Despite Huge Profits from Harbor Properties the DLNR Still Proposing Big Increases in Fees

The DLNR under Suzanne Case, with the administrative support of DOBOR’s Ed Underwood, has hatched a plan to make the harbor system and boating in Hawaii even less appealing.  A plan to amend chapter 13-234 will force boaters to pay  huge fee increases, some as much as 1000%, and shackle boaters with even more boating restrictions.  If this passes, those sailors, fishermen and recreational boaters who are on a tight budget will most likely be forced to abandon ship altogether and just go sit on the beach.  All of this despite the millions of dollars in substantial yearly profits of some harbors and the gross fiscal mismanagement of most of the others.

It has recently come to light that three harbors in the State’s public harbor system turn a profit.  The other eleven harbors in the system are operating in the red despite huge demands for slips.  The Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor made a net profit of $2,578,010.45 last year; Maalaea public harbor made $258,377.17 in profits; Lahaina made $512,444.95 in profits.  DOBOR revenue profits from yacht club rental properties amounted to $692,197.90.

(Boaters and ocean recreation enthusiasts can request a copy of a complete ledger/spreadsheet showing all operating expenses and expenditures for all public harbors, beaches, and DLNR-controlled properties by sending an email to Kevin H.K. Yim, at Kevin is the Boating Staff Officer.  Specify the year you would like to see.)

Rather than carefully manage fees and revenues at the eleven failing public harbors in the State’s system, seeing to it that each of these harbor systems operate at least at break-even,  Suzanne Case’s DLNR is apparently hoping to end-run a plan to once again hit all harbor tenants and boaters in general with still more fee increases—the largest of which will hit tenants in the State’s most profitable harbor, the Ala Wai, essentially making this harbor a kind of welfare donor. 

Historically, the previous DLNR chief, Laura Theilen, was quite happy to smack boaters with substantial fee increases just a few short years ago, completely ignoring the fact that so many of her harbors were failing and needed individual attention. Theilen made no attempt, back then, to incorporate a strategy of responsible harbor-specific fiscal management that would bring each of the harbors current with its expenses, opting instead to leave this headache for the next DLNR chair.  With infrastructures failing in these harbors and chronic poor financial management it’s no wonder the State of Hawaii’s public harbor system is continuously deemed one of the worst in the nation.

Chapter 13-234 definitely needs amending, but not in the way that’s being proposed right now.  Ironically, all of the failed harbors have long, long lists of boaters willing to wait, sometimes for years, for the opportunity to moor their boats there.  The demand is certainly obvious; the fees should increase so as to reflect the demand allowing these harbors to operate at break-even or better.  There is no excuse for this current fiscally irresponsible version of chapter 13-234.  Those areas of our public harbor system that are not self-supporting should be made so, while those generating positive incomes should not be subject to fee increases of any kind but rather have their revenues re-invested directly back into those same systems to bring them up to first-world standards. 

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