RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Members of the Kauihou family from Nahiku, Maui, stood on the sidewalk on Puunene Avenue in Kahului holding signs yesterday as vehicles left the harbor after the Alakai's inaugural sail to Maui.
Protest groups on Kauai delay passengers’ arrival
NAWILIWILI, Kauai » Kauai residents turned out by the hundreds yesterday to protest the arrival of the Superferry from Oahu, keeping the boat from discharging all its passengers for well more than three hours.
From toddlers holding signs to people swimming out, fully clothed, into the path of the Superferry, the protesters disrupted the ferry's service well into the evening.
"Our job for the night has been accomplished," said Jimmy Trujillo, spokesman for Hui R, which organized the protest. "We'll be back tomorrow."
Trujillo said that protesters continued to block the exits at 9 p.m., two hours after the ship was scheduled to sail back to Oahu.
It was unclear how many arrests were made, but Trujillo said that a number apparently were arrested after lying down to block the main exit.
Many others had their cars towed, as people would drive in front of an exit, get out, lock the doors and walk away. When those cars were towed, others would move in to take their place.
"It's a real cat-and-mouse game right now," Trujillo added.
Before the ship even reached the dock, however, about three dozen people -- some on surfboards, some on boogie boards, even one woman in a sundress -- blocked the entrance of the Superferry by swimming into its path as it arrived at Nawiliwili Harbor at 6 p.m.
The ship was forced to retreat out of the harbor and wait for the Coast Guard to clear a path, delaying the docking for more than an hour.
Drew Stenovich, one of the surfers who blocked the way, said he felt like the protest had made a difference.
"This represents a lot more than the Superferry," he said. "We need to make a stand not to get bullied by corporate interests."
Fellow surfer Josh Bean said he was "bummed that it got to port," and wished more surfers had paddled out to help.
Trujillo said the whole situation could have been avoided had Gov. Linda Lingle and the state Department of Transportation "demonstrated some leadership" and allowed the environmental assessment process to take its course.
Earlier in Kahului, traffic and the protest demonstration on Maui were relatively light as the Superferry disembarked passengers and vehicles from Oahu on its first official day of business.
A few dozen people representing various groups critical of the Superferry lined the sidewalks.
The number of vehicles from the Superferry waiting at the Kaahumanu Avenue intersection typically ranged from three to seven and sometimes none at all during the first hour. But traffic is usually light in Kahului on Sunday.
State Deputy Attorney General William Wynhoff, on Maui yesterday to observe the traffic impact, agreed that today would probably be a better day to assess the situation.
Jeff Parker, an official with the Kahului Harbor Coalition, said he felt the Superferry was violating the law by choosing to begin operation before it had completed an environmental assessment.
"The Superferry is acting in bad faith," he said.
Parker said the group continued to be worried about the spread of invasive species, such as fire ants, and wanted to take a closer look at the Superferry's screening procedure for vehicles.
Roy Biernacke, a weekend harbor fisherman, voiced concerns about crowding.
"Too many people going come, and they going use up all our space and going be overcrowded like Honolulu," he said.
Kahului resident Larry Pascual said he was in favor of the Superferry because of the additional income it will provide.
"It's bringing a lot of money to Maui," he said.
Mike Barraque, a Wailuku resident, said he planned to take his motorcycle on the Superferry to go to Oahu and liked the service offered by the new business.
"I think it's a great idea," he said.
Oahu residents who drove off the ferry appeared happy.
Steve Gilbert, an Aiea resident who brought his motorcycle with him, said the Superferry service was "awesome."
"I hope it doesn't get tied up in the courts," Gilbert said.