Reply-To: "Dick Mayer" <email@example.com>
To: "Dick Mayer" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Star-Bulletin Editorial - READ THIS
Date: Sat, 25 Aug 2007 07:59:23 -1000
Saturday, August 25, 2007
State's bad decision steered Superferry into rough seas
The Hawaii Supreme Court has ruled that the state erred in exempting
the ferry from environmental review.
THE Hawaii Superferry, which residents, the tourist industry and local
businesses had greeted enthusiastically when proposed in 2003, could have
glided smoothly from concept to boarding.
However, when the state exempted the operation from required environmental
review, it set the Superferry on a course that could eventually run it
It did not have to be this way.
The Hawaii Supreme Court, in a terse, swift ruling Thursday, unanimously
agreed with three citizen and environmental groups that the Department of
Transportation erred when it released the ferry company from the review,
ordering a judgment in their favor.
The ruling could have delayed the ferry's start-up set for Tuesday, but
Superferry officials brazenly moved up its initial launch to tomorrow. The
act, which was encouraged by the state's decision to allow the ferry to
operate despite the ruling, turned up the heat in an already simmering
conflict. Earlier Thursday, a circuit judge in another suit had ordered the
state to prepare Maui streets for the traffic the ferry was expected to
When plaintiffs' attorneys seek an injunction come Monday to stop what they
believe is an illegal operation, the ferry might find itself dockside,
further entangled in legal ropes.
The situation is the result of a bad decision by the state. In its zeal,
which was not misplaced, to help an enterprise that could prove beneficial
to a spectrum of economic interests as well as to people wanting an
alternative to air travel, officials short-cut laws designed to protect and
sustain Hawaii's environmental health.
With a majority of the public favoring the ferry, officials could have
steered through the review process, mitigating concerns about the
inadvertent spread of non-native and invasive plants and animals, traffic
problems at ports and adjacent roadways, illegal drugs and other contraband,
and endangering whales and marine animals.
Instead, they chose what they thought would be an easier route and, in the
process, shut out the public's voice, even arguing unsuccessfully in court
that citizens had no standing to challenge their decisions.
Earlier this year, when Maui, Kauai and Hawaii County Councils, responding
to their constituents, declared their wish for an environmental review,
state lawmakers introduced legislation to that end. But in an act of power
politics, Maui Rep. Joe Souki, chairman of the Transportation Committee,
refused to consider the bill.
Souki and other state officials asserted it was unfair to subject the ferry
to a process that had not been applied to other harbor users. That argument
belies the fact that the ferry would be a unique service that in a single
week could transport thousands of private vehicles, agricultural products
and cargo as well as people with minimal inspection, security and
The bill was a good compromise that would have allowed the ferry operation
to proceed on schedule while an environmental assessment, at state expense,
was conducted, and could have intercepted the legal challenges.
Should an injunction halt the ferry, it would not be surprising if the
company sues the state for its losses, adding to legal costs, the animosity
engendered in the community and the time loss already incurred in this
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