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April 2004 Vol. 19, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Will Maui Stop Beach Diving?

from the April, 2004 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Shore diving is one of Maui's singular tourist attractions, but new local legislation designed to reduce tourist impact on local beaches may soon restrict shore access for divers.

The Maui County Council has passed a bill prohibiting vendors from peddling such activities as surfing and scuba diving on certain beaches. By July, nine beaches will be affected -- all surfing sites, says Rene Umberger, of the dive operation Octopus Reef. Umberger, who is working with other dive operators, the County Council, and the local parks department, says the next step is to complete rules for shore diving, beginning with an environmental impact study. After that, administrative rules will be drafted that will probably call for hefty fees to be paid by each operator for each site used. Until then, "we're in a holding pattern, and operating as usual," she says.

According to Umberger, the legislation was introduced in response to pressure from some local residents, who prefer to see tourist activity concentrated in Wailea and Kaanapali. The state of Hawaii has gotten into the act as well. Umberger told Undercurrent that the state has proposed rules that would require shore diving operators to have a county permit to park in or cross county property and another state permit to cross the sand and enter the water. "Unfortunately," says Umberger, "there is no mechanism in the rules for ensuring that those who have managed to obtain a county permit are then able to obtain one from the state."

Local dive operators have retained an attorney to represent them before the county and are considering hiring a lobbyist to work with the legislators on Oahu. They've received some funding from PADI and DEMA.

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