Thursday, April 29, 2004

Agency appeals
for harbor funds

A budget proposal would use
revenue bonds to fund repairs

The state agency that oversees recreational boat harbors is making an 11th-hour plea to the Legislature for $9 million in harbor upgrades next year.

State of Hawaii "These projects are important. We need to get them done. We want to get them done, and they fit into the budget," said Peter Young, director of the Department of Land & Natural Resources.

The repairs include replacing piers at Oahu's Ala Wai and Kauai's Port Allen harbors and improvements to Lanai and Molokai harbors to enable ferry service.

At the Ala Wai, the state's largest recreational boat harbor, 113 of 747 boat piers are demolished or unusable, despite the fact there are 604 boaters on a waiting list to rent them.

The Legislature's budget proposes funding the harbor work with revenue bonds, which are more costly and harder to issue than the general obligation bonds requested by the department and Gov. Linda Lingle.

State finance director Georgina Kawamura said the cash flow of the department's boating division is not sufficient to make revenue bonds practical.

House Finance Chairman Dwight Takamine (D, Kohala-Hamakua-Hilo) said yesterday his committee is taking another look at the type of bonds.

"I'm hopeful now," Young said. "I'm very encouraged."

Lowell Kalapa, president of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii, said only state highway, airport and commercial harbor projects have been financed by revenue bonds in the past.

But Kalapa said the department should "inquire with boat owners, tell them, 'This is our plan, that is what we will do for blank-million dollars. Are you willing to pay?'"

In October 2002, under the Cayetano administration, the department held public hearings on proposed fee increases for recreational boat harbors. Boaters protested against proposed increases of up to 185 percent, and the department never implemented them. Neither has it spent much on harbor improvements.

Young said that his staff has been preparing a more modest fee increase to propose to boaters sometime this summer.

"We're working on a rational way of setting boating fees and providing a means that we can pay back the bonds," he said.


Projects left in limbo
with funding debate

Small-boat harbor improvements totaling $10 million were requested in Gov. Linda Lingle's budget, but the Legislature's budget offers $9 million funded by revenue bonds, a method of financing the Lingle administration says would not be possible, effectively canceling any recreational harbor improvements for a year.

Proposed harbor improvements that hang in the balance while the Legislature decides whether to reconsider financing the work as requested by the department and Lingle:

>> $3.8 million for pier improvements at the Ala Wai harbor on Oahu and Port Allen harbor on Kauai.
>> $2.6 million for EPA-mandated cesspool improvements at Heeia Kea harbor on Oahu, Kikiaola and Port Allen harbors on Kauai, Maalaea harbor on Maui and Manele harbor on Lanai.
>> $1.5 million to improve Manele harbor on Lanai and Kaunakakai harbor on Molokai to support interisland commerce and ferries.
>> $400,000 for a sewage pump station and utilities at Honokohau harbor on the Big Island.
>> $200,000 for dredging at Wailoa harbor in Hilo.


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