Let’s find a compromise on Hawaii Superferry
The debate and discussion about the Hawaii Superferry has invigorated the public. Supporters and opponents both feel their positions are correct. If there is such a thing as compromise on this matter, I offer the following ideas for discussion in order to allow the Superferry to operate while an environmental assessment is being completed.
» Much has already been done about invasive species. I would add that vehicles have their undersides washed before boarding. If a drainage and catchment system could be erected and installed without significant delays, this would help in dealing with the transport of unwanted species attached to vehicles. It is not fail-safe, but it would provide another step to stop unwanted plants and seeds.
» Regarding traffic congestion around the harbor and port, the Superferry can transport up to 280 small vehicles to the neighbor islands and back. I suggest that no more than 125 vehicles be allowed to be shipped at one time. This could mean a reduction of at least 150 vehicles that would affect traffic patterns and flow.
» Whale avoidance is important, and the whale avoidance policy of the Superferry should be year-round while the environmental assessment is being completed, not just from January through April. The Superferry said that its speed would be reduced to 25 knots when it is in waters of 100 fathoms or less. I recommend the speed be reduced to 20 knots (about 23 mph) in these critical waters. This will mean a little longer ferry ride, but it is a compromise all users should support. Also, if cost-effective, a smaller lead boat in front of the Superferry in shallow waters during whale season will provide another set of eyes closer to the water to protect our whales and other marine life.
This discussion is not about supporting big business, as some have stated. It is about utilizing our ocean resource and providing an alternate form of transportation for our residents. In times of emergency or natural disasters, the Superferry would be a valuable asset. Environmental issues are important and must be addressed. However, if the Superferry is forced to abandon Hawaii, it will be a setback for the environmental movement in our state and, of course, it would be a major loss for our residents.
Now is the time to work together to find a solution that will allow the Superferry to operate while an EA is being done. The cost of a special session would be less expensive than paying unemployment benefits to the Superferry employees. With millions already invested by the state and the Superferry, allowing the ferry to operate under certain conditions while an EA is being completed makes sense.
State lawmakers have passed legislation to address judicial decisions in the past. Constitutional amendments approved by voters also have changed judicial opinions. Moreover, the Superferry will still have to address the findings from the environmental assessment when it is completed and presented to the public.
Will Espero, a Democrat, represents the Ewa-Honouliuli-Ewa Beach area in the state Senate.