Environmental report fails to satisfy many Superferry opponents


POSTED: Friday, January 09, 2009

NAWILIWILI, Kauai » Collisions with humpback whales and the spread of invasive species are among the possible detrimental impacts of the Hawaii Superferry, according to a roughly 1,200-page draft environmental impact statement for large-capacity vessel operations in the state.





Some of the measures recommended by the draft environmental impact statement:




» Test bow-mounted camera system.




» Allow people to consult on the cultural impact statement.


» Enforce existing conservation laws and rules.


» Provide information on applicable regulations to ferry passengers.


» Implement a community relations/outreach initiative.




» Notify people that their vehicles need to be clean before arriving at the dock.


» Agriculture screening should be more thorough.


» Implement random baggage searches.


» Conduct surveillance by hidden camera to ensure inspection vigilance.


» Ensure current training is consistent.


» Clean hull monthly.



The report, released yesterday, also cites the use of local resources, parks and recreational facilities as possible adverse impacts because of the new form of transportation between the islands.

But mitigation measures, if implemented, will likely curb the majority of those problems, according to the report.

Environmentalists argue that the vast majority of the measures involve the state picking up the tab for enforcement of current regulations, something that could have been paid for by Hawaii Superferry had it been subjected to the regular environmental impact statement process prior to starting operations in August 2007.

  Hawaii Superferry opponents do not plan to give Belt Collins Hawaii Ltd., which prepared the document for the state Department of Transportation, any suggestions.

“;It's irrelevant,”; said Richard Hoeppner, of People for the Preservation of Kauai. “;I'm waiting for the Supreme Court to render its decision.”;

The draft EIS was commissioned as part of the Hawaii Legislature's Act 2, which allowed large-capacity ferries to run while the EIS was completed. That law is currently being challenged in the state Supreme Court.

Hawaii Superferry backers, however, argue that the draft actually proves that the mitigation measures currently in place are working.

“;The draft EIS combined with the data from over nine months of reliable service and 708 voyages provides a clear picture of our commitment to responsible operations and environmental awareness,”; said Lori Abe, spokeswoman for Hawaii Superferry, in a prepared statement.

This draft is slightly different from typical reports. The most important differences are that a separate cultural impact assessment was not required, but was done anyway, and that there is no ability to challenge the EIS in court.

Environmentalists, however, point to another glaring difference: An EIS is usually completed well before operations begin, allowing time to discuss problems and decide on solutions before action.

This draft “;identifies problems but does not come up with solutions,”; said Robert Harris, director of the Sierra Club, Hawaii Chapter.

Even with mitigation measures, “;there is still some risk of transporting invasive marine species via a large-capacity ferry vessel,”; the report states.

And Harris said funding for mitigation measures, including observers from the National Marine Fisheries Service, oversight from the Department of Agriculture, more thorough screening of baggage and cars, and conducting assessments, has not been identified.

  The state cannot ask the Superferry to pay for these mitigating conditions, because “;that ship has already sailed,”; Harris added.

Andrea Brower, a Kauai resident and vocal anti-Superferry critic, said the EIS is supposed to consider all large-capacity ferry vessels but does not take into consideration any alternative hull and vessel designs, or other harbors around the state as well.

According to the report, other vessels were not considered because the state is not providing the vessel, and the focus of the EIS is on the harbors identified by Superferry.

“;I support interisland travel by sea,”; Brower said, “;but this just benefits one compan






400 libraries and public depositories statewide


For a paper copy or CD (which will cost for reproduction), write to Belt Collins at 2153 N. King St., Suite 200, Honolulu, HI 96819, attention Lesley Matsumoto.




The written comments should be mailed or faxed to:


Katherine Kealoha


Director, Office of Environmental Quality Control


235 S. Beretania St., Suite 702


Honolulu, HI 96813


Fax: 586-4186


Michael D. Formby


Deputy Director, Department of Transportation, Harbors Division


79 S. Nimitz Highway


Honolulu, HI 96813


Fax: 587-3652


Comment deadline: Must be postmarked by Feb. 23