Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Kaua‘i legislators call for Superferry boycott

Kaua‘i legislators call for Superferry boycott


State Rep. Mina Morita and Sen. Gary Hooser urged island residents Monday evening at a People for the Preservation of Kaua‘i fund-raising gala to join them in boycotting Hawai‘i Superferry.

“It’s not in the best interest of Kaua‘i,” Hooser said during the upscale event at Bar Acuda in Hanalei.

Environmentalists say they fear the 350-foot “Alakai” catamaran’s uncertain effects on marine and island life. The vessel can ferry 282 cars and 866 passengers.

Hawai‘i Superferry has started taking reservations for the period Sept. 5 to Jan. 15, but company officials expect interisland service from O‘ahu to Maui and Kaua‘i and back will begin sooner.

At the event, Morita and Hooser backed local environmentalist’s renewed call for an environmental impact statement — a “disclosure document” that reveals potential positive and negative effects not only on land, water and air, but also on the society and economy.

“The law is very clear. The use of public facilities and public funds triggers the need for an environmental impact statement,” Morita said. “The Department of Transportation abused its discretionary authority when they did not require an EIS.”

In waiving the need for an environmental impact statement, the Department of Transportation has treated Hawai‘i Superferry the same as Matson and Norwegian Cruise Lines, said Terry O’Halloran, Hawai‘i Superferry’s business development director.

“The EIS question has been answered. The state didn’t require it. The federal government did not,” he said. “It’s been challenged in both federal and state courts and been upheld that an EIS is not required.”

Some court cases are still pending, according to Morita, which could open the door for an environmental impact statement.

O’Halloran said the Hawai‘i Superferry goes “above and beyond” to protect the environment. For examples, he cited super slick paint, jet propulsion and boot scrubbers.

“We have a business that not only protects our environment, but takes care of our communities,” he said. “We’re looking forward to having the vessel on Kaua‘i for people to come on board and see the ship for themselves.”

A preview date has not been decided, but will occur sometime in August, he said.

Elaine Valois, representing People for the Preservation of Kaua‘i, said yesterday that environmentalists believe the Superferry will destroy marine life along its routes and degenerate local life on Kaua‘i.

“I don’t mean kill a few whales — its noise, speed and constancy will create a desert along the ocean highway floor and cease all life there,” she said. “It’s not an exaggeration ... dumping all these people and cars here will be a nightmare. We don’t want to stop progress or slow the economy, we’re just saying we want an environmental impact statement to know the possible effects.”

An environmental impact statement is designed to alleviate negative effects, according to Morita.

“Without that kind of disclosure document and no real discussion on how to mitigate impact, we’re not certain that this is a good project,” she said.

The “Alakai” arrived June 30 at Honolulu Harbor to cheers and chants from excited residents.

“There’s been a tremendous amount of excitement and interest in having an alternative way in traveling between the islands,” O’Halloran said.

However, Kaua‘i and Maui locals have mostly grumbled, according to July news reports.

“O‘ahu wants it and that’s where the population is,” Morita said, adding that most state legislators also live there. “All we want to do is preserve our quality of life on Neighbor Islands.”