KAHULUI - Maui commercial ocean activities owners and representatives have mixed feelings over sets of proposed state rule changes that involve ocean activity registration and permit issues and commercial ocean-related operations on waters off Kaanapali.
Some owners and representatives were worried about safety issues, such as larger catamarans being able to do business in Kaanapali, while others were concerned about the "undue hardship" the new rules could have on some ocean recreation businesses.
James Coon, the president of the Ocean Tourism Organization, told state officials Thursday night: "I do hope DOBOR (Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation) will work with us in good faith and try to be understanding of our businesses."
Coon said that although the organization, which represents small ocean-tourism businesses statewide, supports many of the proposed rule changes, although a number of them would cause "undue hardship" for some businesses.
Coon spoke out during a state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation public hearing in the Maui Waena Intermediate School cafeteria. The state held public hearings statewide this past week on changes to three administrative rule chapters and two sections. About 30 people attended the Thursday hearing in Kahului.
Outside the hearing, Coon said the changes are detailed and hard to explain.
But he said that with the changes, the state has tightened up many of its rules, leaving no wiggle room for the state to work with various businesses.
During the meeting, Coon said: "I know the desire of the state would be have a one size fits all, (but) it doesn't work that way."
In an earlier interview during the week, Ed Underwood, the Boating and Ocean Recreation Division administrator, said the changes are needed because the rules were last modified in 1994.
"It's been a long time coming," he said. "There are so many new commercial activities. We don't have the ability to manage it. These rules will give us the ability to start managing it."
A summary of the comments received at the meetings will be presented to the Board of Land and Natural Resources, where modifications to the proposed rules may be made. Members of the public will have another opportunity to comment on this set of amendments and any changes proposed by the board at a future meeting, the date of which has yet to be determined, according to the state.
The rule changes or new rules target administrative rules that deal with the operation of boats, small-boat harbors and permits, along with Waikiki and Kaanapali ocean waters and registration and permit fees. The proposed amendments make changes to sections addressing commercial operator permit requirements and commercial vessel and water sports equipment registration requirements.
Jan Nolan of Queen's Treasure, a catamaran in Kaanapali, told state officials that she is concerned about the deletion of the size and passenger capacity for catamarans on Kaanapali Beach.
Now, the limit for catamarans is 65 feet or smaller and that a catamaran cannot not carry more than 49 passengers, she said.
"To allow any size boat on Kaanapali beach would be unsafe," she wrote in submitted testimony. "There needs to be limits on the size to protect the other users of this area. There have been accidents recently in this area and allowing for a huge 200-foot boat to come in would only increase the likelihood of more accidents."
She pointed out that Kaanapali ocean users apparently are not being treated fairly in comparison to commercial catamarans in Waikiki.
The state rules say that no valid commercial use permit or existing registration certificate issued to an owner of a commercial catamaran operating in the Waikiki ocean waters shall be denied or revoked without a prior hearing, Nolan pointed out.
She questioned why there was no mention of Kaanapali businesses and wondered if there would not be a hearing for Kaanapali businesses before any of their permits or registrations are revoked.
On Friday, state officials could not immediately be reached for comment on issues raised at Thursday's hearing. A state official said the meeting's purpose was to gather testimony and not to get into a detailed discussion of the changes.
Members of the pubic may still testify on the proposed rule changes.
The deadline for written testimony via email, fax and mail is Thursday. Testifiers are asked to declare whether they are in favor or opposed to the new rule or proposed rule amendment. Testifiers should refer to the chapter or section they are addressing.
Via email, comments may be sent to email@example.com. Include Title 13, Section # (i.e. 13-230 etc.) HAR" in the subject line.
Via fax, send to (808) 587-1977, Attn: Title 13, Section # (i.e. 13-244 etc.), HAR.
Via mail, send to the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, 333 Queen St., Suite 300, Honolulu 96813. Attn: Title 13, Section # (i.e. 13-256 etc.), HAR.
The proposed rules may be reviewed online at dlnr.hawaii.gov/dobor/draft-rule/ or may be reviewed in person at any small-boat harbor from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, except on state holidays.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.