Ferry service to Kawaihae has residents skeptical
KAILUA-KONA » Kawaihae town is not ready to handle Hawaii Superferry passengers in large numbers, residents told state officials and consultants.
The state's next public informational session for Hawaii Superferry's environmental impact statement is Monday at Lanai High School, from 6 to 9 p.m.
Six people testified at yesterday afternoon's informational session, although more people were expected to attend a second session last night.
The sessions, which started March 11 on Molokai and end Monday on Lanai, are part of a statewide effort to gather public input ahead of a special environmental impact statement officials said they expect to finalize by May 2009.
The study, mandated last year, will address secondary impacts associated with Hawaii Superferry, which has struggled to keep afloat in a sea of legal and technical trouble and waves of community resistance since its launch last summer.
"We haven't received input that was unexpected," said Mike Formby, state Department of Transportation Harbors Division deputy director. "Most people have highlighted impacts they want us to address. That includes traffic and invasive species as well as military use and environmental impacts from that."
The Hawaii Superferry is scheduled to begin service to the west side of the Big Island in 2009, although a new multiuse pier is not expected to be completed by then.
Kawaihae Harbor, on the northwestern corner of the Big Island, is the only one of the four scheduled ferry ports in the state that does not accommodate cruise ships.
The town is served by a two-lane road and has little in the way of visitor attractions or services other than a couple of small restaurants and art galleries.
By comparison, the ferry docks right in developed and populated areas in Honolulu and Kahului. A strip mall is adjacent to Nawiliwili Harbor on Kauai.
Three people said they would like the environmental impact study to address traffic control issues, pedestrian safety and protection of culturally significant sites.
Jim Donovan, a Kawaihae real estate agent, said the area is not a visitor destination, especially for ferry passengers who arrive without vehicles. "It's a small town and doesn't really have the attractions tourists are looking for," he said. "What are people going to do?"
James Karkheck, a Captain Cook coffee and fruit farmer, said he can see the benefits of Superferry for some commercial and military uses but has not yet seen how it might benefit him.