Mooring fees to increase on Kauai
By Paul C. Curtis
The Garden Island
LIHU‘E — Technically, Hawai‘i’s small-boat harbors system has been operating contradictory to state law since its inception.
The law requires mooring fees to be sufficient to cover the operating costs of the small-boat harbors, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
A DLNR Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation report found that none of the small-boat harbors have ever operated at a break-even point, and have been subsidized by funding from other sources.
A proposal to hike mooring fees for users of both permanent and temporary moorings has been fine-tuned a few times, including a final time Friday before members of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources approved the proposal, said Ron Agor, Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau BLNR representative.
Agor said he doesn’t have any problem with increases in permanent mooring fees, as they will increase around 20 percent a year for the next five years, for an average annual increase of around $50 per boat.
But an increase in temporary mooring fees from around $7 a day currently to $2 per foot of boat length per day was too much even for he and fellow board members to stand, he said.
A compromise was reached wherein temporary mooring fees would increase 20 percent, he said.
The complicated fee system covers Nawiliwili, Kukui‘ula, Port Allen and Kikiaola small boat harbors on Kaua‘i, as well as Hanalei Bay during the summer months.
At a DLNR public hearing last month on Kaua‘i, commercial and recreational boaters voiced opposition to the mooring fee hikes.
“Is this the right time for fee increases?” Agor said of his mindset before Friday’s meeting on O‘ahu. “I am not too concerned about the regular mooring fees because the increase in spread over five years. However, the temporary mooring fee increase is a concern.
“At Hanalei Bay many vessels are there for the three-month summer period. That amounts to approximately $3,600 for the summer — a huge increase,” he said.
“I am not too worried about visitors because they travel and will find the increase comparable to other areas they have been to. But for the locals who choose to spend their summers in the bay, this is a huge impact,” said Agor.
In order for the small boat harbors to break even, the per-foot mooring fee would need to be increased by $3.47 statewide.
DOBOR realized that this would be difficult for some, so they proposed to implement the increase over a five-year period. During this period, the small boat harbors would still need to be subsidized.
As a result of public input received orally and in written form, DOBOR recommended the temporary mooring fee be lowered from a proposed $2 per foot per day to $1 per foot per day, a rate the BLNR still found too high.