FERRY BILL AFLOAT
Lawmakers say they are closing in on a proposal that would let the interisland service set sail
STORY SUMMARY »
House Democrats are circulating a proposed bill that outlines how the Legislature would allow the Hawaii Superferry to sail around a court injunction.
The bill include a proposal for an auditor's review of how the project was initially exempted from normal environmental impact laws and also an oversight task force to study the impact of an interisland ferry system.
Also, the bill would give Gov. Linda Lingle responsibility to add conditions regulating environmental inspections.
After meeting for two hours yesterday afternoon, House leaders said they have the votes to approve such a deal. The Senate is still reviewing the issue.
Meanwhile, Senate President Colleen Hanabusa met yesterday with Superferry officials and told them they must do more to appease hostile sentiments on Kauai. She said it is up to ferry officials to "mend the problems between them and Kauai."
HIGHLIGHTS OF DRAFT SUPERFERRY STATUTE
Here are points from the latest draft of the Legislature's proposal to allow the Hawaii Superferry to resume service:
» Immediate operation of the Superferry "is in the public interest."
» An oversight task force will study the impact of an interisland ferry system.
» A legislative auditor will review how the Superferry got an environmental exemption.
» The governor shall set operating conditions to address environmental problems; if the Legislature feels the restrictions are not tight enough, it reserves the right to change them.
» The state should consider having the Departments of Agriculture and Land and Natural Resources inspect each trip.
FULL STORY »
It is in the state's interest for the Hawaii Superferry to operate, according to the latest draft of a bill to permit the ship to sail despite a court injunction.
But the draft, floated last night by the state House, includes suggested restrictions, including stationing state inspectors at every sailing.
House Democrats ended a two-hour caucus yesterday with House Speaker Calvin Say announcing "almost all members do support some form of the House draft."
Say said the proposal now goes to the Attorney General and the Senate for review. The Legislature is expected to meet in special session next week to consider legislation to allow the Superferry Alakai to restart operations while a study on its potential environmental impact is completed.
Last week, Maui Judge Joseph Cardoza ruled that the ship could not operate until the environmental study was done. Superferry officials have said the business could not survive the ship sitting idle for the months that a study would take. The Alakai, which can carry up to 500 passengers and 150 vehicles, started operations in late August but was quickly shut down by the Maui court challenge and Kauai protesters.
Before going into special session, the Senate is considering a series of informational neighbor island briefings starting on Kauai, perhaps on Sunday.
The House proposal, Say asserted, would be strong enough to protect Hawaii's environment because of the extra scrutiny.
"The governor shall also consider establishing conditions and protocols such as requiring Department of Agriculture inspectors and Department of Land and Natural Resources conservation and resources enforcement personnel on each interisland voyage," the proposal says.
The details would be left up to Lingle, but if the Legislature felt they were not strict enough, it could impose its own guidelines, according to Say.
Other issues considered in the bill include marine animals and plants, whale avoidance polices, water resources, harbor infrastructure, traffic, public safety, invasive species, cultural resources and economic consequences and impact.
While the House was working on the draft, labeled as the seventh version, Superferry officials were spending their third day going door to door asking for help from the Senate.
"What we have heard so far is very encouraging," said John Garibaldi, Superferry president. "The Legislature is doing a marvelous job in dealing with this complex issue."
Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, however, said she thought Superferry officials could do a better job of selling their service on the neighbor islands.
Angry protests on Kauai greeted the ship when it attempted to sail to Nawiliwili Harbor in August. When Lingle held a public discussion on Kauai about the ferry, protesters in a crowd of 1,100 shouted obscenities at her.
Hanabusa said residents on Kauai might feel that Oahu, with 70 percent of the state's population, ignores the neighbor islands.
"I have told the Superferry that they have got to figure out a way to mend the problems between them and Kauai," Hanabusa said. "They have got to acknowledge they have a major problem with the neighbor islands. I get a sense from the Superferry that they haven't figured out how to manage Kauai and the strong resistance they feel they are faced with there."