Big Isle residents voice opinions on Superferry
Concerns for whales resurface at a hearing for an environmental impact statement
HILO » With the Hawaii Superferry not scheduled to come to the west side of the Big Island until 2009 and not to the Hilo side at all, only 15 people commented yesterday at a public meeting on an environmental study for the vessel.
Five people spoke at an afternoon session at the Hilo High School Auditorium on topics that should be considered in the environmental impact statement, followed by 10 people at the evening session.
Meeting facilitator Tom Mitrano said the meeting format did not call for any official to answer questions from the public. But he told the Star-Bulletin that environmental study consultant Belt Collins Hawaii Ltd. would use all questions and comments to identify issues that need to be considered.
John Ota was not satisfied by company statements that two observers would be posted as whale lookouts on voyages year-round.
"The only time any observer is going to see a whale is when the tail sticks up above the surface," he said.
A company statement said the ferry will lower its speed from its normal 35 knots when it encounters groups of whales.
Jasper Moore, a candidate for Big Island mayor, said creating a new pier at Kawaihae Harbor is "unacceptable." The money would be better spent on health care, he said.
Krisztina Samu commented that company official Terry O'Halloran had already admitted that on three occasions the vessel Alakai had come within 100 meters -- about 110 yards -- of whales.
O'Halloran said that is true, but whenever such close approaches occur, the ship takes evasive action.
A company statement said the company is committed to staying 500 meters, or 550 yards, away from whales and will report any instance of a close approach to the state.
Peace activist Jim Albertini asked about protection of natural resources, such as off-island shipment of hapuu ferns cut from native forests.
The company says it worked for more than a year with the state Department of Agriculture to create policies that are stricter than the law requires.
The company will be the only one in interisland transportation that will do an agricultural screening of every passenger, the company said.
Al Beamer said he was "strongly in favor" of the Superferry to help farmers get products to market in Honolulu.
The next meeting is Thursday at Kealakehe High School, 74-5000 Puohulihuli St., Kailua-Kona, from 2-5 p.m. and 6-9 p.m.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
» The facilitator of Monday's Hilo hearing on the Hawaii Superferry was Tom Mitrano. Originally, this story misidentified him as Mike Mitrano.