CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Danny Booth, left, and Danny Burton worked yesterday on the new F dock at Ala Wai Boat Harbor, a project that will bring 70 new slips and should be ready by July.
Officials hope new Ala Wai dock is just a start
Construction of a new floating dock at the Ala Wai Boat Harbor begun this week marks the first major improvement at the state's largest recreational harbor in decades.
The 70 slips on the new F dock will cost $975,000 and should be ready by July, Department of Land and Natural Resources interim Director Laura Thielen said yesterday at the harbor.
The new dock replaces a used, temporary one that the Ala Wai Yacht Club donated to the state two years ago. The hand-me-down dock bought time after the 1972-built F dock was demolished in February 2004 because it was no longer safe.
Even when the F dock is back in use, 90 of the Ala Wai's 747 slips will remain unusable because of disrepair, said Meghan Statts, Oahu district boating manager.
The situation made what many say should be the state's marquee harbor a glaring example of the DLNR Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation's inability to keep up with harbor repairs.
After four years of trying unsuccessfully, former DLNR Director Peter Young got $10 million in reimbursable bonds from the Legislature this year, contingent on a 33 percent hike in fees paid by harbor users.
Thielen also announced yesterday that another 172 slips on the floating docks B, C, and D will be replaced at a cost of $3.5 million next year.
Thielen said she will seek another $10 million from the Legislature in 2008, coupled with an additional 8 percent fee increase, to continue harbor improvements statewide.
The state estimates that it needs $250 million of work to bring its aging harbors up to date, said Ed Underwood, state boating administrator.
"We're very pleased that the governor and DLNR have undertaken to reverse many, many unhappy years of neglect," Bruce Middleton, chairman of the Ala Wai Marina Community Association, said yesterday.
"In addition to providing affordable ocean recreation to more of our citizens, these new facilities will generate a good deal of additional revenue for the boating program, which, in turn, can be used for additional repairs and maintenance," Middleton wrote in an e-mail, noting that the bonds will be repaid with harbor revenues, not tax dollars.
"We may have at last reached a turnaround point, and we're very encouraged," he said.
The new dock has a plastic and wood composite surface, salt-resistant aluminum hardware and will be installed in modular units that are easy to replace in sections without disturbing the entire dock, said Patrick Ross, vice president of Sea Engineering, contractor for the job.
Don Ford, head of state small boat harbor maintenance for Oahu, said his five-person crew has been in "Band-Aid" mode since he took the job a decade ago.
"It's been like a cancer," Ford said of ongoing attempts to mend and patch the aging docks throughout the island. "You can't treat it anymore."