Wednesday, January 30, 2008
A behind-the-scenes look at state government and politics from Capitol Bureau reporters Derrick DePledge and Treena Shapiro. Share insider tips or ideas with the bureau at 525-8070 or via e-mail.
Reach Derrick at email@example.com and Treena at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on: January 29, 2008 at 8:59:45 pm
Superferry, in context
The Advertiser has been going through thousands of pages of documents -- 11 boxes and counting -- to try to reconstruct the state's decision to exempt Hawaii Superferry from an environmental review.
Our story Sunday included a reference to a Feb. 11, 2005, e-mail from Barry Fukunaga, the then-deputy director of harbors at the state Department of Transportation, to a colleague. The e-mail describes a telephone call Fukunaga received from Superferry president and chief executive officer John Garibaldi:
State documents show that the department's harbors division staff, in early planning, wanted to avoid constructing major harbor improvements until Superferry proved viable after a few years.
But the department's preferred improvements at Kahului Harbor, where there were potential conflicts between Superferry, Young Brothers' barge operations, canoe paddlers and other harbor users, involved activity that would potentially trigger an environmental assessment.
The stripped-down plans for a barge and ramp for Superferry at Kahului's Pier 2 were seen by the department as interim, a fallback position to qualify for an exemption and meet the project's target launch date. Yet Superferry was so concerned about a trigger that executives pushed the department not to mention the preferred improvements at the harbor.
Fukunaga, in an e-mail to a staffer less than two weeks before the final decision to exempt the project from environmental review, wrote: "Garibaldi called me, he received his letter today and is concerned that identifying both the preferred improvements and the alternatives establishes a linkage and requires our doing the environmental reviews for everything.
"I informed him that we did not see it that way. In any event he is going to confer with his legal. We'll see."
We knew that by Feb. 23, 2005, Fukunaga made the official decision to exempt the project from environmental review and did not refer to the state's preferred pier improvements at Kahului Harbor.
But we did not know the exact chain of events. Documents released to The Advertiser on Monday provide more context.
Fukunaga sent out letters to Superferry, county agencies and others in early February 2005 describing permanent pier improvements between Pier 1 and Pier 3 at Kahului Harbor that the department thought it could complete before ferry service started. The improvements -- essentially the construction of a new Pier 4 -- would have involved an environmental review.
The barge and ramp plans for Pier 2 were an "interim, short term arrangement" that would be exempt from environmental review and meet the timetable for launch if the preferred work was not finished.
Soon after Garibaldi's phone call, however, Fukunaga sent out correction letters that claimed his earlier description of the new pier was for a separate project "unrelated to current improvements planned for Hawaii Superferry."
3 comments • Permalink • Report offensive comment
Comment from: Koauka [Visitor]
The decision makers, led by Barry Fukunaga, have no understanding of maritime and harbor operations at all.
And that is why we are in this situation today. Congrats Barry on your promotion to Chief of Staff.
And dont forget, remember to micromanage your friends at DOT!
Of course dont forget Aunty Linda, her mantra is get the job done.
And that's why we are in this situation today.
Permalink 01/30/08 @ 00:52
Comment from: SunnyK [Visitor]
Why was Rod Haraga even brought in from the mainland when the "big" decisions went to Fukunaga? Another scape goat? Auwe!
Didn't someone from DLNR/SHPD rubber stamp the go ahead as well...without appropriate maritime archeological assessment or land survey? Who was in charge at that time? Peter Young and Melanie Chinen?
Permalink 01/30/08 @ 05:40
Comment from: Karen Chun [Visitor] · http://www.SaveKahuluiHarbor.com
After telling us in the 2025 Kahului Master Plan that Pier 5 (slated for Superferry and cruise ships) would not be built because Army Corps of Engineers had determined the surge would make it impractical to position and moor vessels, it is disgusting to think that they knew then they really were going to build it with all its attendant problems.
