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State proposing new rules for commercial ocean activity

Published On: May 24 2013 05:32:00 PM HST

Sweeping changes are coming for thousands of companies that do business in the ocean. The state is preparing to roll out new rules to control the commercial activity that goes in on in the water.

HONOLULU -

For a small fee, Waikiki catamarans register with the state for an exclusive right to operate at the world-famous beach.

The companies pay only $8.50 a year to register their vessels. That's going to change to a percentage of their gross.

The state says it’s more in line with what catamaran companies in Maui pay, $200  or 3 percent of their gross,whichever is higher.   

"As you can see there is a huge disparity there and we are trying to make sure all commercial operators pay the same fee. So it is fair and equal across the board," said state boating administrator Ed Underwood.

One operator told us it would mean his registration fee would go from less than $10 a year, to $30,000.

To the state, it is a matter of paying a fair share for use of a public resource.

Surf schools only pay a dime a year to register their boards.

The proposal will hike that to a dollar.

One owner told said he didn’t really mind since the fee of 10 cents was pretty low.

He also hoped the rules would help manage other business who operate outside of Waikiki and pay nothing.   

But proposed rules would also have a far-reaching effect on any commercial activity in the near shore waters.

"We have beach boys that run off the beach. We have boats that come off private facilities.  We have boats that come off state facilities. We have the seven catamarans in Waikiki we have people that come off public access. We hope to address all these activities," Underwood said.

It would also help solve the problem of writing rules for every new ocean device that comes along.

For years, the state has had problems staying ahead of the curve.

Underwood said the proposed regulations would help in places like the Big Island, where the harbors have maxed out.

"These rules also address activity occurring in boat harbors, and state launch ramps. It's been a work-in-progress for four or five years," Underwood said.

It will affect all commercial kayak companies operating out in Kailua.

And not just companies operating on the water, but underwater too.

Scuba companies will fall under the regulations, as well as all snorkeling, and dolphin tours too.

"These rules will allow us to permit these activities that are occurring in state waters," said Underwood.

And those additional fees will mean more money for a cash-strapped state.

The public hearings on the proposed rules will begin later this year.

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