Snorkeling tour agency
challenges sea reserve

A lawsuit names the state land
department and Big Island mayor

HILO >> A Hilo snorkel tour company has sued Big Island Mayor Harry Kim, the state Department of Land & Natural Resources and others, claiming they "conspired" to create a marine conservation district that will destroy the company by banning commercial snorkeling there.

The suit was filed by Mark Willman, owner of Planet Ocean Water Sports, against Kim as an individual, not as mayor.

Kim owns a weekend home in Vacationland Hawaii, south of Hilo. Immediately behind Kim's house are waters designated last month by Gov. Linda Lingle as the Wai 'Opae Tidepools Marine Life Conservation District. Wai 'Opae is the only one of 11 such districts on the island where commercial activity is banned.

The suit alleges that Kim and others gave false information to the land department, which knowingly gave false information to Lingle.

Although state law requires a "small business impact statement," DLNR official Robert Nishimoto falsely stated in 2002 that Planet Ocean declined to be involved, the suit says. The suit provides a 2001 company statement of its position. Nishimoto was not available for comment.

By obtaining a ban on commercial tours, Kim and others will gain greater privacy and higher property values, the suit says.

Kim told the Star-Bulletin, "The only conspiracy I'm in is with the corals and the fish."

Without the snorkel tours, Planet Ocean and Willman's orchid farm will go into bankruptcy, the suit says.


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