West Maui offshore mooring permits are deferred
BLNR asks for public engagement; decision affects five businesses
The state Board of Land and Natural Resources last week deferred action on five after-the-fact requests for offshore moorings on the west side and called on the community to work together on a master plan, according to an attorney for shoreline protection and access groups.
Na Papa’i Wawae ‘Ula’ula’s Kai Nishiki and West Maui Preservation Association attorney Lance D. Collins testified against the requests for the moorings outside the Kaanapali Ocean Recreation Management Area at the June 28 meeting on Oahu.
Testimony by Nishiki and Collins focused primarily on Pacific Jet Sports’ request for its mooring, which is near Hanakaoo Beach Park, where the County Council on Friday voted to ban commercial activity and where three West Maui canoe clubs practice.
“These commercial outfits have illegally installed moorings without approval from the land board and without first going through environmental review,” Nishiki said.
“They are commercial sprawl in the water. Together, these activities have a huge impact on the community’s use of these waters that have not been considered or reviewed,” she said.
But Ted King, owner of Pacific Jet Sports, said Friday that the mooring for his Jet Ski operations initially were put in place in 1982 on a sandy bottom about 1,000 feet offshore. The mooring was moved farther south, away from the canoe clubs, “to be a good neighbor,” he added.
The state informed him that all moorings needed to be registered with the federal government, which the Army Corps of Engineers approved more than a year ago for his mooring, King said. He has been waiting a year for action by the state Board of Land and Natural Resources.
King said he was unaware that his request was on the BLNR’s agenda on June 28 in Honolulu.
“You would think as an applicant I would be informed,” he said. “I didn’t get a chance to present my perception.”
He said his mooring keeps people off the beaches and keeps noise pollution at a minimum. The company has “a stellar track record” for ocean safety with no citations, he said.
A ban on commercial activities at Hanakaoo, which he supports, will not affect his operations, King said. Customers are picked up in front of the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa and Whalers Village.
Others seeking after-the-fact permits at the June 28 meeting were Sailing Shipps Ltd., doing business as Gemini Charters; Iconoclast Ltd; Keith Salvador; and Philip Carr.
The deferral has no end date, Collins said.
He said that they were intending to seek a contested case, but the board deferred action “so the community could meet and come up with a plan.” It is their understanding that the state Department of Land and Natural Resources will be leading the community meetings, said Collins.
“However, if there is no action within a reasonable time, Na Papa’i Wawae ‘Ula’ula and WMPA will move forward with community meetings,” he said.
DLNR spokesman AJ McWhorter said Tuesday: “The Board of Land and Natural Resources deferred decision on certain mooring permits pending further discussion and review of these moorings in conjunction with the current ORMA (Ocean Recreation Management Area).”
Ocean Recreation Management Areas are set up to provide increased public access, reduce user conflicts, promote overall public safety and avoid possible adverse impacts on humpback whales and other protected marine life, the DLNR website says. The designated areas also are established to contain certain commercial activities in specifically designated locations and time periods as well as to place limits on equipment types.
Had the board approved the moorings, Collins said “it very likely” would have led to a lawsuit, similar to one filed in 2017 by the groups challenging commercial use permits issued by the state to tour boat operators for anchorage off Kaanapali Beach. The plaintiffs claimed in the lawsuit filed in 2nd Circuit Environmental Court and currently on appeal that the environmental impacts of the tour boat operations have not been reviewed and that, at the very least, an environmental assessment is required before issuing permits for activities off Kaanapali Beach.
“We’re grateful to the land board for deferring these items so that the community can work together on a master plan for one the last major recreational ocean areas for local people,” Collins said.
* Lee Imada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.