When it comes to having much hope for any major improvements to Hawaii’s recreational boating infrastructure, most boaters appear to have become somewhat jaded as they have learned that historically it hasn’t made much difference who holds political power in Hawaii when it comes to creating and/or maintaining such facilities.
For instance, when former Governor Ben Cayetano, a Democrat – was first running for office, he proposed a five-step plan to boaters, “to create a world-class boating program within the Department of Land and Natural Resources.”
First, he promised to put major emphasis on a more direct operational management for DLNR, with appropriate support for all state boating facilities. Second, he vowed to release “previously appropriated priority funds” to jump-start the maintenance needs of all the state’s boating facilities.
Then his third step was to initiate an investigation to determine how the lands and facilities under the Boating Program’s jurisdiction might be more efficiently and appropriately used to make the program truly self-sufficient.
Step four, Cayetano said, was to evaluate the need for providing the state’s harbor agents (harbormasters) with some law enforcement authority to assure appropriate response and security for boaters.
The final fifth step was to create a comprehensive statewide boating program that would include “clearly defined responsibilities and operational standards” for all boaters and facilities.
Clearly, time has shown that Cayetano’s five-step plan was political rhetoric at best, and his “world-class boating program” was certainly not established within the DLNR during his administration.
Repeated state audits of the DLNR’s Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation – or a visit to nearly any state marina – confirm instead that our boating program has at best treaded water over the years.
Hawaii’s Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, perhaps wisely, never offered a comprehensive plan for rehabilitating our recreational boating facilities. Nevertheless, their overall condition continued to languish on her watch as well.
But is any governor alone responsible for the below average state of our marinas? The easy answer might be to point also to those DOBOR bureaucrats at the operational level of things. After all, they are usually there no matter which political party holds office.
But, after more thought, some might look higher to the politically appointed Board of Land and Natural Resources. They are the ones who direct DOBOR and control the spending from the Boating Special Fund, which is DOBOR’s nearly exclusive source of revenue.
Just the fact that for over seven years the Ala Wai Boat harbor – Hawaii’s largest marina – has been without its boatyard and fuel dock, which boaters had depended on for decades, points to a severe lack of proper prior planning and management.