Ala Wai harbor important to all boaters


POSTED: Sunday, November 23, 2008

Honolulu's Ala Wai boat harbor has been the topic for dozens of Water Ways columns over the years. And perhaps the most important reason is it's the biggest income producer of the 19 state-run boat harbors in Hawaii.

It perennially generates enough revenue to be recognized as the “;cash cow”; for the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation's Boating Special Fund because more and larger vessels can moor there and can be charged higher fees due to its prime location on the edge of Waikiki.

Boat harbors such as those in Waianae, Haleiwa or Nawiliwili, with mooring fees $1.50 per foot less than the Ala Wai, would be unlikely to afford facility upgrades or proper maintenance without the Ala Wai's greater contributions to the fund.

Recreational boaters throughout the state should for this reason pay close attention whenever there are changes being made at the Ala Wai Harbor, as they eventually will be affected.

One positive change that is now under way, of course, is the replacement of the 35-year-old, half-submerged B, C, and D docks. If the contractor brings the nearly $3 million project in on time, some 160 new state-of-the-art slips will be available to boaters by May 2009.

The slip fees from those new docks will add more than $75,000 a year into the Boating Special Fund, doubling the fees it has been missing for years due to the numerous condemned slips.

There is another change that is looming on the horizon, however, that only time will tell whether it is good or bad.

Experts on marina management contend there are several components that make a recreational boat harbor successful and a boatyard for haul-outs, hardware and repairs is among them.

So the news from DOBOR administrator Ed Underwood that the current operators of Ala Wai Marine—the harbor's only boatyard—have been told to “;cease all business activity as of December 31, 2008,”; could be a sign of future degradation of the harbor or a significant improvement.

Much will depend on what sort of interest is generated by an advertisement for a “;Request for Qualifications and Proposals”; for that property—combined with the nearby fuel dock—Underwood says DOBOR hopes to run sometime this month.

Considering the boatyard has been operating for months, if not years, on a month-to-month basis with an expired license, and has been issued discharge violation notices by the health department, even the proposed 65-year lease on the properties may not be overly attractive.

Mitigating or eliminating the discharge of pollutants, either airborne from sanding and spray painting, or runoff from the yard into the harbor, can be quite expensive.

The Ala Wai Marine property has been used for boat maintenance since the earliest days of the harbor. The present two-story concrete block building was put up in 1953 when, according to one source, “;the Territory of Hawaii's Harbor Commissioners made it clear they desired it to provide a service to boat owners indefinitely.”;

Our boaters today would feel its loss.