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Small boat harbor fees to increase soon

By Staff | Sep 19, 2019

The Department of Land & Natural Resources wants to reduce water consumption at the state’s 25 boating facilities. PHOTO BY DLNR.

HONOLULU – Fee increases for users of Hawaii small boat harbors and boating facilities will be implemented soon, after they were signed into law by Gov. David Ige on Aug. 13.

“Our goal was to set fees that are fair according to use,” said Ed Underwood, administrator for the Department of Land & Natural Resources’ Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR).

“DOBOR is only allowed to collect fees to pay for expenses of operating, maintaining and managing our facilities. The revenues from the fee increases over time will help to reduce the significant backlog of deferred maintenance, so we can make our harbors safe and appealing once again.”

“The new rates are still very competitive when compared to both public and private mooring rates elsewhere in the state,” Underwood added.

DOBOR last implemented a comprehensive set of fee increases in 1994. The changes were made possible through rule amendments that update slip fees for DLNR harbors, price of electricity, shower access, dry storage, vessel registration and numerous other fees associated with vessel operation and use of boating facilities in Hawaii.

By statute, slip fees for mooring a vessel are now being set by appraisal, as determined by a third-party appraiser.

Protection of Hawaii’s limited natural resources is reflected in certain amendments in the new rule package. For example, fresh water may now only be used for specific activities related to boating. Boat launch ramp fees will no longer cover the use of fresh water at boat and trailer washdown facilities.

“Last fiscal year, DOBOR paid $1,074,000 out of the Boating Special Fund for water. We have 25 boating facilities statewide. The water bills for 15 of these facilities exceeded $20,000, including three facilities where water bills exceeded $100,000. Our water bill for the Waianae Small Boat Harbor alone was more than $400,000,” Underwood stated.

“To help us conserve water, boaters should only use one hose bib at a time while using the washdowns and keep their time limited to a maximum of 15 minutes. They should also use spring-loaded nozzles on hoses to prevent water just running and being wasted,” Underwood commented.

“We plan to initiate outreach on water conservation needs, but in the future, if we do not see a reduction in water consumption and unauthorized use continues, we will have to institute tighter controls, including a metered usage fee or even shutting water off at washdowns in extreme cases. A washdown shutoff at even one facility could save millions of gallons of drinkable water each year.”

“As responsible stewards, we have to do everything possible to conserve our limited natural resources. Our fresh water supply is being depleted faster than it can be replenished. Conservation is everyone’s responsibility,” said DLNR Chair Suzanne Case.

Another major change is the fee for Commercial Use Permits (CUPs), required of anyone using state waters for profit. Monthly CUP fees will increase from the greater of $200 per month or 3 percent of a company’s monthly gross revenues to the greater of $300 per month or 3 percent of monthly gross revenues. The CUP system has enabled DOBOR to successfully identify and track numbers and places where legitimate commercial operators charge for excursions, lessons and tours in state waters.

Underwood concluded, “We need to employ different strategies to solve the backlog of deferred maintenance and to improve the overall health of our harbor system. These fee increases are part of that strategy.”

The fee increase amendment package is posted online at dlnr.hawaii.gov/dobor/files/2019/04/190423-Ramseyer-13-234-and-13-253-for-Public-Distribution.pdf.