Hawaii Superferry under scrutiny
Lawmakers say they want more information about the potential impact that a planned interisland ferry system would have on harbors, the environment and traffic as they continue debate over a proposal to cut $10 million in funds already budgeted for the project.
"I just would like to see what kind of potential problems (exist), if any," said House Transportation Chairman Joe Souki (D, Waihee-Wailuku).
John Garibaldi, president and chief executive of Hawaii Superferry Inc., assured members of two legislative committees yesterday that assessments and impact studies were well under way, with a report expected to be delivered to the state Department of Transportation by June.
Souki urged Garibaldi to do what he could to accelerate the studies and try to get a report back to the Legislature before the end of the session early next month.
Any cut in state funds for the project would have a "very, very negative" impact that could stall plans to begin the service by the third quarter of next year, the said.
The Legislature last year approved $40 million in the state's two-year budget to upgrade harbors and provide the Hawaii Superferry with the commitment it needed from the state to secure private loans.
Half of that money is to be appropriated at the start of the 2007 fiscal year on July 1, but two Maui senators have pushed a measure to cut that $20 million in half, saying they want more information from the company on its operating plans.
"Every penny of that $40 million has been spent," said Garibaldi, noting that the money is earmarked for improvements to harbors being made by the state. "The $40 million -- there wasn't any cushion there to take the money out."
Garibaldi said the company is on pace to have the first of two double-hulled ferries in service from Honolulu to Maui and Kauai by the third quarter of 2007. Hawaii Superferry eventually plans to operate two ferries with daily service to Kauai, Maui and both sides of the Big Island.
Critics contend neighbor island ports may be unable to handle more traffic and that two 340-foot vessels operating in Hawaii waters could have severe environmental impacts.