Friday, October 19, 2007

Group pushes rules on ferry

Group pushes rules on ferry

Passengers would be subject to scrutiny, environmentalists say


Maui environmentalists who successfully sued to stop the Hawaii Superferry are proposing 29 conditions that the Legislature must include in any new law allowing the Superferry to resume service.

Proposed conditions include requiring passengers to say if they were using the Superferry to go camping on another island, and then only allowing passengers who have permits to camp in federal state or county parks to be allowed.

Also, the Superferry would be required to post a $40 million bond to pay the state for the money owed it for state harbor improvements in case the ferry leaves the state.

Senate President Colleen Hanabusa met with the environmentalists yesterday but did not promise to include any of the conditions in the bill now under consideration.

Republican Senate leader Fred Hemmings called the environmentalists' proposal "ludicrous."

The Legislature plans to go into special session next week to consider a bill to allow the Superferry Alakai to operate while an environmental study is done.

Environmentalists' demands

Here are a few of the conditions that environmentalists opposed to the Superferry want imposed on the interisland service:

» Vacuum the floors of all vehicles.

» Superferry shall not transport any plants.

» Dogs trained to sniff out drugs and invasive species must be used and paid for by Superferry.

» Every vehicle must be inspected, not just random checks.

» Passengers who say they are going camping must only camp in government camps, and they must have a permit.

» The plaintiffs, who won the case against the Superferry, must be allowed to go into all ports to make sure the Superferry is following the conditions.


Environmentalists say a planned special legislative session to pass a law to permit the Hawaii Superferry to sail is unconstitutional and a violation of the law.

Full text of the conditions

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A group of Maui residents who successfully sued to stop the Superferry until an environmental assessment could be done met with Senate President Colleen Hanabusa yesterday urging her to drop plans for the Wednesday session or at least put severe limits on how the 350-foot ship could operate.

Fearing that the ship will run over whales, allow vehicles on board with seeds or animals not found on Maui and Kauai or even bring over people who would indiscriminately camp, the environmentalists want restrictions.

The group included Isaac Hall, plaintiffs' attorney; Judith Michaels, Maui Tomorrow acting president; Leslie Kuloloio, a Hawaiian cultural practitioner; and activists Dick Mayer and Masako Wescott.

"We believe this bill is an unconstitutional retroactive overruling of a judge's decision that could be challenged," Hall said, noting that the group might still sue.

"We are looking into whether or not this particular bill, bailing out the Hawaii Superferry, is special legislation that denies our constitutional vested rights and violates the separation of powers," Hall said.

In response, Hanabusa, who spent yesterday afternoon meeting with House Speaker Calvin Say and Attorney General Mark Bennett on the bill, would only say that she thought Hall is "a very good attorney."

"It will be a nice test of Mark Bennett's talents," said Hanabusa, who is also an attorney.

The environmentalists asked that if the Legislature meets and passes a bill allowing the Superferry to sail despite the court injunction, 29 conditions be put on the ship's operation.

The environmentalists want the boat to go no faster than 13 knots within 10 miles of any state harbor or in waters less than 1,000 fathoms.

Passengers would be forced to say if they were going camping and then only allowed if they had camping permits for government parks. Passengers would not be allowed to bring cultural or natural resources from the ocean, shoreline or inland unless they bought it in a store and had a receipt.

Hanabusa said that the Legislature would have difficulty enforcing those requirements because it does not have enforcement powers.

Republican Senate leader Fred Hemmings called the proposal "ludicrous."

"It is absolutely hypocrisy when other forms of transportation are not held to those standards. If people want to camp, they can camp. This is still America," Hemmings said.

On Wednesday, House leaders released a draft of the bill that would be under consideration for next week's special session. The bill allows the Superferry to operate during the environmental study but requires a task force to monitor the ferry's impact and state inspections of each ferry trip.

Jimmy Trujillo, spokesman for the Kauai protest group Hui-R, said he skimmed the draft of the Legislature's proposal Wednesday night and was not pleased.

"This thing is like Swiss cheese, there's so many holes in it," Trujillo said. "It's really disconcerting."

The bill is not a compromise, Trujillo added, saying there are no provisions to protect the environment.

"(An environmental impact statement) first is the appropriate response from the government," he continued. "I'm hopeful that this seven-day session will yield nothing."

If the bill goes forward, Trujillo expects large crowds to return to Nawiliwili Harbor.

"We're still prepared to block the dock, get in the water" so that "our issues will be heard," he added.

Star-Bulletin reporter Tom Finnegan contributed to this report.