Protesters won't bite on proposal


POSTED: Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ringing fishing bells and holding protest signs, a coalition of more than 90 boaters and fishers held a demonstration at the state Capitol yesterday against proposed state rules that they say would restrict their recreation and lifestyle.

“;This is really important to local culture and tradition,”; said Jeanie Li, an organizer of the demonstration.

The demonstrators said they were against a proposal to increase fees at harbors and parks and restrict certain fishing activities, including night fishing at Kapapa Islet in Kaneohe Bay.

Li, who fishes, said she wants state legislators to examine the process by which the state Land Board approved the proposed rules despite strong opposition from fishers and boaters.

The proposed Recreational Renaissance Plan B, named to reflect the Legislature's rejection of Gov. Linda Lingle's first plan, increases mooring rates at state harbors by $3.47 per foot per month over five years, as well as fees. The mooring rates now vary by harbor, with a slip at the Ala Wai costing $5.25 per foot per month.

The rules also include a nonresident entry fee of $1 per walk-in and $5 per car at eight state parks.

State officials have said the mooring and park fees are needed to pay for repair and maintenance at recreational facilities that are falling apart.

Public hearings about the proposed fee increases and other rules were held statewide in November.

But the protesting boaters and fishers said they felt state officials failed to listen to their opinions.

Li said the state rules led to commercialization of wildlife sanctuaries by increasing the number of kayak users but restricted fishing activities.

Li said the protesters are also against existing rules preventing anglers from bringing coolers, sleeping bags and backpacks into Kaena Point at night.

Recreational boater Janet Mandrell said the state Department of Land and Natural Resources was imposing fees on boaters for using small boat harbors but not on residents for using other kinds of recreational facilities.

“;It's a fairness issue,”; she said.

Bill Mossman, another recreational boater, said the department had shifted certain revenues derived from boating out of the small harbor, such as liquid fuel taxes, to show a deficit.

Mossman said boaters like him do not feel the state is treating them fairly by increasing fees by 60 to 90 percent.

Department Director Laura Thielen said the board has offered to consider requests for overnight access at Kapapa Islet but that the access would be a part of an agreement that would encourage responsible use through a permit system.

“;We are optimistic that a community partnership will provide for the long-term sustainability of Kapapa Islet's biological and cultural heritage while allowing responsible use that does not jeopardize its natural resources,”; Thielen said.