Marine patrol missing in action
DO you remember the marine patrol the Department of Land and Natural Resources took over from the Department of Transportation? You know, those guys aboard boats in uniforms, packing guns and badges, and cruising around Keehi Lagoon or Ala Wai Harbor?
If not, many of Oahu's older salts would probably say you didn't miss much because, unlike the Coast Guard, they tended to be strict authoritarians rather than helpful humanitarians, to say the least.
In fact, it was due to their storm trooper image that few felt any loss or regret when the marine patrol essentially disappeared once the DLNR focused the law enforcement efforts of its Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement on primarily inland targets.
DOCARE officers still have some boats, of course, but other than the patrol boat in use at Lahaina to provide security for cruise ships, most offshore boaters are unlikely to ever see them.
This may have been the reason that -- during the Legislature's recent confirmation hearings for DLNR Director Peter Young -- at least one previous Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation employee found fault with how some $2 million a year has been paid out to DOCARE from the Boating Special Fund.
After all, it was boaters who primarily created this fund with boat license and mooring fees, and boat fuel taxes, combined with the fees charged to surrounding harbor tenants.
As the fund is the only consistent revenue source for boating facility construction and maintenance, handing over such a large sum to a division that deals largely with law enforcement in our islands' interiors is hard to rationalize.
In fact, I have been told that more money was transferred from DOBOR's Special Fund to DOCARE than was spent on all marina maintenance in 2006.
Why shouldn't the Parks Division, the Fish and Wildlife Division, the Aquatic Resources Division, or the Land Division pay some share of the DOCARE expenses, given their closer dependency on its law enforcement services?
Of course, this doesn't mean that a functional marine patrol also wouldn't be a valuable asset to DOBOR and boaters in general. However, it would certainly require the DOCARE officers to give more priority to recreational boating and less, perhaps, to the fields and streams.
Marine patrol officers in other states take on a variety of duties that may range from not only law enforcement and education, but to conducting safety inspections and rescue operations.
Sheriff deputies, for example, patrol California's harbors in Dana Point and Newport Beach. And along with law enforcement, they add firefighting to their list of duties and often conduct training exercises with local fire departments.
So to those who do remember the old marine patrol, it doesn't have to be like that. And if boaters must pay for it anyway, shouldn't they get something in return?