Dock work leaving boats homeless
|Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor photos|
By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Mike Leidemann
More than 170 boat owners are losing their space at the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor because of deteriorating safety conditions at three docks, officials said yesterday.
Engineers last week condemned the floating D dock next to the Hawaii Yacht Club and said the nearby B and C docks will face a similar fate in months.
"The docks are 40 years old and in disrepair, with patches on top of patches. They just can't be repaired anymore. They have to be replaced," said Richard Rice, state administrator for small boat harbors. "Engineers determined that all three of the docks are likely to fail at some point in the future."
Combined with other docks and berths either condemned or awaiting repair throughout the harbor, the latest closures mean more than 300 spaces in the 699-slip harbor will be unavailable for use.
"I don't know where I'm going to go. Maybe I'll have to sell my boat," said Masu Edamura, whose 27-foot sailboat "Chris" is berthed at Dock C.
The new dock closures affect 172 boats. While most of the boats are used for recreation, 18 have live-aboard owners, said Debra Ward, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
NOWHERE ELSE TO GO
State officials say they will try to accommodate some of the evicted boaters in other slip locations, but many may be forced to move their boats to already crowded harbors statewide.
"A lot of them aren't going to have any place to go. The other harbors are either full or very difficult to use," said Joe Wilson, a broker with Ala Wai Yacht Brokerage.
The loss of the docks will hurt everyone in the boating industry, he said. "If you don't have a place to put it, why buy a boat?" he said.
Boat owners and others have complained for years about deteriorating conditions at the Ala Wai Harbor, with many suggesting that the state either doesn't support the boating community or ultimately wants to privatize the publicly funded harbors.
"It's a disgrace for the state. This should be a jewel but the state has done zero upkeep over the years. Hawai'i boaters deserve better," said Patrick Moore, a sailing partner of Edamura.
$3 MILLION PROBLEM
In March, the city diverted 48 million gallons of raw sewage into the Ala Wai Canal over six days while crews fixed a broken sewer main.
Engineers examining the D dock, with space for 46 ships, found that it was in danger of breaking apart, Rice said. That prompted the state to send notices to the owners this week, telling them they will have to vacate their slips by the end of July. Boat owners on the other docks will be given several more months before they have to move.
"The life expectancy of the docks is problematic. If a bad surge came in tomorrow, they might be destroyed," Rice said.
Replacing the three docks will cost at least $3 million, he said. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources has requested money from the state Legislature for several years to do the work, but it hasn't been approved, Rice said.
"We'll ask them again next year," he said.
Earlier this year, the state released $1.65 million to build a replacement F dock, which accommodates about 70 boats. The new project, expected to be completed by May 2008, includes a new floating dock system with electrical and water utilities, an aluminum security gate and locker boxes.
Edamura, who will start looking for a new space this week, said he pays $125 a month to dock his sailboat at the Ala Wai, considerably less than most private and public marinas on the Mainland.
"I was surprised at how low it is. They could charge a lot more money if they used it for upkeep," he said, pointing to some concrete spalding and a missing tie-off cleat on the dock next to his boat.
FEE INCREASE IN WORKS
A typical harbor user with a 35-foot boat pays about $1,722 a year, Ward said. "We are planning an increase in fees sometime later this year, pending approval by the governor," she said.
All of the money collected from harbor users, along with revenue from boat registration fees, ramp fees and federal grants, goes into a special fund that generates about $10 million a year for operations and upkeep at 19 small boat harbors statewide.
However, an audit in 2002 estimated that it would take about $250 million in capital improvement projects to bring all harbors into safe conditions that could be maintained, Ward said.
Reach Mike Leidemann at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: The Hawaii Yacht Club is next to the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor. The name of the yacht club was incorrect in a previous version of this story.