Management makes the difference
After attending a few legislative hearings recently, I can't help but wonder if our lawmakers ever have the time or inclination to investigate the validity of public testimony on the bills they are studying.
For example, during a hearing for House Bill 1931 that proposes to raise mooring fees by 50 percent in our state marinas, one person testified that Hawaii's fee structure was not the problem, but rather, management was the problem.
This individual went on to say that the John Wayne Marina in Port Angeles, Wash., provides a good example of how proper marina management can "keep boating affordable," with rates about the same as those currently charged here.
Fortunately, the Port of Port Angeles has a very comprehensive Web site, and a marina manager who answers his phone, so it isn't too hard to learn the facts.
Yes, the John Wayne Marina has very low mooring fees compared to most of the West Coast. But there are a number of contributing factors that make comparing it to, say, our Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor nearly impossible.
One factor is the John Wayne Marina's location. It is some distance from a population center, unlike Waikiki's Ala Wai harbor, making it somewhat less desirable.
Another is that the John Wayne Marina was built under the ownership and auspices of the Port of Port Angeles in 1985 on property donated by Wayne's family, and has about half the number of slips as the Ala Wai.
Its fees to residents range from $4.65 to $5.65 (plus 12.85 percent tax) per foot per month, depending on the length of the boat. Non-residents are charged an additional $1 a foot per month and an across-the-board rate increase may soon be implemented.
More significantly, it is one of just two recreational boating facilities managed by a port authority that operates four-ship terminals, a ferry terminal, a boat yard, commercial property and a small international airport. Funding for the marina isn't limited to just income from slip fees, boat licenses, and marine fuel taxes as in Hawaii.
Also, unlike our state's Department of Land and Natural Resources, the Port of Port Angeles is a municipal corporation and is presided over by a locally elected commission.
There are three members on the commission who regularly meet twice a month and who "work closely with the community and the Port staff to establish Port policy." Those meetings are open to the public and public comment is welcome.
So, can our legislators use the John Wayne Marina as an example of proper marina management and how best to keep boating affordable in Hawaii?
It would appear so, but only if we have elected (rather than appointed) officials at the county (rather than the state) level directly overseeing the operations of both our harbors and marinas. And with the additional funding found in public/private partnerships.