Fast response rates praise for DOBOR


POSTED: Sunday, December 21, 2008

Veteran Water Ways readers know I have at times been critical of our state's Division of Boating and Ocean Resources.

That criticism, though, has been based most often on the failings inherent in a bureaucratically run operation, as opposed to how things can be done in the private sector.

I have, nevertheless, always tried to give DOBOR's employees “;attaboys”; whenever possible. And last week's heavy rainstorms provided a perfect opportunity for such accolades, and I wasn't the only one to notice.

The rain was still coming down in buckets when I got a call from my wife, whom I should mention heads up the Ala Wai Harbor's annual “;Get the Drift and Bag It”; cleanup and is very sensitive to any water-way pollution.

“;I can't believe it,”; she told me. “;Ken (harbormaster Ken Chee) already has a crew emptying the Ala Wai Canal trash trap.”;

Then a few hours later, several boat owners told me they considered the timely action nothing less then an early Christmas present from DOBOR.

Now given the tons of floating refuse that had been captured by the trap under the Ala Moana Bridge, the action shouldn't have been such a surprise.

However, over the years, the state hasn't always been quite so prompt in attending to that trap.

The reason promptness is important is twofold. First, when the trap is full, additional trash-bergs coming down stream will evade capture and end up surrounding the boats in the harbor or washing out to sea.

Then later, when the rain slackens, the lower canal returns to being more affected by the tide than by the watershed runoff. Subsequently an incoming tide will begin to wash the trash back out of the trap, and this reversal is often accentuated by a southerly or Kona wind.

But as I'm applauding the quick action of DOBOR, I should also point an accusing finger at the lack of action by the City and County of Honolulu.

While the canal itself is under the state's jurisdiction, it has been, after all, the city's inability to enforce no-dumping laws that could curtail the huge amounts of refuse that wash down from the surrounding stream beds during every big storm.

And perhaps we should be critical of the city as well for not developing a comprehensive street-sweeping program that would eliminate most of the urban litter that washes into the canal from our street's storm drains.

The issue of refuse floating down the Ala Wai isn't merely a matter of aesthetics, but rather it's the unneeded creation of pollution that can be a hazard to navigation as well as a threat to the environment.

Unquestionably the city's population is the source of the vast majority of this pollution, and yet the cost of its removal has been left up to the state and its boater-supported Boating Special Fund.

When DOBOR administrator Ed Underwood told me last week's cleanup of the trash trap cost boaters $20,000, my first reaction was to suggest he bill the city. And the more that I think about it, the better it sounds.