Coast Guard vessels patrol Kahului Harbor as the Hawaii Superferry leaves Maui to return to Oahu. The Superferry's one-time trip last week to return stranded vehicles to and from Maui went without reports of incidents.
Former fed foresaw ferry fallout
An ex-park official at Haleakala sought an environmental check
WAILUKU » A retired superintendent of Haleakala National Park testified he sent a letter more than two years ago to the federal Maritime Administration warning of potential environmental problems from the Hawaii Superferry.
Donald Reeser said that in the March 29, 2005, letter, he warned of the potential risks of transporting alien species to Maui and felt an environmental impact statement was required for the project.
The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled last month that the Superferry needed to complete an environmental assessment for Kahului Harbor -- a requirement that has now raised questions about whether the interisland service can operate in the near future on Maui.
The decision has also placed at increased risk a $140 million loan guarantee made to the Superferry by the Maritime Administration.
Reeser testified yesterday on the fourth day of a hearing before Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza to determine whether the Superferry can operate while the state prepares the environmental assessment.
Groups critical of the Superferry, including Maui Tomorrow, want the operation at Kahului Harbor halted pending completion of the environmental assessment.
The Maritime Administration, which issued the loan guarantee in January 2005, required as a condition that the state give all governmental and environmental clearances.
Maritime Administration official Jean McKeever is scheduled to testify today.
Superferry attorney Lisa Munger said McKeever will testify as to why the Superferry is in Hawaii's best interests.
In court, Reeser testified he had a meeting with Superferry officials, including President John Garibaldi, in 2005 and told him Haleakala National Park wanted an environmental assessment so it could have an opportunity to comment on the project.
"As far as I understand, we were ignored," Reeser said. "We're very much concerned about what might be brought in."
Reeser said a similar request was made to the state Public Utilities Commission.
The state's reluctance to do an environmental study for the Superferry is similar to the state Transportation Department's resistance to preparing an environmental impact statement for the extension of Kahului Airport's runway for international flights, he said.
Kema Kanakaole, a native Hawaiian critical of the Superferry, testified he was worried that passengers disembarking with their vehicles on Maui would destroy subsistence living in Hana by taking too much of the ocean and land resources, such as fish, limu and opihi.
Kanakaole, a leader of the Eastside Hui, said families take care to preserve the resources of the area through customary practices.
"Those practices are very important to us," he said. "I think there's going to be a lot of conflict."
Kanakaole said his group educates visitors about the traditional uses of the area by families, and he expects more visitors if the Superferry operates on Maui.
BACK TO TOP
Hearing could end move to stop ship’s Kauai return without study
A hearing will be held next Friday on whether a judge should throw out a preliminary injunction request to block the Hawaii Superferry from returning to Kauai until an environmental study is performed.
Circuit Judge Randal Valenciano has declined to issue a temporary retraining order in the case sought by 1,000 Friends of Kauai, and Gov. Linda Lingle announced Wednesday that the Superferry will resume serving Kauai on Sept. 26 under Coast Guard protection.
If the environmentalists' suit stays alive, a hearing on the preliminary injunction will be held Sept. 27, parties in the case agreed yesterday.
Attorneys for the 1,000 Friends of Kauai had asked for a postponement from this Monday's hearing date to give them more time to prepare for it, said Rich Hoeppner, a spokesman for the group.
Attorneys for the Superferry and the state, who had been in court on Maui yesterday, did not return calls for comment last night.
The state Supreme Court ruled in August that an environmental assessment needed to be done for state improvements at Kahului Harbor, and a Maui judge following by ordering the trips to Maui stopped.
The state is moving on a contract to perform an environmental assessment statewide.