LIHU‘E — State Senate President Ron Kouchi is speaking out against the veto of a bill that aimed to reduce commercial boating operations across the state.
House Bill 1090 would have allowed the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to cancel permits and reissue them to various set limits. The department said that bill was introduced due to complaints of the over-use and over-commercialization of nearshore waters and public facilities.
The DLNR previously stated there was a sudden rise in permit applications before the department finalized permit limits at launching ramps in 2014. According to current regulations, the limit at the Kikiaola Small Boat Harbor in Kekaha is 10 permits, but tour operators say the DLNR has issued at least 25.
Gov. Josh Green vetoed the bill on July 7, stating there “needs to be a balanced, concerted approach” so that hundreds of jobs and local people aren’t adversely impacted by a sudden change in permits.
Kouchi, who voted in favor of HB 1090, is awaiting to hear how Green and the DLNR will now manage the state’s “overrun” harbors.
Kouchi said he understood the importance of tour boats and visitors for their positive job and economic impact.
“But the economic activity should not deprive residents of being able to use the resource, and the economic activity should not overwhelm the natural resource. It seems by looking at the amount of traffic going through Kikialoa Boat Harbor in particular, that there are more boats operating than are permitted,” he said.
“That they are running more tourists than are permitted and some are carrying more passengers than are permitted. And this is creating a heavy toll on the resource, and it is impairing the ability of residents to equally share in the resource.”
Kouchi also wants the DLNR to conduct evaluations at harbors to determine carrying capacities at harbors so that permit limits aren’t arbitrary and capricious.
“What is the actual carrying capacity? And then there needs to be a better plan and improvements put in to accommodate the amount of use that we want to see occur,” Kouchi said.
In an email to The Garden Island, Ed Underwood, an administrator with the DLNR’s Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, replied that there was no specific methodology used to determine the various permit limits the department has set at 23 launching ramps, where limits range from zero to 15.
He also had “no comment” on Kouchi’s statement that the DLNR “immediately develop and implement rules and regulations” for properly managing coastal waters.
According to Underwood, permits will continue to be grandfathered and reduced by attrition, which “only occurs when a permit is returned to the division either voluntarily or by an enforcement action.”
Before HB 1090 was vetoed, the department stated they had been unsuccessful with using attrition to try to reduce commercial activity.
“The issue with attrition is that the vast majority of businesses are incorporated so the business is usually sold and the permits transfer with the business so attrition is basically nonexistent,” the department said in a June email.
Kouchi is looking forward to hearing Green’s approach to managing the harbors, and said he’s hoping that the governor will add more resources to enforce only legally permitted activities.
“We’ll see what the governor will do next. The ball is in their court. He vetoed the bill. So he’s gotta figure out how that situation is going to be saved,” Kouchi said.
Emma Grunwald, reporter, can be reached 808-652-0638 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: The Garden Island