New fee structure necessary for Kewalo Basin and Kakaako
The Star-Bulletin's editorial ("Don't throw boaters overboard at Kewalo
," June 4) fairly accurately summarized the critical issues faced by the state in restoring Kewalo Basin to a fully functioning, mixed-use small-boat harbor.
As noted in the editorial, the Hawaii Community Development Authority, an agency attached to the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, will follow a successful model in using private sector expertise to manage the harbor. Use of public-private partnerships to provide management and other services has proven effective at the state and local government levels in Hawaii and elsewhere.
This is the first step toward realizing the considerable potential of Kewalo Basin as a state commercial and recreational resource. The state must improve the harbor for the benefit of its current tenants, but also must expand its ability to better serve the public at large. The Kakaako Makai Advisory Working Group, recently convened by HCDA, will consider how this goal can be achieved within the larger question of how the entire Kakaako waterfront should be improved.
In its initial findings, the advisory group identified that stakeholders were for "improving the harbor area for commercial as well as recreational users. Several people commented on the opportunities of Kewalo Basin, especially as a commercial and recreational harbor area with access to the ocean for surfers and other other-users." This is exactly the reason for the proposed rules and ultimate improvements for Kewalo Basin, as well as the need to fold Kewalo Basin into the Kakaako Makai planning process.
Legal and funding concerns require the state to complete the transfer of assets and management responsibilities from the Department of Transportation to HCDA at this time.
A recent report by the state auditor identified that from a liability standpoint, both agencies are in a precarious situation when one agency, HCDA, is liable for property that it does not control.
One-third of the slips in the basin cannot be used due to their deteriorated condition. While an expenditure ceiling has been authorized by the Legislature to the DOT for improvements, the DOT cannot expend funds on improvements for property it does not own.
With regard to the rules and fees, HCDA has been meeting with Kewalo Basin tenants for more than a year to discuss the transition in management and desired improvements and proposed changes to rates and charges to enable the types of repairs needed to restore the unusable slips. During this process, the agency has revised the fee structure to reduce the impact on current harbor users and revised the proposed rules four times to accommodate concerns.
The state appreciates the situation of the charter boat owners and commercial fisherman. Charter boat companies now pay $10 per linear foot per month, and commercial fisherman $5 for slip fees. These fees would increase to $11.22 for a charter operator and $5.61 for a commercial fisherman.
Based on these rates, a commercial fishing-boat owner with a 50-foot vessel would see the cost of rent for his place of business go from $250 to $280.50 per month and a charter boat owner with a boat of the same size would have a rent of $561 per month, instead of $500.
The Star-Bulletin characterized these as "proposed steep fees," but many small-business owners would be grateful for these kinds of rents in one of the most desirable locations in the state, especially in recognition that improvements will be made to the area through modest fee increases after not having been increased in 11 years.
The state values both the services and the ambiance that Kewalo Basin boat owners provide at the harbor. HCDA's vision is built around their presence in the facility and intends for Kewalo Basin to be a mixed-use harbor for small boat operations. The commercial activities are an intrinsic part of the harbor's charm and general purpose and are much appreciated by visitors and locals alike. The proposed fees strike a balance between addressing harbor needs and enabling the current harbor users to afford continuing occupancy in a highly desirable location.
The concerns of the Kewalo Basin tenants are being heard and their input has been included in the formulation of the adjustments and plans that HCDA has developed for completing the transition to transfer Kewalo Basin from the DOT to the HCDA. The management change represents the first major step toward the revitalization of Kewalo Basin. Future improvements will incorporate the tenants, Advisory Working Group and the development authority working in concert to realize the vision for Kakaako and Kewalo Basin as an integral part of the transformation of the area.
Barry Fukunaga is director of the state Department of Transportation. Theodore Liu is director of the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism.