Wednesday, May 16, 2001

Gov gets a boost
on Ala Wai, Keehi
harbor expansion

He would bring in
private operations

By Richard Borreca

Gov. Ben Cayetano is not giving up plans to privatize state small boat harbors at Ala Wai and Keehi Lagoon.

In a meeting yesterday with reporters, Cayetano said he hopes to use the newly enacted privatization legislation to develop the state's two biggest yacht harbors.

Since 1995 Cayetano has been stymied from turning the expensive facilities into private operations.

He got some help this year from the Legislature, which passed both the privatization bill and another that allows the state to lease portions of small boat harbors for expanded uses.

Under current law, harbors can only be used for "maritime-related activities," according to David Parsons, special coordinator for the Boating and Ocean Recreation Division of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

This means the state can only lease harbor property to direct maritime interests, such as boat yards.

By expanding allowed uses in the harbor, Parsons said, the state would be able to attract restaurants and other harbor-related interests to lease space and help pay for the costs of the harbor.

"We have some firms interested in privatization, but we know it won't happen overnight. This gives an indication to private industry that their plans simply aren't dead on arrival," Parsons said.

Bruce Matson, who keeps a boat at the Ala Wai, said he favors having a private company run the boat harbor because the state doesn't spend enough to police the harbor.

"A private operator would probably increase the price. I have a 47-foot boat and pay $198 a month; there is no deal in the world like that," Matson said.

The state is still considering raising the boat slip fees, Parsons said. Although first discussed last year, the fee increase isn't scheduled to go out to public hearing until this summer.

The Ala Wai slips would go to $11.70 a foot from $4.20 a foot, and the ones at Lahaina would rise to $7 from $3.50, Parsons said. All other state small boat harbor slips would go up an average of 35 percent, he said. But he cautioned the state has not made a determination on how much to charge.

Parsons agreed with Matson that the $4.20 fee is a bargain. Parsons estimates that state rates are only 50 percent of the national average, causing the state to provide only minimal services.

The state Boating Division also has to pay off its construction bonds with the money raised from fees, he said.

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