Boat Harbor Fee Hikes to Take Effect Soon

September 9, 2019, 11:47 AM HST (Updated September 9, 2019, 11:47 AM)
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Small boat harbor fees soon will increase. PC: DLNR

Fee increases will soon be upped for users of small boat harbors and facilities across Hawai‘i. New increases became officials after Gov. David Ige signed them officially into law on Aug. 13, 2019.

DOBOR last implemented a comprehensive set of fee increases in 1994. The changes were made possible through rule amendments in compliance with a statute that updates 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 Hawai‘i.

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

“Our goal was to set fees that are fair according to use,” said Ed Underwood, Administrator for DLNR’s 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.”

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

Protection of Hawai‘i’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,” Underwood said. “We have 25 boating facilities statewide. The water bills for 15 of these facilities exceeded $20,000, including 3 facilities where water bills exceeded $100,000. Our water bill for the Wai‘anae small boat harbor alone was more than $400,000.”

“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,” Underwood said. “They should also use spring-loaded nozzles on hoses to prevent water just running and being wasted. 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.”

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% of a company’s monthly gross revenues to the greater of $300 per month or 3% 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.

The fee increase amendment package is posted online, where readers can view old and new versions side-by-side.

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