[ OUR OPINION ]
Troubled U.S. waters
need policy changes
A NEW study cataloguing threats to America's oceans from destructive fishing practices, pollution and urban growth should have profound resonance in Hawaii, where lifestyle, commerce and traditions are so tightly linked to the waters that surround us. The study's recommendations deserve earnest consideration by federal authorities who through the years have cobbled together conflicting policies, agencies and laws.
A private commission urges a management overhaul to stop harm to America's oceans.
The three-year study by the private Pew Oceans Commission -- the first comprehensive examination since 1969 -- rejects the notion that the ocean is a boundless resource requiring little protection and sets a course of action that encompasses all aspects of the ecosystem, including land-based activities that harm the seas.
Each threat examined in the study has relevance in Hawaii. Among them is runoff, or "nonpoint source pollution." The study notes that oil from parking lots and roadways flowing into America's oceans every eight months is equal to the 10.9 million gallons spilled by the Exxon Valdez. Nitrogen from agricultural fertilizers and other products kills vast quantities of marine life, resulting in "dead zones."
Pollution from cruise ships is another major concern the study cites that should be of interest here. The report points to estimates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that in one week, a 3,000-passenger ship generates about 210,000 gallons of sewage, 1 million gallons of gray water (shower, sink and dish water), 37,000 gallons of oily bilge water, and more than 8 tons of solid waste and toxic wastes from dry cleaning and photo-processing laboratories. Ships also flush millions of gallons of ballast water potentially containing invasive species.
The study proposes that a moratorium be placed on new salt-water fish farms until standards for operating and locating them are established, a move that could affect Hawaii's spawning aquaculture ventures. There are valid concerns about pollution from fecal matter, chemicals and nutrients as well as production of species not native to an area even with Hawaii's regulatory practices in place.
The landmark report suggests that the global problem of over-fishing can be alleviated by establishing a national system of ocean refuges -- such as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands reserve created in 2000 -- that serve as natural hatcheries for many species of commercially sought fish while protecting endangered marine life.
The most important aspect of the study is its integrated approach to ocean management. It correctly recognizes that fragmented policies dealing with problems crisis by crisis, isolated from one site to the next, diffuses efforts to maintain healthy oceans. It should not be dismissed as a mere Cassandra warning from environmentalists.
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Airport taxi system
IN any competition, the referee's neutrality is crucial. The state has ignored that tenet for decades in awarding the contract for managing Honolulu Airport's taxi service to one of the taxi companies. Governor Lingle has given that practice a well- deserved burial and called upon any non-taxi companies to put forth their qualifications to manage the airport's cab service. May the competition begin at a level curbside.
The state is inviting bids from non-taxi companies to manage airport service.
The move follows the demise of SIDA, a 40-year-old company that controlled the starter's gun for seven years at a waiting area where taxis are dispatched to the terminal, and determined the order of pickups at curbs. Cabbies from other companies complained that SIDA favored its own drivers, allowing them to cut in front of other cabs. In some quarters, that is praised as company loyalty.
Despite that edge, which a judge confirmed did exist, SIDA, or State Independent Drivers Association, closed its operation last month, in debt to the state for more than $730,000 in delinquent concessionaire payments and interest. The company made monthly concessionaire payments to the state from fees charged to cabbies. SIDA blamed its financial problems on the downturn in tourism resulting in fewer taxi rides from the airport.
SIDA's airport contract expired in January, and Lingle agreed to a request by the state-appointed Small Business Regulatory Review Board that she delay the close of bidding for a new contract until the system could be examined. As a result, the state Department of Transportation last month launched a new bidding process open to anybody who does not own, operate, manage or have anything to do with taxis beyond riding in the back seat.
SIDA paid the state a set amount monthly, regardless of the number of cab trips from the airport. If qualified companies are to pay a fee based on the number of trips, it should be asked to develop a method of keeping track of those trips, subject to verification rather than the honor system being considered. Bookkeeping skills are more important in a concessionaire than knowledge of the taxi industry, but the state needs to retain the opportunity of an independent count.