Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Lawsuit puts ferry
at risk, exec says

WAILUKU » Development of an interisland Hawaii Superferry could be jeopardized if a lawsuit on Maui delays state approval of an operating agreement, said its chief executive officer, John Garibaldi.

Garibaldi said his venture needs governmental clearance by June 30 or it will lose funding to build the ship.

"There has to be some resolution of this matter in the court," Garibaldi said. "It does have significant ramifications."

Three Maui groups are seeking an injunction to force the state to prepare an environmental assessment before it agrees to use Kahului Harbor for the Hawaii Superferry.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Maui Circuit Court, was brought by Maui Tomorrow, the Sierra Club and the Kahului Harbor Coalition.

"Frankly, we have questions about how this thing is going to operate on all the islands," said Lucienne de Naie, vice president of the Hawaii Chapter of the Sierra Club.

"We all felt it was kind of important to get our concerns out early," she said.

De Naie said her group wanted to know the particulars in the Hawaii Superferry plan, such as how cars would be transferred from one island to the next, and how the state planned to prevent the introduction of invasive species. She said that while the state has done environmental reviews in the past for various improvements at the Kahului Harbor, it hasn't done one for the Hawaii Superferry.

While the idea of having more interisland transportation is good, de Naie said, her group has had difficulty getting answers about the Superferry operations, and hopes the lawsuit will help.

Garibaldi said his venture has been "proactive" in its design of the ferry and plans for preventing the introduction of alien species, with rules requiring state agricultural officials to approve any transportation of plants and animals.

He said the state Legislature has already voted down a bill that would have required an environmental impact statement, and the venture is now faced with a similar attempt in court.

State transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa said the state plans to withhold comment until it sees a copy of the lawsuit.

Ishikawa said the state feels it is in compliance with environmental laws and has no plans to make permanent improvements at the harbor for the ferry.

"So we're hoping this thing will be resolved in a timely manner," Ishikawa said.

Hawaii Superferry
Maui Tomorrow
Sierra Club
State Department of Transportation

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