Even though they are fast-tracking Pier 5, we cannot wait 6 more years with the defective Superferry barge having to be moved to a working freight dock (Berth 2B) due to winter surge. We knew this would happen and DOT did too. DOT didn't listen to the harbor pilots in 2005 when they told them that it was impossible to moor anything on the end of pier 2 (the barge's home) during the winter. We need that piece of junk out of Kahului Harbor now
Our freight hit a crisis point in 2003. DOT's own predictions showed this but they did nothing to increase our freight space. What they did, instead, was to triple cruise ship dockings, giving them preference over freight. Then, to make things even worse, they took over 24% of our interisland freight dock for the Superferry. Calculations based on the 2025 dock usage predictions showed that 43% of increased berth use came from cruise ships and 17% from the Superferry. With the Superferry barge parked at a freight berth, their impact is more.
Even at these old numbers over 50% of new dock demand has been driven by 2 companies operating passenger ships.
These bad decisions took our already tight freight situation and turned it into a crisis. I've seen the coal freighter waiting outside Kahului Harbor for 3 days while cruise ships tied up for 35 hours at a time, using the dock as a sort of ocean front hotel space.
It is time to realize that we cannot accommodate passenger ships in Kahului Harbor. We need them out of there today not in six years. DOT could do this with a simple policy change:
Get the cruise ships (who are experiencing financial difficulties and taking Pride of Aloha away from Hawai'i) and the Superferry (which has so few customers it can't even cover its fuel costs) out of Kahului Harbor right now
Let's rethink this hurried plan to expand Kahului Harbor inward (at the expense of turning basin safety) and solve our immediate problem with a no-cost policy change. Even if HSF sues the State, it can't possible cost the 1/3 of a billion dollars that we're paying to build them a dock.
Then let's take the breathing room this policy change provides and obtain some federal money so we can do Kahului expansion right - go outward not inward.
Permalink 01/30/08 @ 07:45
Monday, January 7, 2008
Hawaii, ferry at odds in '04 over environment
|•||PDF: Selection of the state Department of Transportation's Superferry documents (material highlighted by The Advertiser)|
|StoryChat: Comment on this story|
By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer
By Derrick DePledge
Staff at the state Department of Transportation told Hawaii Superferry in October 2004 that a statewide environmental assessment would be required for the new interisland ferry service. But Superferry executives resisted and, within two days, scaled back the project in a calculated attempt to get an exemption from the state's environmental review law, state records show.
Some in the department not only thought Superferry should be responsible for doing an environmental assessment — one described it as the "right thing to do" — but also seriously considered doing an environmental review of the state's $40 million in harbor improvements for Superferry.
"SF has to do one that addresses their operation to include traffic impacts and the like," Barry Fukunaga, who was deputy director of harbors at the time, wrote in an October 2004 e-mail to Rod Haraga, who was the department's director.
The documents, obtained by The Advertiser through the state's open-records law, show that the internal debate over an environmental review for Superferry was far more extensive than has been publicly disclosed by the Lingle administration and Superferry executives.
Some of the department's staff, records show, also were frustrated that Superferry had not provided detailed operational plans during a critical period in the fall of 2004 when the state was being asked to sign off on the project.
The state ultimately chose not to require that Superferry do an environmental assessment. Fukunaga, who later became the department's director and is now Gov. Linda Lingle's chief of staff, also decided in February 2005 that state harbor improvements for Superferry were minor and exempt from environmental review.
Environmentalists challenged Fukunaga's decision and the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously in August that it was an error. The court's ruling prompted new legal challenges and public protests that halted ferry service and led to a statewide debate over the project's future. State lawmakers finally decided in an extraordinary special session to allow the ferry to operate under conditions to protect the environment while the state conducts a full environmental impact statement.
The Lingle administration has released hundreds of documents related to Superferry in response to The Advertiser's request under the open-records law. The documents are being released in increments because of the large amount involved. The administration is also still in the process of reviewing some of the documents for attorney-client privilege and executive privilege.
The Lingle administration, citing attorney-client privilege, has denied a separate request by The Advertiser for records from state Attorney General Mark Bennett and his deputies to other administration officials regarding Fukunaga's decision to exempt state harbor improvements for Superferry from environmental review. The Advertiser has appealed to the state's Office of Information Practices.
