Hefty Boater Fees Hike Proposal

Quick Guide to the Proposed Boater Fees Hike – and What You Can Do About it

Boaters are about to get walloped with an array of fee increases ranging from 30% to 1000% in addition to more restrictions.   This revision of Chapter 13-234 will slam boaters with much higher "usage" fees and tighter rules.  The overhaul of these rules by the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR) under the guidance of DOBOR administrator, Ed Underwood, will be submitted to the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR), chaired by Suzanne Case, for review and initial approval on this coming May 11th or May 25th (we will update with a confirmation). Boaters are urged to contact Ed Underwood, Suzanne Case, and the BLNR board members by name, in order to submit comments. The document will then be reviewed by the SBRRB (Small Business Regulatory Review Board) on May 16th of this year.  While the SBRRB primarily concerns itself with Hawaii business, there is a gray area as to how much their input affects lawmaking that will impact the general public.  Because of this we are recommending that all boaters contact their board members, by name, with input, concerns or comments about Chapter 13-234.

Below is a condensed, simplified breakdown of some of the highlights of the new fee increase proposal. For the full version click here.  We are told that all staff at DOBOR (Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation) contributed in some way to the ideas for this new fee increase and Ed Underwood is overseeing and, our understanding, is charged with approving the first draft of new boater hikes and regulations.

(Q: How can I be notified in a timely fashion about the public hearing for this fee and rule change?   A: At this time, the ONLY sure way to get notified of this public hearing, according to Todd Tashima, DLNR liaison, is to send an email to dlnr.harreview@hawaii.gov and ask to be snail-mailed a notification.  Be sure to include your snail-mail address in your email.)

Here's a quick line-item overview of some of the notable changes to Chapter 13-234:

§13-234-10 Electricity fee. The monthly fee for the use of electricity when furnished by the State at a small boat harbor shall be as follows:
(1) When no person lives aboard... $50.00
(2) When persons live aboard ............$125.00
(3) Commercial vessels ..................$150.00

How this may affect you: If implemented, this would represent a 1000% increase over existing fees.   If you are not paying HECO directly for the electricity supplied to the slip where your boat is moored, then you will be charged $50/ month flat rate if you are not a live-aboard, and $125/ month flat rate if you are a live-aboard, for the "use" of electricity.  Again, this is for everyone in the State harbor system that is not paying HECO directly for their electricity.  Important Note: the word "use" in this section is misleading.  It is our understanding that these are actually flat rates and have nothing whatsoever to do with "use" because there is no "usage" metering on the slips in question -- you're being asked to pay this fee whether or not you use the electricity at your slip or you use far less than what these new rate amounts represent.  Also, if you are in step with Hawaii's Green Energy Initiative and produce all of your own power for your vessel, there is NO provision for exception at this time; in other words, you will still be liable for the full amount of the flat rate. When asked about the basis for the new rate figures, DOBOR's Ed Underwood was unable to provide clear answers saying only that it was time for an increase.  The cost to boaters will represent a 1000% increase over existing rates.

(Chapter 13-234-10 may need some revision, from legal and ethical standpoints, as the State is asking boaters to pay for electricity that they either don't use or use in far less amounts than is represented by the fee.  Repackaging HECO electricity and forcing the public to pay hefty rates for it, even if they don't use it, might be a legal gray area.  Another disturbing problem with this section touches on the obvious discrimination that targets live aboards on smaller vessels (presumably middle income owners); we're given to understand that all live aboards will be required to pay a $125 flat rate for electricity "use".  The question arises then: does a 25' sailboat with one live aboard really use the same amount of electricity as a 50' powerboat with a family of four?  In its present form, we're guessing that this section could end up costing Hawaii taxpayers the expense of a DLNR defense of its position in Federal court.)


§13-234-11 Shower fee. (b) A monthly fee of  $15.00 shall be assessed for each such persons using [the showers, except those under the age of four and those paying residence service fees. No persons shall utilize the aforementioned shower facilities unless that person has secured a use permit from the department authorizing use of the facilities.] shower facilities.

How this may affect you: If you are in possession of a bathroom card key in any state harbor, then you will be charged $15 every month, whether you use the bathrooms or not. There currently is no fee for having a bathroom card other than an initial deposit.  It is assumed, from the recent modification in brackets, that those with live aboard permits might possibly be exempt from this fee but there hasn't been any confirmation of this as of this writing. Again, the word "using" in this section is misleading.  It is our understanding that, as of this writing, you will be charged just for having a card in your possession (that's in addition to the hefty deposit for each key), as it's not clear if the card-keyed bathroom monitoring system already in place (at least in the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor) will be used to keep track of actual "usage" per cardholder.


