Superferry plans assailed
Iwase joins protesters calling for more study of the environmental effects of the vessels
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Randy Iwase joined Kauai protesters who came to Honolulu yesterday asking that the interisland Superferry be halted.
Iwase, at a news conference on the state Capitol lawn, said he supported a petition signed by Kauai residents requesting that an environmental impact statement be done before the private Superferry starts.
Kauai residents, according to Rich Hoeppner, one of the organizers of the petition drive to require more study of the ferry, want the service blocked until environmental and cultural studies can be done.
Iwase said he signed the petition, which Hoeppner said had 6,000 signatures.
Iwase and Hoeppner also complained that Gov. Linda Lingle declined to meet with the opponents to the Superferry to present the petition. State transportation officials and representatives of the ferry service, however, met with opponents Monday night during a public hearing on Kauai.
Requests for an environmental impact study were denied last year in federal court.
At public information meetings on Kauai and the Big Island, residents again asked questions about the lack of an environmental study, the impact on traffic, the possibility of non-native species spreading from island to island, and the danger of collisions with whales.
Superferry officials say surveys indicate 70 percent to 80 percent of residents support the daily ferry service from Honolulu to Nawiliwili on Kauai, Wailuku on Maui and Kawaihae on the Big Island. But opponents persist.
Terry O'Halloran, Superferry director of business development, said the company is listening to the concerns and is taking steps to ease them before the Oahu-Maui-Kauai service begins in July. A second ferry will begin daily runs between Honolulu and Kawaihae in 2009.
"Many of the things we are going to do are above and beyond any rule or regulation," O'Halloran said.
He pointed to specialized employee training with the Department of Agriculture, the addition of two whale-spotters on each journey and a barge-ramp system to speed embarkation and disembarkation.
Barry Fukunaga, deputy director of the state Harbors Division, told about 85 people at Tuesday evening's presentation in Kailua-Kona that the U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration determined an environmental review was not necessary.
"No other carrier is or has been required to undertake an (environmental impact statement) as a condition for engaging in maritime activity," Fukunaga said.
The lack of an environmental review prompted the loudest grumbles from more than 100 residents who attended Monday evening's presentation on Kauai, but the same protests were not raised on the Big Island.
Traffic was a major concern in both hearings, O'Halloran said. Each ferry trip will carry up to 110 vehicles -- everything from motorcycles to school buses and delivery trucks -- and 400 passengers.
Star-Bulletin reporter Richard Borreca and the Associated Press contributed to this report.