Water Ways
Ray Pendleton

Superferry cruising
into lame excuses

I suppose it's because I remember first writing about the proposed Hawaii Superferry back in Sept. 2003 that I'm now finding the sudden call for that project to undergo an environmental review a bit disingenuous.

Where have these environmentalists (and perhaps car rental agencies, airlines and barge operators?) been for the past year-and-a-half?

It's not like the Superferry's principals were attempting to sneak into town with a stealth vessel operation. They've been extremely candid about the service they hope to provide us.

The company's logo showing a highway sign with "Interisland H4" offers a pretty graphic indication of their intentions. For the first time, Hawaii, like other states, will be interconnected for vehicular traffic.

And not just cars, mind you, but produce trucks, buses, semis and -- most important to sailors, anglers and paddlers -- boats being towed on trailers.

Board the ferry on one island and 3 or 4 hours later, you could be driving off on another one to compete in a regatta or fish in a tournament you would have otherwise missed.

Early in the Superferry's planning, a major environmental concern was its impact on our state's humpback whale population that grows to some 5,000 during the winter months.

To address that problem, the company initiated discussions with whale researchers as early as 2001. And after collecting and analyzing data since then, it has developed a strategy that combines high-tech observation and avoidance techniques that it believes will limit such conflict.

But with the Superferry appearing to be on track for a 2006 start-up, now comes the call for an environmental assessment, and yet, by the sound of it, it appears what's concerning these folks is more about business competition and less about its impact to the environment.

First, there's the argument that a ferry full of cars might inundate the roadways of a small island like Kauai.

The Superferry, it is reported, will hold a maximum of 250 cars, hardly a great influx on any given day. And besides, wouldn't most of those travelers, if they had flown, have rented cars to get around the island?

I don't recall car rental agencies being required to assess the impact of the thousands of vehicles they bring into the islands each month.

Nor do I recall the airlines providing similar assessments regarding the tons of fuel burned in their daily flights. Their only announcements have been rate hikes that have curtailed kamaaina travel.

And as far as the threat of the Superferry operation spreading invasive species among its ports of call, how would it be different or of more concern than with the current tug-and-barge operations?

Perhaps I'm missing something here, but I can't help thinking there's more to these demands for environmental review than the altruistic protection of our islands and their surrounding waters.

"Follow the money," someone once advised. Could it be that simple?

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Ray Pendleton is a free-lance writer based in Honolulu. His column runs Saturdays in the Star-Bulletin. He can be reached by e-mail at raypendleton@mac.com.

E-mail to Sports Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- https://archives.starbulletin.com