LAHAINA, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state is threatening to seize several private boats in Lahaina over a lease dispute.
The Mala Boat Yard has been in business since 1981 but investigators with the Department of Land and Natural Resources believe the operator is illegally storing the vessels on state land next door to the boat yard.
The DLNR also alleges that the boat yard isn't allowed to rent space to other boat owners under its lease.
"It's state land that's being used to line someone else's pockets to make their wallets fat," said environmental activist Carroll Cox.
"One gentleman said he spent $36,000 in his tenure there ... others say they spent $400 to $500 a month for several years."
The boat yard was founded by Lahaina resident Wilson Keahi. Under a revocable permit with the DLNR, Keahi pays the state about $700 a month for the nearly half-acre property.
Keahi said he's done nothing wrong, yet the state continues to hound him.
"This is completely, totally harassment period. They came in the yard accused me of stealing water, stealing electricity," he said.
"They checked the whole yard out. I'm clean."
Keahi said his lease doesn't forbid him from collecting rent to store boats. But the DLNR recently told Cox that Keahi's revocable permit doesn't allow him to sublease or collect storage rents from boat owners.
Keahi said he's been in touch with the DLNR, which has agreed to hold a hearing on the dispute.
Meanwhile, the state is still threatening to impound the boats. But many of the owners live on the mainland and are having trouble finding other places to store their vessels.