Many of the documents released to The Advertiser have also been given to state Auditor Marion Higa, who is investigating the administration's decision-making on the Superferry at the request of state lawmakers. Higa told state senators last week that she has encountered roadblocks and questioned the administration's use of attorney-client privilege and executive privilege in withholding documents.
Fukunaga was out of the office last week and not immediately available to comment about the material provided to The Advertiser. Haraga, who no longer works for the Lingle administration, has declined several requests to discuss Superferry.
Staff disagreements over projects as large as Superferry are not uncommon in government and, since hundreds of documents have yet to be released and others have been withheld, it is difficult to build a complete narrative.
The documents released so far, however, provide new insight into discussions between the department's staff and Superferry during the hectic final months of 2004.
At the time, the department and its consultants were conducting financial and operational reviews of Superferry. The department's harbors staff believed Superferry was considered a "go" project by the administration and was aware the governor's office was tracking progress.
Superferry executives, meanwhile, were under pressure to obtain a letter of intent for the project from the state to show the federal Maritime Administration as part of a federal loan guarantee for ferry construction. Superferry executives were also awaiting a decision from the state's Public Utilities Commission on an operating certificate.
'NO OPERATIONAL PLAN'
Several e-mails between the department's staff complained about a lack of technical detail from Superferry. "In today's meeting with HSF, it became apparent that there really is no operational plan that is documented anywhere," one harbors staffer wrote in late September 2004.
A department document from late October 2004 was more prickly. "It should be noted that many of the problems we are encountering can be attributed to the lack of infrastructure and operational planning. SF focused on their vessel and business plans (market, financing, business activities), but seem to have done little to look at the infrastructure and pierside requirements.
"Many critical issues have been overlooked or are not adequately addressed."
Superferry executives eventually gave the department their infrastructure plans for Honolulu, Kahului, Nawiliwili and Kawaihae harbors in late October 2004.
Over the next few days, several e-mails from harbors staff — including the one from Fukunaga to Haraga — discussed the need for an environmental assessment.
One e-mail, sent by a harbors staffer to a consultant, said it appeared the department would "require HSF to prepare and process an EA that ties each site together into a single statewide system." Another e-mail, sent by a harbors planning engineer to a Superferry executive, notes that "we are looking at the creation of a statewide document to cover the impact of the ferry and especially the onshore-offshore cumulative impacts."
Superferry, in a powerpoint prepared for a status meeting with Lingle in early November 2004, gave this timeline:
"Oct. 26 — HSF provides drawings of port infrastructure requirements for each of the four ports to HDOT.
"Oct. 27 — HDOT advises HSF of need for environmental review of HSF plans.
"Oct. 29 — HSF submits revised port drawings to stay within permitted exemptions to HRS 343 (the state's environmental review law)."
"Nov. 4 — State of Hawai'i comments on LOI (letter of intent) to HSF. Resolution of environmental review issue."
Other state records released so far do not pinpoint exactly how or when the issue was resolved.
But an undated department document suggested a strategy for how to expedite the environmental disclosure process for Superferry: limit any harbor improvements needed to launch Superferry in 2007 to exempt projects only and wait until later to construct permanent facilities that would require environmental review. The document also noted that major construction could require Army Corps of Engineers' permits. The permit process could trigger consultation with other federal agencies, such as the National Marine Fisheries Service, which had raised concerns that ferry speed and routes could threaten endangered humpback whales and monk seals.
An e-mail between harbors staff in mid-November 2004 indicated that Superferry was still waiting to hear from the state about the harbor improvements. A harbors staffer wrote that it was "quite evident" that the harbors division was "being perceived as the 'slow' one — we're going to take major gas on this."
John Garibaldi, the president and chief executive officer of Superferry, said in an interview last week that Superferry worked collaboratively with the department throughout the fall and winter of 2004 on infrastructure and operations questions.
Garibaldi said Superferry did not want to trigger an environmental review because it could take several months to a year or more to complete and could jeopardize the project's federal loan guarantee and private investments. Superferry instead chose to do its own environmental planning on traffic, invasive species and whale protection.
