Lingle meets with Kauai citizens as Superferry opponents try to drown out officials with booing and jeering
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The Superferry controversy turned boisterous last night as its opponents on Kauai heckled Gov. Linda Lingle, who was on the island to explain Nawiliwili Harbor security measures.
Superferry supporters shot back with jeers of their own, but both sides remained peaceful.
The purpose of the meeting was to explain the emergency security zones the Coast Guard will put in place when the Superferry returns to Nawiliwili on Wednesday. But Barry Fukunaga, state Department of Transportation director, was barely able to be heard over the chorus of boos and chants of "EIS" (meaning "environmental impact statement") from the audience.
On Maui, meanwhile, the president of the Pacific Whale Foundation testified in a court hearing that the Superferry's routes go right through areas populated with humpbacks during their annual migration.
Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza is hearing testimony as he considers whether the Superferry may operate while an environmental assessment is conducted in accordance with a recent Supreme Court ruling.
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LIHUE » Gov. Linda Lingle was booed and heckled at a meeting held on Kauai last night to explain the Hawaii Superferry's resumption of service to the Garden Isle next week.
But it was not just opponents making angry comments at the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall last night. More than 150 Superferry supporters -- including Superferry employees and their families flown over from Oahu by the company -- expressed their displeasure with protesters, often heckling anti-Superferry speakers and showing their support for the governor.
The meeting -- which was loud and boisterous but peaceful -- was supposed to explain to the crowd the emergency security zones the Coast Guard will put in place when the Superferry returns to Nawiliwili on Wednesday.
But the governor said in her opening remarks that she would allow the dozens of speakers to express all their thoughts on the Superferry.
A court hearing is scheduled for today so the state can argue for dismissal of a lawsuit seeking an injunction against the sailing of the Superferry's Alakai to Kauai. If that fails, then a hearing will be held Thursday to hear arguments for an injunction.
A Kauai judge has declined to issue a temporary restraining order, but on Maui a circuit judge ruled that the Superferry had to stop operations to Kahului pending a hearing on whether it can operate pending an environmental assessment.
The order came down last month after the state Supreme Court said the state erred in not requiring an environmental assessment for the Superferry.
Last night on Kauai, the crowd of nearly 1,000 people, including more than 100 children, made their feelings known.
People could barely hear Barry Fukunaga, state Department of Transportation director, over the chorus of boos and chants of "EIS" (environmental impact statement) from the audience.
From the opening chant -- performed by a group that included two juveniles arrested at the Aug. 27 protest -- the unruly crowd often gave standing ovations to those who supported their opinions, and booed those who did not.
Charly Andrade, a lifelong resident of Kauai, said she wanted the Superferry to come because she is handicapped, and the Superferry will give her the freedom to get to Oahu on her own.
"I understand the protesters and I understand their feelings," Andrade said. "I'm not sure they understand mine."
The majority of the audience was, however, against the ferry.
A number of speakers said the ferry would be a good idea -- if the proper environmental assessment procedure were followed.
Kauai County Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura said that while the governor might be following the current letter of the law, the spirit of the environmental protection law and the possibility that the court decision would be overturned should keep the Superferry at the dock.
She asked the governor, "Why, then, has the state fought against doing an EIS on the Superferry from the beginning?"
Lingle countered that there is no law keeping the Superferry from operating, and that it has a right to enter the harbor without duress.
The Superferry was subject to the same procedures that every other business has been subject to, and keeping it from operating would be singling out one company for stricter rules than the rest of those operating in the state.
"I still believe it's an important option for the people of our state to have the opportunity to travel," the governor added.
Kauai residents in the audience said it is the protection of the resources slowly slipping away that is important to them.
Many said they are willing to fight to keep the Superferry away.
Andrea Brower was one of the protesters in the Superferry's way on Aug. 26. She was on a surfboard, surrounded by kids, she said, and lawyers, engineers, landscapers and other members of the community.
People believed so strongly that they lie down in front of cars, she added.
"These are people who have a conviction to stand up," Brower added. "Do you really feel justified threatening these people?"