Boaters decry enforcement of mooring rules

State enforcement of administrative rules for offshore mooring at Mala Wharf and the Lahaina Small Boat Harbor led to the impounding of six vessels Tuesday.

The action followed notices posted Friday on 33 boats by officials from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, said department spokeswoman Laura Stevens. The boaters were given 72 hours to comply and to obtain a permit for the offshore mooring area.

As of Tuesday afternoon, six vessels remained noncompliant with offshore mooring rules and were impounded, she said.

Meanwhile, angry boaters complained Tuesday afternoon about rude treatment from state boating officials who provided only short notice about enforcement and had wrong paperwork and incorrect information for processing permits.

A phone call to the Lahaina Harbormaster’s office was answered by an official who referred questions to DLNR officials in Honolulu.

Lahaina resident Tony Carroll, 39, the owner of the “Mighty Dunn,” a 20-foot sailboat, said boaters were harassed by state boating officials who threatened to seize their vessels.

The move was driven by a state effort to start charging mooring fees, he said.

“It’s unprecedented. They’ve never done this before,” Carroll said.

He said he has had a boat moored off Mala for seven years without incident, and other boat owners have had their vessels tied up there for 20 years.

Carroll said boaters were given notices Friday afternoon, making it difficult for them to take action to get insurance and to make other arrangements over the weekend.

This weekend’s enforcement came about a year after officials told boaters about impending enforcement action, he said.

At that time, “everybody went running down” to comply, Carroll said, but when they arrived at the state boating office they were told the administration was not set up to handle permitting. He said boaters were told state officials would contact them when they were ready to process permits, but no such notice came a year later.

Instead, state officials put stickers on boats and told owners they had 72 hours to comply, he said.

Eventually, after getting insurance Tuesday, Carroll said he was able to pay $14.53 for a temporary permit. Later, as he said he understands it, he will pay $50 a month to moor his boat at Mala.

Ironically, the state doesn’t maintain the moorings; the boaters do, he said.

State officials are “not actually supplying anything other than people running around ticketing everybody they can,” Carroll said.

The state took what could have been a “very simple process” for handling mooring permits and “made it extremely difficult,” he said.

Carroll said he believes that the state’s action is driven by the administration of Gov. Neil Abercrombie in trying to “collect revenue everywhere they can.”

“The governor wants revenue to pay for the docks,” he said, although the docks are in dangerously bad condition with cement falling off them.

Stevens said she was unable to immediately respond to what triggered the state’s enforcement action.

Owners of the impounded vessels have 10 days after receiving a notice of the impoundment to request an administrative hearing in writing, she said. The hearing then must be held within five working days of them receiving the written request.

Unclaimed impounded vessels may be sold by the department at a public auction after 30 days. If the vessel isn’t sold at auction or if it has an appraised value of less than $5,000, the boat may be sold by negotiation, retained and used by the state or disposed of as junk.

* Brian Perry can be reached at