STAR-BULLETIN / AUGUST 2007
About 50 people on boogie boards, surfboards and canoes block the Hawaii Superferry's entrance into Kauai's Nawiliwili Harbor.
Ferry furor flares
PUHI, Kauai » Kauai opponents will not be welcoming the Hawaii Superferry any time soon.
Yesterday about 150 people came to Kauai Community College for two public meetings held as part of the environmental impact study being done by contractor Belt Collins. Every speaker said the Superferry's ship, Alakai, should not return until the study is finished.
And a vast number of speakers, both in the afternoon and evening sessions, said that no matter what Belt Collins issues as part of its report, the company and the state's credibility will always be questioned, and the ship will not be welcome.
"This is a sham," said Rich Hoeppner. "I guarantee you if the ferry comes to Kauai, that ferry will never get back to its dock at Nawiliwili."
Hoeppner, part of the Thousand Friends of Kauai group that sued the Superferry and the state over the environmental study process, said that hundreds have told him they will swim out to block the ship's return, despite repeated threats from the U.S. Coast Guard and the state.
"That's not a threat," he said between the meetings. "That's a guarantee."
Other speakers directly addressed the process.
Anne Ponohu said that if Belt Collins found the Superferry would pose no significant impact to the state, a federal lawsuit would be coming.
"We will be watching you closely," she added. "The impacts on Kauai are obvious and well documented."
Many others addressed concerns that state and county taxpayers will wind up picking up the tab for trash cleanup, new bathrooms, security, invasive species prevention, traffic mitigation and other issues.
Local attorney Daniel Hempey, who represents the Thousand Friends of Kauai, worried that the ship could bring infectious diseases and put strains on Kauai's hospitals because of all the seasickness passengers have previously experienced. And, who, Hempey asked, will keep passengers from getting drunk aboard the ship and driving around Kauai?
Ken Taylor asked why the study presents only two possible actions: not allowing harbor improvements, and letting the Superferry use them.
Other alternatives should be proposed, including whether another type of vessel should be used, or whether different ports should be fitted to accommodate the Alakai.
Those questions are the point of the meetings, said Dennis Chun, a member of the Inter-island Ferry Oversight Task Force.
"This is a time where you can bring your concerns, and that is the contractor's job," added Chun, a University of Hawaii professor and one of the many residents who paddled out on a surfboard to block the Superferry in August.