Bid to bar visits
by ships is rejected

Molokai residents opposed to calls
by cruise ships vow to keep
pushing the case

By Gary T. Kubota

WAILUKU >> A group of Molokai residents who fear cruise ships could harm the island's native reefs said they plan to file more legal motions in state court despite a major legal setback yesterday.

Maui Circuit Judge Shackley Raffetto denied a request by the group Hui Ho'opakele Aina for a preliminary injunction to halt cruise ships from visiting Molokai.

Raffetto ruled that state agencies had only a "ministerial" role in booking visits by cruise ship and did not have the discretion to make the vessel owner produce an environmental review of its impact on the island.

"Therefore, an environmental impact statement is not required," Raffetto said.

Hui Ho'opakele Aina spokesman Walter Ritte Jr. said the state and courts are failing to protect the environment and constitutional rights of Molokai residents to gather food from the reefs.

"I guess they believe the Hawaiians have all died and gone to heaven, so there's no need to protect our gathering rights," Ritte said.

State Deputy Attorney General Lane Ishida has argued that the arrival of the cruise ship does not constitute a new use at the harbor and that requiring an environmental review would be discriminating against cruise ships.

Holland America Lines' cruise ship Statendam is scheduled to stop at Kaunakakai Harbor on April 15, followed by the Amsterdam on April 18. Passengers from both ships would take shuttle boats to shore for day trips, a first for Molokai.

Earthjustice attorney Isaac Moriwake, representing Hui Ho'opakele Aina, said Raffetto's ruling was only the initial stage in a legal battle and that the judge had only his "first look" at the arguments.

Moriwake said he plans to ask Raffetto to rule on the merits of the case within the next month. He said the group is willing to go as high as the Hawaii Supreme Court in its legal battle, and he is also considering filing an appeal of Raffetto's denial of a preliminary injunction.

"I don't think the state or the cruise ship is justified to call themselves victors. Basically, everyone is a loser," Moriwake said.

Raffetto denied Hui Ho'opakele Aina's request on Dec. 12 for a temporary restraining order to halt the arrival of the cruise ship.

Holland America, which joined the state in opposing the injunction, declined to comment on the ruling.

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