Friday, October 5, 2007

Superferry hearing ends; judge to rule on Monday

Superferry hearing ends; judge to rule on Monday

By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor

WAILUKU, Maui — A Maui judge is expected to rule Monday on whether the Hawaii Superferry will be allowed to resume Maui service while the state conducts an environmental assessment of ferry-related harbor projects.

Judge Joseph Cardoza brought the final gavel down this afternoon on four weeks of testimony presented on one side by the company and the state Department of Transportation, and on the other by the Sierra Club, Maui Tomorrow and the Kahului Harbor Coalition.

Witnesses for the company and the state have testified about the public need for an interisland ferry service, and about the potential financial impacts if the company is not allowed to resume operations immediately.

The three community groups have presented testimony on the potential environmental impacts of allowing the ferry to sail before the assessment is complete. These include worries about the spread of alien species, collisions with humpback whales, and degradation of Native Hawaiian subsistence fishing, hunting and gathering grounds.

Hawaii Superferry President and CEO John Garibaldi testified yesterday the company will not be able to absorb the financial blow caused by a continued prohibition of service to Maui. He said the company would have to lease the vessel out in order to generate revenue.

If Cardoza rules the high-speed catamaran can go back into service during the months it will take the state to perform the assessment, he may set temporary conditions on ferry operations to mitigate some of the environmental issues.

Attorneys will present their closing arguments at 9:30 a.m. Monday. Cardoza today indicated he would render a decision then.