§13-234-2 Payment and delinquency  (a) Security deposit and method of payment:
(1) Security deposit.  . . . . On the effective date of any increase in fees and charges [such as the one represented in this document], the permittee shall deposit such additional amount to cover the increase.  (e) All fees and charges shall become delinquent  four calendar days [reduced from thirty calendar days] after they become due and payable.

How this may affect you: (a) When these fee increases go into effect, you will not only be liable for the increases, you will also be liable for an accompanying increase in your harbor security deposit.  (e) This is a substantial decrease in the amount of time before your fee payments are considered delinquent (with all of the penalties then in force). Chapter 13-234-2 potentially discriminates against pensioners and those on tight budgets: our kupuna, especially, those on fixed incomes receiving checks on specific dates from pension funds, social security or other retirement plans, may find themselves scrambling to meet this new reduced payment deadline if their check typically arrives after the deadline date (which, for some, will be every month).  


§13-234-3 [State Harbor] Mooring rates.  . . .  The mooring rate schedule in this subsection  shall be per foot of vessel length overall [per month effective upon the applicant's acceptance of the offer of an available berth.] or maximum length of berth or mooring, whichever is greater.  All mooring rates shall be determined by a state-licensed appraiser in accordance with section 200-10, Hawaii Revised Statutes.

How this may affect you: Slip rates across all harbors will go up approximately 30% for those who entered the harbor system after 2010 -- this is on top of the fee increase of just five or so years ago when DLNR's Laura Theilen, the Hawaii State legislature at the time and then governor Neil Abercrombie passed a statute that clobbered boaters with sizable fee hikes and more restrictive boater regulations.

If you were in the harbor system before 2010, then your increase will amount to something around 200%.  The reason for this is that your fee was not brought up-to-date during the last increase and the DLNR has decided now that your fee has to be brought up to the current rate.  Why your fee was not brought up to date back in 2011 is still a mystery. 

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: In this proposed version of the statute, If your slip is bigger than your boat, you will now pay the per-foot rate for your slip length, not your boat length (again, targeting middle and lower-income boat owners). How, exactly, a state licensed appraiser will determine slip value has little to do with section 200-10.  Methodology for appraising rental cost of marina slips is unknown to the public as of this writing. 


§13-234-8 Stay-aboard or principal habitation fee.  (1) $5.25 per foot of vessel length per month if the owner is a state resident; and (2) $7.80 per foot of vessel length per month if the owner is a non-resident

How this may affect you: The stay-aboard fee is contentious at best as it doesn't actually grant any value-added services or facilities.  In actual fact, it is usual and customary in any landlord/tenant relationship that, when the tenant provides a service benefiting the property of the landlord, the tenant is entitled to either in-kind or outright monetary compensation.  Because there is, conservatively speaking, little in the way of DLNR crime monitoring or enforcement in our current harbor system, harbor residents become, by default, the sole eyes and ears of harbor security efforts.  Live aboard residents are currently playing an active role in monitoring for crime activity in the harbor system, but remain uncompensated.  Legal residents provide the harbor community and surrounding areas with vigilance, reporting, and crime thwarting activity in the absence of a State enforcement presence.  Maybe it's time to rescind the live aboard fee altogether.


§13-234-4 Offshore Mooring rates; mooring and anchoring away from harbor environments. (a) . . .   The mooring rate schedule is per foot of vessel length overall or maximum mooring capacity of the mooring system, whichever is greater, per month: Offshore mooring and anchoring rates shall be as follows: On state Buoy, Anchor, or Cable - $5.00/foot;
On Owner's Own Buoy, or at Anchor - $3.00/foot.

How this may affect you: This represents a 33% to over 500% increase over current fees, once again the larger increases appearing to target boaters with average incomes. You will now be assessed $3.00/foot per month to anchor offshore on your own tackle anywhere in Hawaiian waters, and $5.00/foot per month to moor on a State offshore mooring.  This fee is in addition to the fee outlined below. 


§13-234-9 Stay-aboard or principal habitation fee for offshore mooring or anchoring. The owner of a vessel or houseboat moored or anchored outside a small boat harbor and authorized to be used as a principal place of habitation or for staying aboard shall pay, in addition to any other applicable fee or charge, a principal habitation fee, or a stay-aboard fee as appropriate, which shall be [one-half] the same as the rate specified in section  13-234-8(b).

