Friday, February 29, 2008

DOT sets meetings on Superferry EIS


DOT sets meetings on Superferry EIS


by Rachel Gehrlein - THE GARDEN ISLAND

Informational public meetings on the Superferry's Environmental Impact Statement conducted by the Hawai`i state Department of Transportation for the Hawai`i Superferry are under way.

"The meetings are intended to give the public an opportunity to give their input," said Mike Formby, DOT Harbors Division chief. "It's an opportunity to engage the community."

Formby said there will be two meetings, one in the afternoon and one in the evening.

Scott Ishikawa, DOT spokesman, said the EIS will address the secondary impacts, such as whales and other endangered species, that could be affected by the Superferry.

Under Act 2, the law that passed in the Legislature last year, the Superferry is allowed to run provided certain conditions are met while the environmental study is being done.

The conditions include operating restrictions during what some call a truncated account of whale season, as the act cites it as January through April, though the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has included the whale season months of November and December.

According to the Division of Land and Natural Resources, up to 10,000 humpback whales are in Hawaiian waters every year from November through May.

The act was passed out of a special session called by Gov. Linda Lingle following Maui Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza's ruling that the ferry couldn't sail during its court-ordered Environmental Impact Study.

Belt Collins, the firm hired by the state and awarded a $1 million contract to complete the EIS on the Superferry, is supposed to report its findings to the DOT.

"Right now, Belt Collins is looking for subcontractors and gathering experts to conduct studies," Formby said. "In a year-long process, we are about two months in."

The Superferry is required to avoid the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary within 100 fathoms or less during those months.

"This project has brought mixed opinion," Ishikawa said. "This meeting would be the proper venue for those to voice their opinion."

Although the Superferry does not service the entire state, meetings will be on the Big Island, Kaua`i, Lana`i and Moloka`i.

"We want to know their feelings," Formby said.

Want to Go?

Meetings on Kaua`i

will be from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

and 6 to 9 p.m. March 19 at the Kaua`i Community College

Performing Arts Center.

• Rachel Gehrlein, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or