Hawaii falls farther behind
A reader's recent e-mail didn't clearly indicate what his point was, but it informed me nevertheless that Seattle's Shilshole Bay Marina was nearing the completion of an $80 million renovation.
It went on to say that the project included the replacement of 22 docks and piers, the expansion of dry moorage, and the creation of an enhanced small boat and sailing center. More than 4,000 feet of lineal moorage had been added.
"In addition, the administration building is getting replaced, providing space for the private development of a new Anthony's restaurant and a new public plaza with a children's play fountain and landscaping," his message noted.
I assumed the reader's message subject title -- "Other municipal marinas get help to expand and maintain" -- inferred that, as opposed to Hawaii, other jurisdictions are willing to provide substantial funding for capital improvements for their marinas.
Obviously, it would be hard to disagree with that basic premise. But then to be fair, it seems only proper to point out that our municipal marinas -- a.k.a. small boat harbors -- are somewhat burdened by a couple of substantial differences.
Shilhole Bay, for example, was constructed and is operated by a municipal port authority according to its Web site, as opposed to Hawaii's marinas, which were built and are run by a state bureaucracy.
Our state-run method of marina management runs contrary to the rest of the U.S., where either city or county governments operate virtually all municipal marinas. From my observation, the higher up the governmental ladder operational decisions are made, the less accurate and timely those decisions become for those at the local level.
Another difference can be seen from a financial standpoint. The Port of Seattle was willing to invest $80 million into the Shilshole Bay Marina, but the return on that investment appears to be substantially higher than anything envisioned for Hawaii's public marinas.
For example, Shilshole Bay offers moorage for some 1,100 vessels at rates that range from $9.81 a foot for a 30-foot boat, to $16.36 for boats from 110 feet and up to 250 feet long. This sliding scale takes into account the fact that three 30-foot boats use up less space and utilities in a marina than one 90-footer.
At Ala Wai Harbor -- the state's largest and most expensive public marina -- on the other hand, there are something less than 700 slips currently being rented for an absurdly low $5.25 per foot, no matter the size of the vessel.
And instead of making rate increases that would reflect the current fair market value of those moorings, the state is now attempting to establish new vehicle parking fees for boaters -- a charge rarely found anywhere on the mainland.
Until our government finds the political will to either create a port authority or district like that found in Seattle and elsewhere, or creates a public/private partnership for its marina management, there is little likelihood we'll see facility improvements on a scale of those in Shilhole Bay.