State trying to gallop forward on assessment for Superferry
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The state is rushing forward with a court-ordered environmental assessment for Hawaii Superferry that could take up to a year.
The state has filed notice that the assessment must be done quickly and is requesting exemption from procurement laws.
The state said it wanted the assessment performed by Belt-Collins, a consultant firm already performing an environmental impact statement for the Kahului Harbor master plan.
"The state required expeditious completion of the EA to comply with the Supreme Court's decision and avoid termination of business by the Superferry operator due to delayed implementation of the study," transportation officials said in an exemption request.
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State officials are moving ahead with a court-ordered environmental assessment of the Hawaii Superferry operations, but that could take up to a year.
According to documents filed with the state Procurement Office, the Transportation Department is asking for an exemption so it can issue a $1 million nonbid contract to the consulting firm of Belt-Collins. That's because it is already under state contract to develop the 2030 master plan for Kahului Harbor on Maui.
Because the state did not do an environmental assessment of the ferry's operation at Kahului in 2005, the Supreme Court last month ordered the state to perform the assessment.
Also last month, Maui Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza froze the Superferry operation at Kahului.
The Supreme Court warned that the state had to do more than just consider the effect of the ship and the harbor improvements at Kahului.
"The exemption (to the environmental study) was erroneously granted as the DOT considered only the physical improvements to Kahului harbor in isolation and did not consider the secondary impacts on the environment that may result from the use of the Hawaii Superferry," the Supreme Court said.
The document supporting the request for a procurement exemption, however, is not clear in what precisely Belt-Collins is to study.
The state wants the consultant to come up with "a determination on the impact of ferry operation at the harbor and whether the use of the state facility will necessitate further study and mitigation measures.
"Due to the public sentiment and desire for ferry service and resolution on environmental impact, Kawaihae, Honolulu, Nawiliwili harbors will also be included," the request stated.
Michael Formby, deputy transportation director for harbors, said the state recognizes it will have to study the ferry's secondary impacts.
But Formby said those impacts are largely undefined.
On the question of whether the study would include impacts on whales or the spread of invasive species, Formby said that "would be left up the expertise of Belt-Collins."
"The state required expeditious completion of the EA to comply with the Supreme Court's decision and avoid termination of business by the Superferry operator due to delayed implementation of the study," the request read.
Superferry opponents, however, warned that the state must comply with the court's ruling and not just study the operation in the harbor. Opponents want the entire range of possible effects to be studied, including dangers to marine mammals and negative effects from increasing the traffic in rural islands.
"The Supreme Court said it doesn't just involve Kahului Harbor, it involves the whole state and it involves invasive species and the whales," said Rich Hoeppner, president of the anti-ferry group People for the Protection of Kauai. "They better take another look at that court decision."
Formby said the state did not consider it to be a conflict for Belt-Collins to perform both the harbor study and the environmental assessment.
"The work they are doing for us in the 2030 master plan assumes that the Superferry is in existence," Formby said.
"But they are not retained by us to have the opinion we are looking for. They are asked to be fact-finders and look at what possible impact there would be and possible mitigation," Formby said.
The time allowed for the study was one year, according to the filing.
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Maui paddler has safety fears over ferry traffic in harbor
WAILUKU » A native Hawaiian who instructs youths in canoe paddling said he felt the Hawaii Superferry should halt operation at Kahului Harbor until it completes an environmental assessment.
Iokepa Naeole, a teacher at Hui Malama Learning Center near Kahului Harbor, said he was worried the Superferry might have a collision with canoe paddlers.
"We don't know how fast the ferry is moving," he said.
"I don't know how fast I need to get the canoes out of the way."
Naeole's testimony came on the second day of a preliminary hearing before Maui Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza.
Naeole is among witnesses being brought on behalf of Maui groups who want the Superferry to halt operation until it completes an environmental assessment.
The hearing continues today at 1:30 p.m.
Teya Penniman, manager of the Maui Invasive Species Program, is expected to testify about the potential impact of the Superferry in bringing alien pests to the Valley Isle.
Cardoza extended a temporary restraining order halting the Superferry's operation at Kahului Harbor until 2 p.m. Friday.
He has ruled that the Superferry must complete an environmental assessment, but has not made a decision on whether the interisland service may continue operation while conducting the study.
During the hearing yesterday, the courtroom continued to be filled with Superferry employees and critics of the interisland service, including members of Maui Tomorrow, the Sierra Club of Hawaii and the Kahului Harbor Coalition.
Naeole said with interisland barges traveling at a slower speed, canoe paddlers have time to get out of the way.
But he said the speed used by the Superferry during the time he's seen it in Kahului Harbor doesn't allow time for adjustment.
Naeole said the 100-yard federal buffer zone from the Superferry also forces canoe paddlers away from their regular resting stop at the corner of a pier, and places them in the middle of the harbor, where the wind makes stopping difficult.