Kauai group enlists lawyers to block ferry
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A Kauai citizens group plans to take legal action to block the Hawaii Superferry from returning to Nawiliwili Harbor until a statewide assessment of its environmental impact is completed.
People for the Preservation of Kauai hired a local law firm yesterday to seek a temporary restraining order similar to the one now blocking the ferry from servicing Kahului Harbor on Maui.
Kauai Sen. Gary Hooser said an environmental assessment became a requirement when Hawaii Superferry Inc. decided to fund their harbor improvements from state coffers. "That's what makes cruise ships (and airplanes) different from the Superferry," Hooser said.
The Sierra Club is separately mulling possible legal action regarding Kauai, state Director Jeff Mikulina said yesterday.
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CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
U.S. Coast Guard Acting 14th District Commander Capt. Charlie Ray, center, spoke to reporters at Pier 4 yesterday about the Superferry situation. The Coast Guard is meeting with state and Kauai County officials to address security issues.
A Kauai citizens group plans to take legal action to block the Hawaii Superferry from returning to Nawiliwili Harbor until a statewide study of its effect on the environment is completed.
People for the Preservation of Kauai hired a local law firm yesterday to seek a temporary restraining order similar to the one now stopping the Superferry from going to Kahului Harbor, said Rich Hoeppner, the group's chairman and spokesman.
Meanwhile, Coast Guard Lt. John Titchen said progress was made yesterday in talks among law enforcement agencies about providing the Superferry secure access to Nawiliwili Harbor.
Threatened legal action does not alter the intent to resume Superferry service to Kauai, once a security plan is worked out, Hawaii Superferry President and Chief Executive Officer John Garibaldi and state Transportation Director Barry Fukunaga said last night.
"We're committed to serving the islands of Kauai and Oahu, as well as Maui, as quickly as we can," Garibaldi said.
Since the law enforcement talks will continue today, however, Garibaldi said it is "very doubtful" that service will be resumed for the Labor Day weekend.
Hawaii Superferry canceled its Kauai service "indefinitely" Tuesday after about 50 protesters on surfboards and canoes blocked the vessel Alakai from entering the 350-foot-wide Nawiliwili Harbor mouth Monday night.
Fourteen people were arrested at Nawiliwili Harbor during two days of protests against the Superferry. The arrests included three adults on Sunday and seven adults and four juveniles on Monday. All those arrested were charged with state misdemeanor violations. *
Following that demonstration and a similar one Sunday, the first two days of Hawaii Superferry service, Gov. Linda Lingle asked the company to stop going to Kauai until safety concerns were addressed.
"The primary issue is to keep that harbor secure and keep commerce open, but we also want to be very open with the public," Lingle said yesterday. "For those who still feel they want to protest, we want them to understand what they're going to face if they do that.
"It's very reasonable that (public) resources are being put to making certain that we do everything we can to keep harbors safe, to keep the people on board (the ferry) safe and to keep the protesters safe as well," Lingle said.
Security talks will resume today among the Coast Guard, Kauai police and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which provides harbor security along with the Coast Guard. "We are all trying to come to a peaceful resolution," Titchen said.
"The company says it wants to operate," Fukunaga said last night. "And there's nothing we know of that legally prevents their operations in Nawiliwili Harbor."
State Rep. Mina Morita and Sen. Gary Hooser, Kauai Democrats, say they believe the Supreme Court ruling affects the whole state and that the ferry should not be operating anywhere until environmental studies are done.
Jimmy Trujillo, spokesman for the Hui-R group, which organized the Kauai protests Sunday and Monday, said any delay of the Superferry to the Garden Isle is a good thing.
But he said the group is still hoping to sit down with officials from the state, county and the Coast Guard to discuss Kauai residents' concerns.
So far, only Hooser and Morita have responded. Trujillo was especially concerned, he said, with what he called a lack of leadership by Kauai Mayor Bryan Baptiste.
"I hope the mayor knows that this is going on," he quipped.
Baptiste did not return a call seeking comment yesterday.
Without a resolution, either in person or in the courts, protesters will be back out again, facing fines and criminal charges, whenever the Superferry returns, Trujillo said.
Trujillo also reiterated that the protests were, for the most part, peaceful and nonviolent, and he expressed appreciation for the Coast Guard's restraint Monday night, when the ship turned around.
"If the Superferry didn't force their way in (Sunday), the incident would never have happened," Trujillo added. "We didn't realize the royal Kauai navy would be so effective."
Starting Sept. 6, Superferry and state officials will argue before Maui Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza that the ferry should be allowed to operate while it conducts an environmental assessment as ordered by the Supreme Court.
People for the Preservation of Kauai was formed 15 months ago to lobby for an environmental study of Superferry impacts, Hoeppner said. Last year the group, which is affiliated with the environmental group Kauai's Thousand Friends, collected more than 6,000 signatures of Kauai residents who supported such a study, he said.
The Sierra Club is separately considering possible legal action regarding Kauai, state Director Jeff Mikulina said yesterday.
The Sierra Club, Maui Tomorrow and Kahului Harbor Coalition appealed Cardoza's 2005 ruling that the three groups had no standing to pursue the case. * The Supreme Court overturned that ruling Aug. 23 and sent the case back to Cardoza.
The Superferry started service to both Maui and Kauai on Sunday but did not go to Maui Tuesday after Cardoza imposed a temporary restraining order, which halts the Superferry from using Kahului Harbor until he has heard arguments from both sides in the case.
"We don't know what we're going to do just yet. We're analyzing the situation," said Greg Meyers, of the Kauai firm Hempey and Meyers. "The bottom line is we're going to try to make sure the Superferry completes an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement before it operates anywhere in the state."
When the state Supreme Court ruled last week that the Hawaii Superferry needs to complete an environmental study, Hoeppner said, "the Supreme Court said it's a matter of law -- it requires an environmental assessment. And the Superferry was flipping the bird to the Supreme Court by coming over here Sunday and Monday."
Star-Bulletin reporters Leila Fujimori, B.J. Reyes and Tom Finnegan contributed to this report.
Saturday, September 1, 2007
Fourteen people were arrested at Nawiliwili Harbor, Kauai, during two days of protests against the Hawaii Superferry. The arrests included three adults on Sunday and seven adults and four juveniles on Monday. A Page A6 article yesterday incorrectly stated that 10 people were arrested. All those arrested were charged with state misdemeanor violations. The article incorrectly said some were charged with federal offenses.
Please see the applicable Corrections
page for more information.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
On Aug. 23, the Hawaii Supreme Court overturned a Maui court's 2005 ruling that three environmental groups seeking an environmental study regarding Kahului Harbor improvements for the Hawaii Superferry had no standing to pursue the case. An article on Page A6 Friday incorrectly said the Maui court ruled that the study was not needed for Kahului Harbor improvements.
Please see the applicable Corrections
page for more information.