Thursday, November 8, 2007

Superferry gets quick hearing date

Superferry gets quick hearing date

» Former state archaeologist files suit

A court session next week could dissolve the Maui injunction

WAILUKU » Hawaii Superferry President John Garibaldi said he hopes the high-speed ferry will be operating within two weeks after receiving government approvals, including the dissolution of a preliminary injunction against it in Maui Circuit Court.

Maui Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza scheduled a hearing for Wednesday morning to determine whether to lift the injunction that has halted regular interisland service between Oahu and Maui since late August.

Cardoza agreed yesterday to shorten the time usually taken to schedule a hearing.

Assuming the injunction is lifted, Garibaldi said the Superferry does not anticipate any further roadblocks.

The state Legislature passed a bill Friday during a special session that allows large ocean carriers like the Hawaii Superferry to operate while they are conducting a study about their impact on the environment.

The new law is intended to supersede Cardoza's Oct. 9 decision requiring the Superferry to halt operation until it completes an environmental assessment.

State Attorney General Mark Bennett, appearing before Cardoza yesterday, asked for the hearing by early next week.

Bennett said to grant opposing attorney Isaac Hall more time to prepare for the hearing would be giving him a "tactical advantage" and that Hall's real goal was to allow the Superferry to die.

Bennett said Hall has been well aware of the legislative bill passed in special session last week and has been talking about it to the news media.

Superferry attorney Lisa Munger said the bill was publicly available to Hall before the legislative session.

Hall, representing Maui Tomorrow, the Sierra Club and the Kahului Harbor Coalition, said the motion to dissolve the injunction was filed only Monday, and the usual time given for an opposing attorney to respond is 10 days.

Hall said the Superferry wants to speed through the whale sanctuary, the inspection process and the legislative process.

"We need to slow down and look at this thoughtfully and deliberately," he said.

Hall said his clients believe the state law passed in special session is unconstitutional.

Former state archaeologist files suit

A former state archaeologist alleges the state agency responsible for protecting cultural and historic resources violated its own rules and procedures to illegally fast-track permits favored by Gov. Linda Lingle, including expanding state harbors for the Superferry, and stall those she opposes.

David Brown, former Archaeological Branch chief of the state Historic Preservation Division, is suing the state because he feels his job was not renewed in June 2006 because he voiced objections concerning the practices.

The lawsuit, filed yesterday in federal court, also names as defendants division Administrator Melanie Chinen; Lingle's former chief of staff, Robert Awana; former state Office of Planning Director Laura Thielen; former Department of Land and Natural Resources Director Peter Young, Deputy Director Robert Masuda and two current state archaeologists.

Brown claims Awana identified for Chinen which projects to fast-track and which to block. For some projects, Brown says, Chinen directed him to ignore required archaeological reviews to fast-track projects and manufactured reasons to stall other projects.

Chinen said she could not comment on the lawsuit because she has not seen a copy of it. Awana could not be reached for comment.

The state hired Brown as Archaeological Branch chief Sept. 16, 2005. His last day on the job was June 30, 2006, because the state did not renew his annual contract. He says he has not been able to gain employment as an archaeologist since then.

The job remains unfilled.