CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Mehana Blaich Vaughan, center, and Keone Kealoha, left, director of Malama Kauai, stood yesterday moments before news a conference at the state Capitol.
Ferry critics take case to the Capitol
Opponents from Kauai are pressing their case in Honolulu, saying the Hawaii Superferry should not be allowed to come to the Garden Island without an environmental study.
Meanwhile, Kauai residents are divided over the stalled project.
At the state Capitol yesterday, 20 activists held a news conference to drive home their concerns that the ferry will increase problems of overcrowding, traffic and invasive species on the largely rural island.
"Aloha isn't letting anyone come to your home and do whatever they want, then quietly cleaning up after," said Mehana Blaich Vaughan. "Aloha is taking good care of whatever is your kuleana so that you'll always have something to share."
Late yesterday, Superferry officials said the Kauai service was canceled through Friday.
"Talks among law enforcement agencies and the Coast Guard about providing Hawaii Superferry secure access to Nawiliwili Harbor continue," officials said in a news release. "We have not yet been given assurances from the Coast Guard for safe passage into Nawiliwili Harbor."
On Friday, Kauai Circuit Judge Randal Valenciano declined to block Superferry service to Nawiliwili.
On Maui a circuit judge blocked the Superferry service after the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled Aug. 23 that the state had to perform an environmental assessment for the state harbor improvements done on Maui to accommodate the boat.
Service to Kauai was stopped after angry protesters blocked the path of the ship in the Nawiliwili channel and disembarking passengers were cursed and heckled.
"We extend sincere apologies to anyone offended by the action of a few protesters," Blaich Vaughan said. "And we regret that while the vast majority of actions were peaceful, unified and calm, the media chose to showcase one moment in which a vehicle accelerated into a line of protesters and a few reacted irrationally."
The Coast Guard said it could not assure the safety of protesters, the boat or its passengers, so company officials suspended operations to Kauai last week.
The controversy has bitterly divided Kauai, which has an economy dominated by tourism, agriculture and employment at the Pacific Missile Range Facility.
"The whole thing is really sad," said Lori Cardenas, a Kauai resident. "It has been very polarizing, and I don't think anybody is winning."
Cardenas, who owns Aunty Lilikoi, which sells jams and jellies, said the protests and the halted service hurt "opportunities for growth for small business," adding, "My biggest untapped market is neighbor island locals, and I was hoping (for) more."
Others, however, see the ferry as a threat to Kauai's environment and a danger to whales and seals.
Annaleah Atkinson, co-founder of Kauai Mediation Works, who signed a petition opposing the Superferry, says the controversy is the No. 1 topic of discussion on Kauai.
"There is a lot of concern on all different sides. ... There is concern for 200 extra cars a day coming and what it will do to our traffic," Atkinson said.
"It is going to impact our lifestyle negatively," she said.
As a professional mediator, Atkinson said she is hoping that both the ferry and the community can sit down to work something out.
"I think a lot of people are feeling that it is inevitable," she said. "I believe that the wisdom and goodness of humanity can make things right."
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Biologist says risk of Superferry colliding with whale is ‘very high’
WAILUKU » A marine biologist said there was a "very high likelihood" of humpback whales being struck and hurt by a vessel traveling higher than 16 mph -- well below the top speed of about 45 mph for the Hawaii Superferry.
Hannah Bernard testified yesterday in Maui Circuit Court that studies of ferries show higher speeds increase the difficulty of seeing humpback whales and avoiding them.
Bernard was the first witness yesterday on behalf of citizen and environmental groups seeking to require Superferry officials to complete an environmental assessment before operating the catamaran-style vessel.
Maui Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza denied a motion by the groups' attorney, Isaac Hall, yesterday to rule that, as a matter of law, the operation of the Superferry should be halted pending completion of its environmental assessment.
Cardoza ruled a couple of weeks ago that the Superferry required an environmental assessment, but has not decided whether to allow the interisland service to continue operation while conducting the study.
Cardoza decided yesterday to extend a temporary restraining order to halt the Superferry operation through 2 p.m. today.
The Hawaii Superferry started service Aug. 26 between Oahu and Kahului Harbor but was forced to halt operations two days later after Cardoza issued the temporary restraining order.
The court hearing continues at 10 a.m. today, with Hall continuing to call witnesses on behalf of Maui Tomorrow, the Sierra Club of Hawaii and the Kahului Harbor Coalition.
The hearing could take days if not weeks.
Hall alone has presented a list of 28 potential witnesses, according to a Superferry attorney, and officials with the state Department of Transportation and the Superferry are expected to also call witnesses on their behalf.
Superferry attorney Lisa Munger indicated she did not want the court hearing to become a "filibuster" to continue the temporary restraining order halting the operations.
Much of yesterday was spent with Bernard on the witness stand and attorneys arguing about her qualifications. Cardoza eventually accepted her as an expert witness.
Bernard, who sits as an adviser on a Pacific scientific review group with the National Marine Fisheries Service, said studies have shown increasing the speed of the vessel results in serious injury and mortality to marine mammals.
Bernard said in Glacier Bay, Alaska, where there are humpbacks, the speed of vessels is limited to nearly 15 mph and is lowered to 11.5 mph in waters known to have more whales.
She said Superferry officials' plan to reduce speeds to 27.6 mph during humpback season was inadequate.
By comparison, interisland barges travel at 13 to 20 mph, according to the Pacific Whale Foundation.
Bernard also said the Superferry plan did not sufficiently address the other marine mammals, including pilot whales and dolphins, present throughout the year in Hawaii.