Lanai’s only small boat harbor could be privatized, worrying fishermen and boaters

It’s a cherished gathering spot on the Pineapple Isle
Updated: May. 6, 2019 at 11:20 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Many fishermen and boaters on Lanai are angry after learning lawmakers recently passed a bill that calls for the privatization of the island’s only small boat harbor.

House Bill 1032 is now awaiting Governor David Ige’s signature.

“People don't want to lose their way of life and their lifestyle," said Bruce Johnson.

Johnson owns Uncle's Fish Market and Grill on Pier 38 in Honolulu.

He has also been a Lanai resident for 15 years and doesn't want to see Manele Small Boat Harbor privatized.

“Lanai is a very small place and there’s only a couple places that the local people, in my opinion, use it daily. I’m not suggesting the intent is for not letting that continue, but I think it’s a slippery slope," Johnson said.

Just before session closed last week, lawmakers decided to make a last-minute change allowing only Manele Small Boat Harbor to be privatized.

Rep. Ryan Yamane, Chair of the House Committee on Water, Land and Hawaiian Affairs, said it’s a five-year pilot project. He said if it works, the model could later be used at other harbors across the state.

“The reason why we picked Manele is because the community has been actively in discussions with the department to be partners in redeveloping the harbor and addressing the community’s needs,” said Yamane.

In its testimony, the Department of Land and Natural Resources said, “This measure would provide the Department with more flexibility and options to upgrade and improve state boating facilities in a timely manner, to the benefit of boaters and the public.”

Pulama Lanai, an entity that was set up by the island’s owner Larry Ellison, also submitted testimony in support of HB1032.

"Manele Small Boat Harbor on Lāna‘i is an example of a small boat harbor that would benefit from leasing by an outside entity. It is small, it has strong community support, has surrounding land that could be added to provide more opportunities for the boating community,” said Pulama Lanai’s Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Lynn McCrory in her testimony.

Max Kincaid is a fisherman and was born and raised on the Pineapple Isle.

He fears fees could go up dramatically.

“They’re claiming it won’t, they won’t jack it up, But honestly, we don’t believe that," said Kincaid. “It doesn’t seem realistic. Somebody comes in and invests all that kind of money to run a private harbor, they’re going to have to get their money back, and there’s only one way to get their money back, raise all the prices on everything.”

Other residents feel like they are being pushed out.

“We feel continuously left out anyway,” said resident Jeff Menze. “This is another example of a back door move between the state government and the highest bidder and we already know who the highest bidder on this island is.”

The Governor has until June 24th to notify lawmakers if he intends to veto the bill.

"If the governor does pass this into law and if they do not take care of the local community as promised, then this bill could also be repealed,” said Rep. Yamane.

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