Studies foreshadowed harm of increased travel
Are we caught by surprise by the Superferry controversy? More than three decades ago, the University of Hawaii conducted a study on interisland ferry systems. This study provided ample early warning of the need for impact studies to be carried out. If only state decision makers would have implemented its recommendations.
The main concern surrounding the Superferry is not traversing whale sanctuaries, spreading invasive species, impacting harbor facilities, or congesting traffic at the ports in Hawaii. The main problem is more about the acceptable protocols and behaviors among people traveling interisland.
The "Proposed Inter-island Ferry Systems" report of 1973 by the UH Pacific Urban Studies and Planning Program lists 22 previous studies related to interisland ferry systems, dating back to 1956. This document also identifies the need for factual studies in the social, economic, physical and environmental areas, as well as the need for comprehensive policy analysis and planning to deal with the increase in intrastate travel.
The "Maximillion" report of 1972 for Citizens for Hawaii, predicted the deterioration of social relations when the population would surpass the million-person mark in Hawaii. We have passed that mark, and island-by-island social carrying capacity issues remain unaddressed.
Fortunately, the courts have correctly ruled that a comprehensive environmental review was required for the Superferry. Good planning is "anticipatory problem solving" to address all impacts of an increase in interisland travel.
The costly facts are: (a) lack of long-term institutional memory across state administrations and among state agencies; (b) lack of education on acceptable cultural and behavioral norms for people visiting the respective jurisdictions by each county.
The major blunder ahead will be to ignore that these social issues transcend the Superferry, and that "business in Hawaii Nei" is not "business in Hawaii."
Luciano Minerbi is a professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Hawaii-Manoa.