Sunday, May 12, 2002

Board alters
Hanalei Bay access

Rules would remove tour boat
restrictions but cut 2 access routes

By Anthony Sommer

HANALEI, Kauai >> The 25-year-old Hanalei boating war took another turn after the state Board of Land and Natural Resources gave preliminary approval to a new rule that would take all restrictions off commercial tour boating in Hanalei Bay.

At the same time, the Land Board on Friday voted to bar commercial use of two access routes across state beaches customarily used by commercial tour boats. That would require boaters to load and unload passengers only on private property, specifically Mike Sheehan's Boatyard just upstream of the river mouth.

The proposed rules still must be approved by the state attorney general and go to a public hearing, which is not likely until next fall at the earliest.

Four years ago, Gov. Ben Cayetano threw all boaters who did not have valid permits out of Hanalei. Most moved to Kauai's south shore.

Then the state Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation tried to throw the last three boats, all of which had held permits in the past, out of Hanalei.

The three boaters, Ralph Young, Bob Butler and John White, took the boating division to state court and won a decision that said the state acted in violation of its own rules when it tried to evict the trio.

The Land Board next amended the rules to eliminate all commercial tour boats from Hanalei Bay.

The trio responded by suing the state in federal court. Last year, U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor ruled the state did not have the authority to prohibit navigation of any navigable waters of the United States, including Hanalei Bay, by commercial boats holding valid Coast Guard permits.

The state has an appeal pending in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The proposed change forcing boaters to use private property instead of loading and unloading passengers over the public beach means only Sheehan's Boat Yard can be used.

Dave Parsons, boating division special projects director, said a small parcel owned by Princeville Corp. also would be eligible. But Sheehan has the only property with county permits for a business, parking and other amenities.

Sheehan built the boatyard in the mid-1980s at the request of the state to ease traffic jams caused by boat operators trailering their boats daily through Hanalei.

Oahu attorney Jack Schweigert, who represents Young, Butler and White, said the proposed rule "is the state thumbing their nose at the federal judge."

"You can't say the boaters can operate anywhere in Hanalei Bay and then deny them access to the bay except at one private boatyard," Schweigert said. "You can't create a rule that benefits only one person."

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