Under the Sun
Ferry rips fault lines where none should have been
WE'LL probably never know who in state government decided that the Hawaii Superferry operation didn't need an environmental review, even though it seems clear by reading the law that it does.
But we sure know who's to blame for the ridiculous super-mess. Let us point the fingers of fault.
First there're those damn environmentalists, that lawsuit-filing, tree-hugging bunch of whale-coddling, hair-on-fire alarmists who freak out at the thought of a miconia seed, bee-killing mite or mongoose hitching a ride on a fossil-fuel thirsty, all-terrain vehicle that will tear through what few native forests are left in Hawaii.
Then there're those peevish anti-government activists who like to stir up trouble whenever they can to have something to whine about.
They are closely aligned with the more committed "extremists" who oppose any and all change, clinging fast to a past that really doesn't exist anymore. You know the type, that rabid handful of people aimed at "keeping Hawaii in a third-world state," to quote Sen. Fred Hemmings.
Throw in a mix of Hawaiian groups who feel their culture and way of life are threatened on all fronts, the mine-mine-mine fishers and hunters who don't want an influx of other fishers and hunters picking off their opihi and wild pig, the drivers who foresee Honolulu motorists clogging roads in their sleepy little towns, rental car companies fretting over loss of business, airlines already flying nonprofit runs and insular worrywarts who fear the social fabric of their idyllic communities will be ruined by invasions of churlish urbanites.
Of course, there are the courts, inhabited by slow-okole jurists who don't take into account the real-world pace of commerce, who don't rush to judgment but wait until the last minute to issue rulings, throwing a wrench into the works by forcing compliance with the law.
The state, the indeterminate collective of sharp-witted politicians and administrators, can't be blamed for the fiasco. No, all officials were trying to do was grease the path for the Superferry, trying to counter the rep Hawaii has as a bad place to do business.
Even though that backfired -- stories and photos of surfers and swimmers blocking Nawiliwili Harbor have filled TV screens and newspapers around the world -- you have to give them credit for stalwart ferry friendliness, sanctioning the boat to sail in defiance of the courts.
The victimized ferry company, which was just trying to offer another way for "the people of Hawaii" to travel, albeit not as cheaply as thought, isn't to blame. It did everything the state required -- except for that vexing environmental analysis.
The company could not have anticipated that its in-your-face decision to sail before the courts could step in would intensify conflict and bad feelings. Nor would it calculate that pitting passengers -- seduced by hugely discounted fares and puzzlingly unaware they might get stranded -- against what it described as "minority dissident groups" could sway public opinion and put pressure on the courts.
Public opinion has largely favored the ferry. When first proposed, many people looked forward to getting on board and wanted it to succeed. Many people still do. They just want it done right, and who can blame them?
has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org