If passed, bills would be beneficial
If you have ever thought to yourself, 'There ought to be a law,' then you have plenty of company this time of year as our state Legislature begins to hear more than a thousand bills that will create or modify the laws we all live by.
In recent columns I have written about a couple of proposals that, if passed into law, would substantially alter the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation's responsibilities for our public boating facilities.
However, there is at least one bill that will be heard on Feb. 12 by the House Committee on Water, Land, Ocean Resources, and Hawaiian Affairs that would instead affect the responsibilities placed on boat owners.
House Bill 1914 would prohibit anyone from mooring a boat in a state Small Boat Harbor without first obtaining sufficient liability insurance to cover the costs of its removal should the vessel be abandoned, sunk, or run aground.
That such a requirement is not already law comes as something of a surprise to many boat owners in private marinas such as the Waikiki Yacht Club, as liability insurance has always been a requirement there.
The need for such legislation has been repeatedly demonstrated in the past when DOBOR has been required to remove a grounded or sunken vessel that became a threat to the environment or a navigational hazard, and yet the owner could not afford its removal.
"Disposal of abandoned vessels typically runs in the tens of thousands of dollars," DOBOR's Oahu District assistant manager Michael Jones said. And (when DOBOR does it) all of it is paid for out of the Boating Special Fund.
Left unsaid, of course, is that those dollars could have been spent instead on marina maintenance that has been deferred for decades.
Another bill being heard -- H.B. 1387 -- would amend an existing state statute regarding DOBOR's responsibility for removing abandoned boats.
As the statute now reads, DOBOR may declare a vessel derelict for a variety of reasons, including when a "vessel has been left on private property without authorization of the owner or occupant of the property."
Unfortunately, this has led some to believe that DOBOR must bear the burden of removing abandoned vessels from any location statewide, Jones noted.
"The division does not have the resources to remove every abandoned boat found in city streets, county parks and other areas not under DOBOR jurisdiction," Jones stressed.
With the passing of H.B. 1387, DOBOR would only be responsible for removing derelict vessels in state waters. And similar to H.B. 1914, this bill would save Boating Special Funds for projects that will benefit the larger boating community.
As neither bill requires state funding and may even save the state money, they will probably pass into law without any problem. Still, if you agree these bills should become law, then why not make sure your lawmakers support them?
It might remind them that there are recreational boaters out here who care.