BY WILLIAM MOSSMAN – The horror of watching the September 19, 2010 KHON TV News report of a 300 HP power boat running amok on August 31 in the Kewalo Basin, Ala Wai Harbors and adjacent surf areas, threatening the lives of tourist boat passengers and surfers, was only surpassed by the extremely poor way that the state handled this dangerous situation.
Who do you call to report such a serious incident?
1. The State Department of Land and Natural Resources-Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DO-CARE) advertises that they should be called on their “Hot line” on enforcement matters.
- However, when Sheri of the Ala Wai Fuel Dock, (where a part of this incident occurred), called the DOCARE Hotline on Tuesday, August 31, 2010 at 4:30 pm, all she got was a recording that announced that the DOCARE working hours are limited to 8 am to 4 pm Monday through Friday. (They are also not on duty on weekends, holidays, or furlough Fridays.) The DOCARE Hotline also contained a recorded message capability that Sheri utilized to describe the incident and urgently ask for help. Sheri relates that because she received no DOCARE response to the recorded message she left on August 31, 2010. So on September 1, 2010, at 10:35 am, she called DOCARE and spoke to several officers up the line and finally to BLNR Chair Thielen.
- As a result; obviously DOCARE could not be contacted when needed and no DOCARE officers responded until September 2, 2010 when an officer went to the Ala Wai Fuel Dock to interview Sheri. The DOCARE report that was filed only addressed the bumping of a vessel at the Ala Wai Fuel Dock and did not include the preceding attempt to ram a dingy in the Ala Wai harbor. It was unclear whether the DOCARE report included the “near-miss” (X-Treme) incident that occurred at Kewalo.
2. The U.S. Coast Guard was called by at least two citizens regarding the August 31, 2010 “near miss” incident at Kewalo Basin involving the commercial para-sail vessel X-Treme,
- BUT, the Coast Guard refused to respond because “the Coast Guard area of jurisdiction begins 3 miles off shore, and that DLNR-DOCARE had the jurisdiction and thus the responsibility, inside 3 miles”.
- As a result; The U.S. Coast Guard never did respond despite the fact that the X-Treme is a commercial vessel.
3. Fortunately, someone’s call (to 911 presumably) resulted in an excellent response by the HPD (Honolulu Police Department), both in timeliness and in strength.
- BUT, “jurisdictional issues” did enter the picture in that officers stated that the suspect could be arrested only if and when he set foot on the dock (shore). Fortunately he did at the Ala Wai and:
- As a result; was arrested by the HPD officers for incidents that occurred at the Ala Wai. The people involved at the scene were appreciative of the HPD response and their actions.
Thank goodness for the HPD, or there would have been no enforcement action taken at the Ala Wai. However, it is still unclear at this writing, if any enforcement action is being taken by DOCARE on the “near-miss” incident at Kewalo (HPD was not involved).
And a big mahalo to the guy with the video camera that recorded the dramatic attempts of the boat ramming that was shown on KHON TV News.
I read Laura Thielen’s reply to the complaint made to the State Ombudsman on the DLNR-DOCARE handling of this incident. True to form, she insists that shared or concurrent jurisdiction of boating activities within the 0 to 3 miles State waters amongst DOCARE, USCG, and HPD (The State, the Feds, and the County!!) is the best way to go. We disagree and contend that this “concurrent jurisdiction” (I like to call it “enforcement by committee action”) is the cause for most of the foul ups like this one. How does one agency know if the other two agencies are aware of the situation and what they are going to do (or not do)?? Call a meeting? Jun ken po? While the “whacko” hunts down another boat to ram??
More than 50 percent of Chair Thielen’s reply letter was devoted to expounding on how DLNR-DOCARE has stepped up public boating safety and enforcement efforts, and how DOCARE is striving to obtain national accreditation in law enforcement to elevate its professional stature – all of which have nothing to do with the non-response of DOCARE to the serious “life and property” incident that occurred in and around the waters of Kewalo Basin and Ala Wai SBH on 8/31/2010. It is interesting to note the following statement by Thielen in her letter because it sheds light on why the DBOR public boating facilities and users receive so little “protection of life and property” services from DOCARE:
“However, I disagree with your proposed solution to consolidate DOCARE with other law enforcement agencies. Our mission to protect natural and cultural resources is unique. The reason resource enforcement is specialized nationwide is because it takes a back seat when mixed with other law enforcement. It would be tragic to lose the ground gained in the focus on protecting Hawaii’s natural and cultural resources.”
Is the $1+ million of boater user fees that the Boating Special Fund transfers to DOCARE every year being used to protect Hawaii’s natural and cultural resources instead of protecting the life and property of the boaters at the DBOR boating facilities who provide the $1+ million subsidy of DOCARE for such services?
Let’s stay on top of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to get them to correct this unacceptable situation. What are we going to do if a similar incident occurs tomorrow?
William Mossman is the head of the Hawaii Boaters Political Action Association. Reach him at HBPAA@aol.com