Monday, October 22, 2007

Kauai critics hit Ferry bill

Geoff Morris held an anti-ferry sign yesterday at a public meeting about the Hawaii Superferry at King Kaumuali'i Elementary School on Kauai.

Kauai critics hit Ferry bill

One Garden Islander threatens "chaos and anarchy"


HANAMAULU, Kauai » Most of the more than 300 Kauai residents who packed a school cafeteria yesterday told state Senators that a bill to help the Hawaii Superferry is a bad idea and sends the wrong message.

Eight state senators, including Senate President Colleen Hanabusa and Kauai Sen. Gary Hooser, both Democrats, were on the Garden Island to hear concerns about a compromise bill that would allow the Hawaii Superferry to run while an environmental study is being prepared.

Dozens of speakers opposed to the bill, and some opposed to the Superferry in general, cited myriad reasons, from a possible rise in crime and traffic to environmental and cultural concerns.

"Enacting this law could lead to chaos and anarchy in the short term and expensive litigation in the long run," said Richard Hoeppner, of the People for the Preservation of Kauai.

The senators said they would take the information they heard yesterday along with information gleaned from briefings scheduled on the other islands before any decision is made.



Basil Scott addressed the panel of senators yesterday during at a public meeting regarding the Hawaii Superferry held on Kauai at King Kaumuali'i Elementary School.

HANAMAULU, Kauai » Dozens of residents told a panel of state senators yesterday their fears that the Hawaii Superferry will do serious damage to the Garden Isle, especially without an environmental impact statement.

Road Show

The Senate plans the following hearings on the draft Superferry bill:

Today: Wailuku, Baldwin High School auditorium, 3 p.m.

Tomorrow: Kailua-Kona, Kealakehe High School cafeteria, 3 p.m.

Read the final draft of the Superferry bill:

Running the Superferry without an EIS "is like having an AIDS test out there while engaging in risky sex," said John Tyler.

More than 300 people packed the cafeteria at King Kaumuali'i Elementary School in the first of three neighbor island hearings on a compromise bill that would allow the Superferry to run while an environmental study is being done.

The eight senators received rousing applause from the standing-room-only crowd, in stark contrast to the heckling and jeering directed at Gov. Linda Lingle and others during a meeting last month.

Residents said the difference was that the senators came to listen and the governor came to dictate a security policy that already was completed.

Lingle, Coast Guard officials and others went to Kauai on Sept. 20 to explain new security procedures that would allow the Superferry to safely dock at Nawiliwili Harbor after protesters blocked the ship from docking on Aug. 27. More than 1,000 people turned out at the September meeting.

The Superferry later voluntarily suspended operations to Kauai, citing safety reasons.

Yesterday's crowd was sprinkled with children, seniors, newcomers and native Hawaiians.

The senators said they would take Kauai residents' concerns to heart.

Sen. J. Kalani English (D, East Maui-Lanai-Molokai) said he, too, has concerns about the Superferry and that the meetings are being held to "see if we can work a bill" to mitigate those concerns.

On Oct. 9, Maui Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza blocked the Superferry from sailing to Kahului Harbor until the state completes an environmental assessment. Since then there has been a move at the state Capitol to amend environmental laws so the Superferry can sail while the study is being done.

State Senate President Colleen Hanabusa said the Legislature still has not been asked by Lingle to return in special session to discuss saving the Superferry, and that the bill crafted last week is just a draft.

"We, the Senate, feel we need to gather information" in case the governor asks for the Legislature to return, Hanabusa added. "We need to get the conversation started."

The conversation was almost completely one-sided on Kauai.

Speakers continually repeated yesterday that any bill to save the Superferry would circumvent current environmental laws and ignore judicial rulings, and would bring unneeded problems to the state and especially to the Garden Isle.

"What will happen if they allow it and then find there is a significant impact? I imagine they will say, 'Well, we're already in business so we need to continue,'" said Joan Kutzer.

Louisa Wooton, who runs an organic farm with her family, said the Superferry would not help small farmers like her. She said it is too expensive and that it will bring invasive pests, outweighing any possible benefits.

A compromise bill "clearly puts the interests of one business over the environment," said Judy Lundberg. "It is unconstitutional to pass special-interest legislation."

Dominic Acain, a native Hawaiian, said a new group of people have put themselves in harm's way to protect the land. The protesters at Nawiliwili were there to protect the concerns of the kanaka, he said.

"It wasn't just brown skin anymore," Acain said. "It was skin as beautiful as the rainbow."