Bonds to fix harbors
come at a high price

The DLNR is figuring how to afford
repairs utilizing $9 million
in revenue bonds

Although lawmakers approved $9 million for recreational harbor improvements, state officials said they might never get to spend money on the projects.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources, backed by Gov. Linda Lingle, had urged the Legislature to issue $10 million of reimbursable general-obligation bonds for urgent harbor needs, including cesspool upgrades and dock replacements.

Funded public projects

Though the state Department of Land and Natural Resources did not get desired funding for recreational boat harbors from the Legislature, it did receive funding for other priority projects. They include:

» $18 million to upgrade the Waimanalo Wastewater Treatment Plant. Once raised to current standards, the plant will be taken over by the city.

» $14 million for state parks will provide $9 million for critical upgrades to 49 park cesspools, to comply with an Environmental Protection Agency deadline, and $5 million for other parks improvements, much of them for restrooms.

» $4 million to bolster the fight against invasive species, which threaten Hawaii's native plants and animals.

Instead, the Legislature's budget offered $9 million in revenue bonds, a method of financing that is much more expensive than general obligation bonds -- so much so that it might effectively mean no bonds will be issued.

DLNR Director Peter Young said despite the much higher cost, his staff is working on calculations of what it would cost to borrow money for some harbor fixes with revenue bonds. Revenue bonds have typically been used only by the state's commercial harbors and airports to finance capital projects.

"It is disappointing," Young said. "Throughout the year I've been here, I've repeatedly heard from boaters we need to improve our harbors."

The DLNR had asked for:

» $3.8 million for pier improvements at the Ala Wai harbor on Oahu and Port Allen harbor on Kauai.

» $2.6 million for Environmental Protection Agency-mandated cesspool improvements at Heeia Kea harbor on Oahu, Kikiaola and Port Allen harbors on Kauai, Maalaea harbor on Maui and Manele harbor on Lanai.

» $1.5 million to improve Manele harbor on Lanai and Kaunakakai harbor on Molokai to support interisland commerce and ferries.

» $400,000 for a sewage pump station and utilities at Honokohau harbor on the Big Island.

» $200,000 for dredging at Wailoa harbor in Hilo.

Whether any of those projects can be done this year is now in doubt, Young said yesterday.

"Obviously, it has created some significant challenges for us," Young said of the Legislature's decision. "We're looking at all alternatives," including patching facilities that would more efficiently be replaced, finding federal money and reconsidering privatization of some state harbors, he said.

At the Ala Wai, the state's largest recreational boat harbor, 113 of 747 boat piers are demolished or unusable, even though there are 604 boaters on a waiting list to rent them.

Jerry Barr, commodore of the Hawaii Yacht Club at Ala Wai Harbor, said he and many other boaters are disappointed at the lack of harbor upkeep -- even if they do not use the state slips.

"It's kind of embarrassing, with people from the continent coming to the 50th state -- and sometimes it's almost deplorable," Barr said.


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