Senate move
could hurt plans
for Superferry

A committee deletes $40 million
intended to improve harbors

The state Senate Ways and Means Committee has blockaded a plan to provide $40 million in state harbor improvements, raising questions about support for the Hawaii Superferry.

Sen. Shan Tsutsui (D, Wailuku-Kahului), committee vice chairman, said the $40 million has been deleted. "I doubt that it'll pass this year," he said.

But Sen. Brian Taniguchi, Ways and Means Committee chairman, said it was too soon to write off the project that is expected to start passenger ferry service between the islands in 2007.

"My thinking is it still has potential," Taniguchi (D, Moiliili-Manoa) said.

The committee's move caught Superferry supporters by surprise, including John Garibaldi, Superferry chief executive officer.

"This is a great opportunity for the state, but it does require some infrastructure at the harbors," Garibaldi said.

The $40 million, he said, was an "absolute requirement to get the ferry in the water in two years."

In a news release, Tsutsui said the $40 million was taken out of the budget because the state has not given the Senate enough information about "infrastructure, parking and other logistics."

Tsutsui said he also has concerns about the various competing uses for the Maui harbor at Kahului.

"We have to question what impact it has on all users of the harbor," Tsutsui said.

Taniguchi, however, said his concerns were about the specific funding for the $40 million.

Originally, the state has proposed general obligation bonds, which were changed to general obligation revenue bonds, meaning that the ferry would be responsible for repaying the $40 million. But Taniguchi said that scheme could actually limit the amount of money that can be spent for other harbor improvements.

"At this point we are trying to figure out the proposal. We think we would work on it in conference," Taniguchi said.

The ferry plan has failed to pick up much political support on Maui. Already the Maui County Council has unanimously approved a resolution calling for an environmental impact statement to be prepared before the ferry starts service.

Garibaldi has said the EIS would delay the project and cause it to lose its financial backing.

Yesterday, Garibaldi said the issue on Maui spotlights the concerns over the heavy use of the Maui port.

"This shines a lot of light on the whole area where resources are limited. We have gone to great length trying to work with the other harbor users and identify issues and have them resolved in the next year and a half," Garibaldi said.

Tsutsui said that while he supported the concept of the Superferry, he was concerned about the new ships' effect on the local economy.

"We need to know the specifics about how this impacts things like the harbors, environment and traffic," Tsutsui said.

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