"If there was a 'legal requirement' that Hawaii Superferry had to do an environmental review, then that requirement would have to be fulfilled prior to any funding," he explained.
Garibaldi said one of the significant modifications eventually made to the project was the decision not to demolish a portion of the tip of Pier 2 at Kahului Harbor on Maui and create a notch for the ferry. Instead, the state opted for a floating barge and boarding ramp that Fukunaga and the state deemed minor.
But the notch at Kahului was still part of the project in late November 2004 when Genevieve Salmonson, then the director of the state's Office of Environmental Quality Control, wrote Fukunaga with her opinion that the state harbor improvements for Superferry fell within the scope of exemptions to the environmental review law.
The debate, however, would continue among department staff.
Fukunaga, under questioning from state lawmakers during the special session in October, acknowledged that some on his staff had recommended an environmental review.
Garibaldi, also under questioning from lawmakers, said he had met with Fukunaga and with Bob Awana, Lingle's former chief of staff, in late 2004 to discuss the harbor improvements.
Department e-mail from December 2004 shows that harbors staff was wrestling with both an environmental assessment for state harbor improvements and whether the Superferry should do a statewide environmental review.
"I think where they left off yesterday with their meeting with Awana, it was agreed that HSF would be told to do a statewide ferry EIS," one department staffer wrote. "This may come upfront because although they are claiming there is no trigger, the PUC can require it as a result of the comments from their hearings. If so, and HSF needs to do one right away upfront, (I) am wondering whether it would be beneficial for us to work with them and include the harbor (improvements) in their effort."
A harbors staffer responded that the state's environmental work should be separate from Superferry. "While HSF should be responsible for their own, we should in turn be responsible for our own. I also think that if we tie our EA's properly to the statewide EIS, then the EA's wouldn't be contingent upon the success of the EIS.
"In the end, if this should never get off the ground, at least we would be in a better position to separate ourselves from HSF by saying we did our part."
Among the most forceful arguments for requiring Superferry to perform a statewide environmental assessment came in a department document in late December 2004. The document describes it as the "right thing to do" to avoid legal challenges and address valid public concerns. The document noted that most of the public concerns were related to the ferry operations and system, not the site and harbor improvements.
"A statewide EA should be pursued in response to the concerns raised in the PUC permitting process," according to the document, referring to public comments before the commission related to traffic, invasive species and whale protection.
"Ignoring the concerns may trigger a challenge where we may be subject to the courts' schedule and processes."
Reach Derrick DePledge at email@example.com.
Friday, January 4, 2008
Thursday, January 3, 2008
Koko was literally hopping when we set out this morning, because the chickens were up and about, and that urge to chase and kill always gets her excited. I wasn't hopping, or experiencing any bloodlust, but I was excited, too, just from being out in the world.
A thin, white moon could be seen overhead, waterfalls coursed down mountains draped in pink mist and the sun was struggling valiantly to break free of the clouds.
It lost that battle, and a gentle shower accompanied us for the final half-mile, the kind of light rain that falls at a slant, each drop visible. I got to thinking about how the sun is such a strong, burning force, yet so often it's hidden by flimsy, unsubstantial clouds.
And that got me thinking about how the deeper meaning, the fireball, of so many things remains hidden behind a veil that effectively obscures, but does not obliterate.
Such is the case with Hawaii Superferry. The veil, in this case, is the rhetoric that accompanied its arrival: all the talk about uniting the islands, providing an alternative form of transportation, helping farmers get their produce to market, bringing `ohana together.
But I felt the fireball, the true purpose, behind the ferry remained hidden.
Why, I so often wondered, had it come to Hawaii? And why did it stay, through lawsuits and protests, when its own principles admitted it could make money elsewhere?
Why was J.F. Lehman & Co., the private equity firm of a man who was formerly Secretary of the Navy and a member of the 9/11 Commission, a firm that invests almost solely in defense related industries, putting $58 million into a passenger ferry service?
