Kewalo boaters continue management fight
Boat slip tenants say they will take legal action against new rules and a rent hike
Kewalo basin boat slip tenants continue to wage a battle against the state Hawaii Community Development Authority, which they do not want as their new landlord come September.
Dozens of boaters, from those who run commercial fishing operations to parasail tours, held a sign-waving protest yesterday morning before making their way down the street to a public hearing at the HCDA conference room.
Their message: They're dead set against new rules proposed by HCDA and intend to take legal action to stop the agency from taking over management from the state Department of Transportation, which HCDA anticipated it would do on Sept. 1.
Over the year, HCDA has made several revisions to its rules and held two public hearings -- one in March and one in May -- prior to the one held yesterday. And the debate is only getting more heated as HCDA's executive director, Daniel Dinell, prepares to step down tomorrow.
HCDA board members must now decide whether to approve the final version of the rules, which are still subject to the governor's approval.
"I would say we need to use this time now to make sure we communicate so that tenants understand all the details of the rules," Dinell said. "HCDA is considering the interests of the general public as well as the boaters. The current facilities are unsafe and underutilized. Our goal is to bring back standards for the boating community and public to enjoy."
But the boaters, who have organized themselves as Kewalo Ocean Activities, or KOA, are unrelentless in their battle against HCDA.
At the hearing, boaters once again testified their opposition to proposed rules, such as a two-tiered slip-fee system, opening up the harbor to recreational uses, new transfer fees, higher parking fees and increased rents for ticket booths.
Gary Dill, owner of sportsfishing boat Imua, said he sees no justification for rent increases, and that Kewalo Basin should not be compared to Ko Olina Marina.
"Comparing Kewalo to Ko Olina is like comparing pineapples to mangoes," he said. "Ko Olina is a private harbor for private boats. You can't compare Kewalo to Ala Wai or Ko Olina."
Mike DeRego, owner of Maggie Joe Sportsfishing, which has been in business 57 years, said the harbor should not be opened up to recreational users because of safety issues entering and exiting dangerous surf at Point Panic.
Much of the language drafted in the rules is also vague, he said, and boaters have yet to see a draft of the proposed permits that will govern their use of the harbor.
KOA has also gone to legislators, requesting their intervention.
In a letter, House Speaker Calvin Say requests that HCDA not accept the transfer of jurisdiction over the harbor and boating functions at Kewalo until the Legislature convenes for its regular session in 2008.
"We feel that the Legislature should have the opportunity to determine if the public interest will be better served by the transfer through legislation of Kewalo Basin to DLNR's (Department of Land and Natural Resources) Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation," he wrote.
In addition, the letter requested that HCDA not award a harbor management contract to a private entity before the legislative session begins. HCDA put out a request in January, seeking a private company to manage the harbor, but cannot select a candidate until rules are in place.
The letter is signed by Say, Rep. Tom Brower (D, Waikiki, Ala Moana) and Ken Ito (D, Kaneohe), chair of the House Committee on Water, Land, Ocean Resources and Hawaiian Affairs.
HCDA has owned the basin since 1990, when the state Legislature agreed it should integrate Kewalo into its overall plans for Kakaako. DOT representatives have said without ownership of the harbor, they have no reason to invest dollars into its repair or management.