Superferry rivals, backers regroup
STORY SUMMARY »
Gov. Linda Lingle and the Hawaii Superferry are going to Kauai, drawing vows from protesters that they will again try to block the vessel.
Lingle yesterday announced that extensive security preparations have been completed so that the 350-foot, high-speed ferry can travel to Kauai on Sept. 26.
Protesters expressed frustration and worry yesterday at a rally held by groups opposed to the Superferry. Some said they would be back in the water to protest its arrival.
Lingle will hold one or two community meetings on Kauai sometime before the return.
A human chain of protesters blocked the Nawiliwili Harbor channels Aug. 26 and 27. The ferry has been the subject of community protests since 2004, as opponents demanded the ferry be subject to an environmental assessment.
Critics fear the ferry will hit whales and bring invasive species to Maui and Kauai and that the added cars from Oahu visitors will clog and despoil the island's rural lifestyle.
More than 1,000 protested on Kauai. Three were arrested on misdemeanor charges, and the U.S. Coast Guard cleared 20 swimmers from the channel.
State and federal officials are promising strict enforcement of a security zone in Nawiliwili Harbor. Lingle and state Attorney General Mark Bennett passed out a list of 13 state laws and six federal laws that could bring felony jail terms if violated by protesters.
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TOM FINNEGAN / TFINNEGAN@STARBULLETIN.COM
About 75 people gathered yesterday on Kauai to implore their politicians to keep the Superferry from returning to Nawiliwili Harbor without a study of its effect on the environment.
The battle lines are drawn.
While Gov. Linda Lingle and the Coast Guard yesterday promised a tough new response to any illegal protests against the Hawaii Superferry, opposition groups on Kauai vowed to return in force in the interest of environmental safeguards.
"We will get in the water again," said Andrea Brower, a lifelong Kauai resident who said she was speaking on behalf of protesters who delayed and eventually turned back the ferry last month. "We ask you to hear our voice."
During her news conference yesterday to announce the resumption of service to Kauai, Lingle said she will go to Kauai sometime before the Sept. 26 start date.
Superferry officials said they'll release more details about the ferry service in the near future.
Lingle said she is hoping to meet on Kauai with both opponents and supporters of the ferry.
Sen. Gary Hooser (D, Kauai), who has been critical of the ferry, applauded that decision.
"It is overdue and it is the only way to bring people together," Hooser said. "The people felt they have been ignored and not listened to."
He added that some form of protest is likely to continue while the ferry is operating without an adequate environmental assessment.
"I am confident the people of Kauai will approach this in a law-abiding manner and will look for other, creative means to express their opinions," Hooser said.
The ship's operators started service to Maui on Aug. 26, but Maui Judge Joseph Cardoza banned the ship from Kahului two days later so he could consider arguments over whether the ship can serve the island while the environmental study is being done. The environmental assessment is expected to take up to eight months.
The governor's comments and the news that the Superferry would be returning to the Garden Isle was met with frustration and worry at a rally held in Lihue yesterday by opposition groups.
The rally, held to thank the Kauai County Council for a 2005 resolution asking the state to conduct an environmental impact statement on the Superferry, concluded with a march to the governor's liaison's office and the office of Kauai Mayor Bryan Baptiste.
About 75 people attended the gathering, most of whom were at last month's protests of the Superferry's arrival at Nawiliwili Harbor.
Jimmy Torio told Baptiste that his 11-year-old grandson felt the need to jump in the water at Nawiliwili on Aug. 27.
"When young people don't see leadership, they act," Torio said. "There are 40 more kids prepared to jump in."
Everyone who spoke said they would be back on Sept. 26, or whenever the Alakai tried to return to Nawiliwili.
Jimmy Trujillo, spokesman for Hui-R, said he was in the water last month because "I was compelled to do what is necessary to protect the laws of this state."
Many others agreed, saying it was the Superferry that was breaking state and federal laws, not them.