How this may affect you: This represents a 100% increase over current fees.  When you anchor anywhere in Hawaiian waters using your own tackle and stay aboard, you are liable for not only the per-foot mooring rate of $3.00/ft., but, on top of that, a principal habitation fee of $5.25/ft, for a total of $8.25/ft per month.  As of this writing, the State of Hawaii provides little in the way of facilities for boaters wishing to visit offshore anchorages. Simple things like secure dinghy landings, potable water access, and holding tank pump-out stations are mostly non-existent. Because of this, it's not exactly clear what boaters are actually paying for in this instance


§13-234-7 (2)(b) (Transient vessel stayaboard fee - i.e., temporary permits) The owner or operator of a transient vessel[,] or visiting vessel[,] shall pay a stayaboard fee of  $10.00 per person staying aboard a vessel, in addition to mooring or any other fees and charges, for each and every night that any person remains on board the vessel while the vessel is moored in a State small boat harbor.

How this may affect you: If you need a transient slip and want to stay aboard, this represents a 500% increase over current fees. Chapter 13-234 is vague about slip mooring fee increases for transient vessels. 


§13-234-13 Gear locker fee. (a) The charge for the use of a gear [lockers] locker provided by the [State] department shall be :(1) Standard wood locker and Triangular fiberglass locker ......... $10.00 per month.

How this may affect you: This represents a more than 300% increase in fees for use of the triangular fiberglass lockers, and an approximately 100% increase for use of the standard wood lockers.  Despite the hefty increase, the State has no plans to modify the vulnerable, substandard, insecure hinge arrangement on the triangular lockers which can be, and are, broken into and burgled. 


§13-234-34 [User] Fee for [recreational] use of state boat launching ramps. (a) An annual boat ramp decal user fee of seventy-five dollars shall be paid by owners of trailered vessels using [state boating] facilities under the jurisdiction of the division of boating and ocean recreation for recreational and fishing purposes to gain access to the waters of the State.

How this may affect you: In this section we see nearly a doubling of the cost of a permit to launch your boat at a public launch ramp. 


§13-234-12 Dry storage:  (e) Subject to any additional fees pursuant to subsection (g), the fee for the storage of vessels [or boat] and trailers on land at a state small boat harbor shall be as follows: (1) Vessels stored on land, per foot of vessel length, cradle length, or trailer length, 20
whichever is greater, per month...........................$3.00; (2) Empty boat trailer per month ........$100.00;  (3) The minimum monthly charge for vessel storage shall be $100.  (4) The charge for [one-half month or less] a storage period of less than sixteen calendar days shall be one-half of the monthly rate, with a minimum monthly charge of $50. [(c) Boating equipment or other items used in connection with boats moored in small boat harbors, upon approval of the department, may be stored at such harbors if it can be done without unduly interfering with small boat harbor operations. The] (f) Subject to additional fees pursuant to subsection (g), the charges for use of [such] storage [space] for other equipment or items used in connection with vessels or trailers shall be[:] $1.50 per month, per square foot. The minimum charge per month shall be $25. The charge for a storage period of less than sixteen calendar days shall be one half the monthly rate, with a minimum charge of $12.50.

How this may affect you: Rate increases in this section range from approximately 150% to 500% over current rates. (there are a lot of specific situations cited in this section, so for those of you who use State harbors related dry storage I suggest that you have a look at the original document to see where you might be responsible for extra expense or encumbered with more regulation.) 



Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Les Parsons (one-time troublemaker)
Les Parsons (one-time troublemaker)
6 years ago

I’ve been in the Ala Wai for nearly 20 years…and a few years back was a member of The Ala Wai Marina Board.
Our president at that time was Bruce Middleton. He was very effective, and Board members were quite active in harbor affairs…in fact, we stopped Caitano’s privatization scheme in its tracks.
Back then I, and others, offered testimony (both written and in-person) at a variety of legislative hearings.
Since then…there has been no REAL HARBOR ACTIVISM. Is this about to change?
I doubt if I can be of any real help…I now have some pretty serious back problems. So a trek to the Capitol is
pretty much out of the question.

I am wondering if you’ve ever heard of Bruce Middleton. He was excellent in many ways…and we definitely need someone like him to confront Underwood and the rest at DOBOR.

Please let me know about your plans…and ALSO you do need to identify yourself!