Changing DOCARE to "Do Care"
It's quite apparent from recent reader responses that the Boating Special Fund our Legislature created to pay for Hawaii's public recreational boating facilities and programs might deserve some kind of audit.
All of the e-mail I received agreed with last week's column that it was inappropriate for the Department of Land and Natural Resources to move some $2 million into the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement budget last year, given DOCARE's lack of interaction with recreational boating.
One reader even used the local boaters' favorite acronym, "DO (not) CARE" while he described that agency's near-chronic disassociation from anything boating related.
Then another reader took the question a step further by suggesting there may be other reasons for the boating fund to seemingly always be short of cash besides the $2 million given to DOCARE.
"It appears to me, on paper at least, that the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation's special fund should be flush with money," he began.
He then pointed out that years ago, the Legislature originally assigned certain state lands surrounding our small boat harbors and launching ramps to the recreational boating program so as to provide it sufficient income that would ensure it's financial independence.
"And on Oahu," the reader said, "the coastal lands reaching from the Kapahulu Groin to the Ala Wai Harbor were also among these assets."
Progressively, he noted, these lands were transferred from the federal government to the State Board of Harbor Commissioners -- the predecessor of the Department of Transportation's harbor's division. And somewhere along the way, a state governor's executive order gave part of the land near the Moana Hotel to the City.
Once the state's recreational boating program was transferred from the DOT to the DLNR in 1992, however, the control of and revenue from these lands were taken from the boating program and moved to the land division, even though the laws governing the use of them are a part of the DOBOR administrative rules.
Perhaps one of the more lucrative sites, for instance, is on the beach at the Hilton Hawaiian Village where the Atlantis Submarine passenger ferry docks. It's been reported that approximately $30,000 a month is paid to the DLNR's land division for that pier alone.
The logic of depositing some $360,000 a year -- generated by a pier that extends seaward for several hundred feet -- into the DLNR's general operating funds rather than the Boating Special Fund is lost on me.
It would seem apparent that once upon a time our Legislature attempted to put in place a revenue-generating system that would keep our recreational boating infrastructure afloat through good times and bad.
But it seems apparent that the system was flawed as it eventually failed to protect the special fund from those who would administer it.
Hawaii's recreational boaters should now have the right to question whether those who have had that responsibility have lived up to their fiduciary duties of protecting and managing its assets.