission was a "mistake" on the department's behalf. North Kawaihae Small Boat Harbor is a small boat harbor under the division's administration, he clarified.

To view the proposed amendments, visit the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation's website at hawaii.gov/dlnr/dbor/bordraftrules.htm.

Email Chelsea Jensen at cjensen@westhawaiitoday.com.

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