During a news conference yesterday on Oahu, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Sally Brice-O'Hara admitted her crew wasn't ready for the vehement protests when the Superferry first came to Kauai last month.
"None of us were prepared for that level of passion and determination to halt the Superferry," Brice-O'Hara said. "This was not something we were expecting and we were very measured in our response. These weren't terrorists."
While noting that the Coast Guard understands the demonstrations are "people who want to make a statement," she said the new security zone will be enforced without exception.
"I will tell you we have looked at all the options so that people remain safe but are held accountable if they make the decision to violate the security zone," Brice-O'Hara said.
Nawiliwili's long public jetty fronting the harbor will be closed and other entrances to the harbor will be blocked during the ferry's visit, according to Lingle.
The governor yesterday emphasized that she was concerned that Kauai protesters had allowed children and teens into the water in front of the Superferry.
"Anyone who is planning to recruit children or teenagers to participate in illegal protests could be held liable for child endangerment," Lingle said.
Attorney General Mark Bennett said a team of state prosecutors and investigators, along with county police and prosecutors and the U.S. Justice department, will be on hand to handle arrests if needed.
"People cannot choose which laws they will obey and which ones they will not because of their personal views," Bennett said.
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Expert testifies about pest hazards
WAILUKU » An expert in controlling alien pests on Maui said she doesn't think the Hawaii Superferry should be allowed to ship soil and rocks.
Teya Penniman said she personally feels soil and rocks could contain invasive species that would be harmful to Maui, since some of the pests are not found on the Valley Isle or are found in far fewer numbers.
Penniman, manager of the Maui Invasive Species Committee, testified yesterday on the third day of a Circuit Court hearing to determine if the Superferry should be allowed to operate while preparing an environmental assessment.
The Superferry's regular operations at Kahului Harbor have been halted since Aug. 28, pending the outcome of the hearing before Judge Joseph Cardoza. The hearing continues at 10 a.m. today.
Penniman's remarks came on the heels of testimony Tuesday by Randy Awo, Maui County chief of state conservation enforcement, that about 900 rocks that could have been used as cooking stones for an imu were found Friday in three pickup trucks in the parking lot of the Superferry at Kahului Harbor.
The rocks, determined to have come from Paukukalo, a community on Kahului Bay, apparently were loaded for transport back to Oahu. They were seized by state conservation enforcement officials.
Outside the courtroom, some native Hawaiians said the taking of the cooking rocks was a breach in cultural traditions and added to their worries about the Superferry's impact.
Leslie Kuloloio, a native Hawaiian cultural specialist, said in Hawaiian tradition, every island is supposed to take care of its own resources and not take from other islands.
Terry O'Halloran, director of business development for the Hawaii Superferry, said the firm will be taking a closer look at the transport of rocks and has plans to conduct a risk assessment as it operates in Hawaii waters.
"We've never said we'd never do that," he said.
O'Halloran said state public utility rules forbid the transport of soil unless the owner can provide a permit.
During the court hearing, Penniman warned that there were alien species that could spread to Maui from other islands, including the Big Island's fire ant.
Penniman said coqui frogs are found across a span of 100,000 acres on the Big Island and far fewer acres on Maui.
She said she feared vehicles carried by the Superferry will help spread coqui frogs and the seeds of such alien plants as pampas grass.
Penniman said the state and counties lose hundreds of millions of dollars each year because of destruction caused by alien species that have established themselves in the islands, including the loss of markets due to alien fruit flies.
She said the islands are facing new threats from gall wasps and stinging caterpillars.
Penniman said she felt that the Superferry should not operate while conducting an environmental assessment unless it adopts a number of procedures suggested in her prior exchanges with its officials.
The recommendations included the use of high pressure water cleaning of the undercarriage of transported vehicles, the vacuuming of vehicles, and establishment of a dog sniffing team to screen incoming and outgoing vehicles on the Superferry.
Superferry officials currently have a rule that requires owners to wash their vehicles before transport.