DPNR’s Division of Enforcement Looking To Raise Mooring Fees

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The proposed mooring fee increases include “low” rates for monthly payments and “high” rates for yearly payments, above.

Without much fanfare or public notice, Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ Division of Enforcement officials plan to increase vessel registration and mooring fees in the territory by between 60 and 700 percent.

The proposed fee changes have not yet been “written in stone,” according to Director of Enforcement Roberto Tapia, and officials want to hear from the public at a Thursday evening, July 26, meeting at the Westin Resort and Villas at 6 p.m.

The proposed changes are supposed to be available on DPNR’s website, but were not posted as of press time. A copy of the proposed fee changes can be obtained at DPNR’s office in Cruz Bay or the Division of Enforcement office at the Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas.

The current registration fees range from $35 to $300 depending on the length of the vessel and whether it operates as in a commercial or noncommercial capacity. The proposed changes would increase those fees to between $45 and $325.

The proposed mooring fees are a little more confusing. Currently boaters pay an annual mooring fee of between $125 to $600 to DPNR’s Division of Enforcement based on the size of the vessel and whether it is used for a pleasure craft, a live-aboard or a commercial vessel.

The new fees would see increases of up to 700 percent and no lower than 60 percent. A person living aboard a vessel between 26- and 40-feet in length who currently pays an annual mooring fee of $195, would have to pay $1,170, a 500 percent increase. The fee for a live-aboard pleasure boat greater than 65 feet would rise from $600  to $4,800, a 700 percent increase.

The proposed mooring fee scale would give incentives for people to pay month by month, which currently does not exist. Under the proposed mooring fee scale a person living aboard a vessel between 26 and 40-feet in length who paid month by month would end up forking over $780 to DPNR each year.

The month-to-month pay structure was designed to stop boaters from paying $195 for the year to DPNR and then renting that mooring out to someone for a higher amount, according to Tapia.

“What is happening is that they are paying a mooring fee for $365 for the year and then going out and renting that mooring for $500 a month and we are trying to combat that,” Tapia said.

These fees are for the use of moorings which the boat owner pays for, installs and maintains by his or herself.

“We don’t provide any services right now except inspection and regulation,” said Tapia.

DPNR’s Director of Enforcement expected the new fees to allow the division to hire additional enforcement officers to be able to conduct additional inspections, he added.

The fee changes as they are currently proposed, however, are not finalized and would not go into effect until 2014, according to Tapia.
“This is not going to happen overnight,” said the Director of Enforcement. “This process is going to start in 2014.”

The proposed increases were created by DPNR’s Division of Enforcement personnel, according to Tapia, yet they have not been finalized.

“This is something that is not written in stone,” he said. “This is why we are having public meetings; to let the public know what we are doing and to get input from the public.”

“We are increasing the fees and we want to hear what the public has to say,” said Tapia.

DPNR’s Division of Enforcement will host a public meeting on the proposed mooring fee changes on Thursday evening, July 26, at 6 p.m. at the Westin Resort and Villas.