New boat permit system stirs controversy

Bob Reeve
Bob Reeve
Robert Peters
Robert Peters

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

WAIKIKI (KHNL) - Boaters who already struggle with record fuel prices, will soon face tougher laws on discharge - a move critics say could force them out of the water.

In just a few months, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will have a controversial new permit system in place.

It's meant to combat water pollution, but opponents say there's a potentially costly catch.

Boaters agree with cracking down on pollution, especially at Ala Wai Boat Harbor where contaminated water comes in from the Ala Wai Canal. But they question the EPA's strategy.

$32,500 - according to the Boat Owners Association of the United States, that's the maximum penalty boaters could face per day for violating new federal rules.

"I wouldn't be fined that, nor would anybody down here, that's for sure," said boat owner Bob Reeve.

The EPA's new permit system would regulate discharge, such as toilet waste and oil. Critics say the proposed guidelines are not fair because recreational vessels, from boats to canoes, would be subject to the same penalties and regulations as large commercial ships.

"One commercial ship that doesn't abide by the laws and that does happen fairly often, pollutes more than all the boats in the Ala Wai," said Reeve.

The permit system is part of new regulations under the Clean Water Act, which Ala Wai harbor users say could be helpful.

"Go look along the Hawaiian Prince, the shoreline, the dock line, all the debris floating between the boats, you could almost walk on it, it's so thick," said boat owner Robert Peters.

Still, boaters across the nation question the degree of the restrictions.

There is a political push for the Clean Boating Act of 2008, which would exempt recreational vessels from the proposed permit.

The EPA will hold public hearings before crafting a final permit system.

New regulations start October first, so all states must approve the new permit system by September 30th.