Hawaiian boatyard faces investigation

The State of Hawaii is investigating a Lahaina boatyard's practice of collecting storage fees from boaters near the Mala boat ramp.
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The State of Hawaii is investigating a Lahaina boatyard's practice of collecting storage fees from boaters near the Mala boat ramp.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources is investigating whether the owner of the Mala Boat Yard is allowed to collect rent from boaters under his revocable month-to-month lease with the state, The Maui News reported.

In the meantime, the state evicted six boats from the site last month because the department says the vessels sat on state property outside of the yard's leased boundaries.

Wilson Keahi, who runs the boat yard with his grandson, told the Star Advertiser on Friday that he has done nothing wrong and that he is working with the department and the evicted boat owners. The state apparently changed the terms of his lease without telling him, Keahi said.

"There's no problem ... They made changes without telling me and they're trying to fix that right now," Keahi said. "I didn't do anything wrong. I've cleaned the whole place up."

Paul Sensano, the Maui District manager of the department's Boating and Ocean Recreation Division, said he will review the specific wording of what is allowed under Keahi's lease.

At least a dozen boats are stored in the boat yard a couple hundred feet from the Mala boat ramp. Boat owners said they pay Keahi $400 to $500 a month for storage.

Kai Iaconetti, of Napili, co-owns a boat on the eviction list that remains on the site. He said he is trying to finish painting his 40-foot catamaran before he puts it in the water to be moored off Lahaina.

Iaconetti said that he had no idea his boat was not on Keahi's leased land. He said that he has been refurbishing the catamaran for 18 months and has been working on it daily since receiving the eviction notice.

Keahi would not say how much he pays for his nearly half acre of space, but he said that the lease is "big money." He said he spends a lot of money on the upkeep of the boat yard and put up a fence.

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