State of Hawaii

Boaters oppose
fee increases

Several hundred turn out
at a state harbors hearing

By Diana Leone

Several hundred disgruntled boaters attending one of 10 hearings held statewide yesterday on proposed fee increases at state harbors said just what they were expected to say.

They don't like it.

Only one of the 80 or so people who testified at Jefferson Elementary School in Waikiki said they supported the proposed 185 percent price hike for boats in the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, 100 percent increase at Lahaina Harbor and 35 percent increase at other state recreational harbors.

"The majority of the people support some kind of fee increase (to improve the dilapidated harbors) but not necessarily 185 percent," said Carol She, Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation boating regulation planner. She said a majority of speakers at the Jefferson Elementary hearing use the Ala Wai, the harbor that's facing the largest increase.

Some also spoke against the proposed increase to $120 for trailer boat fees, She said.

"That $25 (the current fee for trailers) doesn't pay the costs," She said. "It costs $1 million for a new boat ramp and $25 doesn't touch it."

The boating division's proposal is intended to raise about $3 million a year to be earmarked for harbor improvements.

Frank and Linda Vargo currently pay $355.30 a month to live aboard their 38-foot boat at the Ala Wai. Under the proposal being floated by the boating division, their slip fee would rise to $646 a month, an amount they said they can't afford.

They also don't think it's fair that Ala Wai slip renters should pay more than those in the rest of the state.

Instead of raising rates so much, the state should do a better job policing whether everyone is paying slip rent now, Frank Vargo said. Some people don't pay to live aboard their boats but do anyway; others simply don't pay slip rent but are allowed to stay on, he said.

Fee increases were the most contentious of a host of changes the boating division is proposing. The less hot-button issues may be referred to the Board of Land and Natural Resources as soon as next month for approval, She said.

It's likely that a second round of public hearings will be required on the boating fee increases, probably under the new governor's administration, she said.

State Department of Transportation

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