Why was Gov. Linda Lingle expending such tremendous political capital to push the ferry forward without an environmental review? Why was she, a Republican, able to get the Democrat-controlled Legislature to do her bidding?
Why the big rush to get the ferry operating, even though its start date coincided with the season of rough waters that prompted widespread seasickness among its passengers and numerous days of cancelled service?
And how in the world was it going to make any money with such low passenger counts, no service to Kauai and fuel prices that just keep edging upwards?
I heard often that its true purpose was military in nature, that it was intended to transport the Styrker brigade between Oahu and the Big Island. While I didn't doubt that explanation, it didn't fully answer all my questions. If that was the case, why didn't it start with service to the Big Island? And would the Strykers really be moving often enough to warrant such a service?
Then one day I got a phone call from a man who urged me to read a column by Bill Gertz published Dec. 28, 2007 in The Washington Times. Subtitled "Notes from the Pentagon," it included this account:
Navy v. China The chief of naval operations told Congress yesterday that the U.S. Navy is building up its forces to be ready to challenge a future military threat from China.
Adm. Gary Roughead was asked by Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, during a House Armed Services Committee hearing what steps were being taken by the Navy to address China's large-scale naval buildup.
"We look at the capabilities that navies have that are evolving, China being one of them," Adm. Roughead said. "And that has driven our advancements in certain capabilities, whether it be in anti-submarine warfare, ballistic missile defense, the command-and-control capabilities that we need on our ships as we operate globally as a global Navy."
Asked whether China's military buildup has prompted planning for more submarines, more missiles and more aircraft, Adm. Roughead said, "yes, sir."
The four-star admiral said one example is the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship that is made for fighting near coasts but also is "capable of running and providing enhanced [anti-submarine warfare] capability to our more traditional battle formations, our expeditionary strike groups and carrier strike groups."
The new ship is "a function of the need that we see for anti-submarine warfare, mine warfare and anti-surface warfare capability in areas where we see the threat evolving," he said, "to include China."
Hmmm, I thought, this is very interesting, so I began checking into the Navy's experimental x-hull craft, as the caller had suggested, saying its design and aluminum composition was "eerily similar" to the Superferry's.
He was right, as you can see for yourself:
And so began many hours of investigation, the fruits of which I will be revealing in subsequent posts aimed at lifting the veil and exposing the multi-billion-dollar fireball beneath.
Superferry adding second daily Maui trip
Kauai service is still in limbo
"A second voyage to Maui will benefit our customers who want the convenience of having an afternoon voyage," said John Garibaldi, Superferry president and CEO. "The second voyage will also greatly benefit our commercial customers, giving them more flexibility in reaching their markets. The additional Maui service was originally planned to begin when the second vessel was placed into service in early 2009."
In addition, the company announced it is extending its promotional $39 one-way passenger fares and $55 one-way passenger vehicle fares for travel through June 5. Tickets must be purchased by March 31.
The company restarted service to Maui last month after a new state law was enacted allowing the ship to sail while an environmental impact study is being done on the service.
However, the company has not resumed its service to Kauai, where it faced vocal opposition and civil disobedience.
In its announcement, Superferry officials said they are adding the second Maui trip while the Kauai service remains on hold.
"Providing service to Kaua'i is very important to us," Garibaldi said. "We recognize and appreciate the strong support from many in the community. We've decided, however, to initiate a second voyage to Maui sooner in order to allow more time in which to work with the community on Kaua'i to ensure a safe and successful resumption of service.
"As we have always stated, our business model is dependent on running two trips per day and right now we've got to meet those needs."
According to the company, the second daily Maui service starts Jan. 16; will operate Sunday through Friday between O'ahu and Maui; will leave Honolulu at 3:15 p.m. arriving in Kahului at 7:00 p.m.; depart Kahului at 8:00 p.m. and arriving in Honolulu at 11:00 p.m. The first daily voyage continues as seven days a week, departing Honolulu at 6:30 a.m. arriving Kahului at 10:15 a.m.; departing Kahului at 11:15 a.m. and arriving Honolulu at 2:15 p.m.