After much ballyhoo regarding Hawaii’s Superferry, it seems that the State (which supported the project with a little bit of government funding – $40 million, that is) is going to let the Superferry continue its operations, at least to Kauai, while it’s awaiting word on whether or not it will need an environmental impact study (EIS). The service that began end of August was shut down after the first trip when activists got a judge to issue a TRO for its use of Maui’s Kahului Harbor and Kauai surfers, bodyboarders and kayakers took to the water to block Nawiliwili Harbor.
There are many issues at hand as to why people are protesting, even residents who ultimately support a ferry service between the islands. From invasive species to protecting whales in their breeding grounds, people simply wanted the company to perform a proper EIS (which is required for new projects like this that could easily have an impact on the environment). But that costs money, takes time, and somehow “those in charge” seemed to think once they got going with the project, that it would be too late to stop them.
In the end the only way to stop the ferry to Kaua’i was by physically blocking the harbor. “Well, we had tried … quote, unquote the legal way, and …[they] turned a deaf ear to us. So what was there left to do? To bring this to a head… to bring it to the attention of general public,” protester Dennis Chun said. As to why they waited til the last hour to protest…fact is, the public has been requesting to be heard by state and Superferry officials since the project was first announced.
Now Governor Linda Lingle is calling these same people “lawless” and instead of admitting the EIS should have been done and working on a better compromise, she’s bringing out the big guns. As reported in the Honolulu Advertiser:
The Coast Guard, under the authority of an emergency order, will create a security zone to allow protesters to demonstrate between Kalapaki Beach and Kuki’i Point but will use an ocean containment boom to physically separate them from the harbor entrance and the ferry’s path. The ocean boom is similar to what is used to clean up oil or chemical spills. A separate security zone will exist 100 yards around the ferry itself. Protesters who violate the security zone could face 10 years in prison and $10,000 fines. Federal civil penalties could be up to $25,000. The Coast Guard also warned that surfboards, kayaks and canoes used by protesters to violate the security zone could be seized and forfeited.
Ironically surf legend and devoted Republican and State Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings had urged last week that the Coast Guard or the Hawai’i National Guard ensure safe Kaua’i passage for the ferry and stated he was pleased with the new restrictions. “This is a good business that has a right to do business in Hawai’i,” Hemmings said. “It has given Hawai’i a black eye to have a handful of ill-informed protesters stop a business from legally operating. I’m glad the Coast Guard and other government agencies are doing their job.” While the Republicans are determined to protect businesses, the Democrates are concerned about military being used to control the people.
State Senate Majority Leader Gary Hooser, D-7th (Kaua’i, Ni’ihau), said he plans to send a letter to Superferry today asking that it keep its service to Kaua’i suspended until the courts rule on whether it can continue during an environmental assessment. Hooser said he is worried about potential confrontations between protesters and the Coast Guard. “I’m concerned about the escalation in rhetoric coming from the Coast Guard and I want to diffuse the situation,” he said. On Kaua’i, environmentalists and others who question the ferry accused the Coast Guard of turning Nawilwili into a “war zone.” “We should not be using military and police forces to enforce political decisions,” said state Rep. Hermina Morita D-14th (Hanalei, Anahola, Kapa’a).
Jeff Mikulina, director of the Sierra Club’s Hawaii chapter, criticized the move to resume service. “It is highly inappropriate for Superferry to travel to Nawiliwili before an environmental review is complete,” Mikulina said. “Not only is such a trip contrary to state law, it belies common sense. We study and prepare for adverse impacts before they happen, not after.” Interestingly, the usually extreme Sierra Club seemed to have the perspective with the most middle ground, claiming all they have wanted from the beginning was an EIS and even without it … would be willing to consider allowing Superferry to sail again under very strict controls. Before Lingle’s decision, Mikulina had hopeful stated, “Perhaps in the short term they put [in place] extreme measures to protect for those things then we understand what the impacts are and can go back and revise them. That could be an outcome.” But the State didn’t seem to want to bargain or budge.
And while the Coast Guard claims, “[We have] an obligation to facilitate commerce”, Rich Hoeppner, of People for the Preservation of Kaua’i, said the Coast Guard should have asked Superferry officials to wait. “The Coast Guard had two options,” he said. “They could spend millions of dollars on additional personnel and equipment, or make one call to (Superferry chief executive John) Garibaldi and tell him they wouldn’t protect him until he gets an EA as the Supreme Court requires. They chose to make it a war zone.” If the ferry returns to Kaua’i, “we’ll probably be here to show our displeasure,” Hoeppner said. Some of the Kaua’i protesters, who went to Oahu to explain their position, warned Superferry officials that the next confrontation will make the last one “look like a picnic” if the ferry tries to go to Kauai without an environmental assessment.
In a statement released yesterday, Governor Lingle announced that the ferry will be allowed to resume service, on a temporary daylight schedule, with the help of the US Coast Guard, Mayor Bryan Baptiste, Department of Public Safety, Transportation and Land and Natural Resources. The Superferry web site, which includes a slightly skewed “Latest Press Coverage” section, listed her announcement, as well their Voyage Status:
We are suspending service to and from Kaua‘i through Tuesday, September 25. We will be offering service between Kauai and O‘ahu starting on September 26. The voyages on September 26 and 27 will operate earlier in the day than our normal schedule. Until the schedule is finalized those voyages will not be available for purchase. Full details will be forthcoming. We are pleased to learn that Hawaii Superferry will be able to resume service to and from Kaua‘i commencing September 26. The Governor, the U.S. Coast Guard, and various state and county agencies have provided Hawaii Superferry with assurances regarding the safety of our passengers, employees and the members of the community when Kaua’i service is resumed.
Lingle also didn’t fail to mention that anyone who is “planning to recruit children or teenagers to participate in illegal protests that they could be held liable for child endangerment.”
So with the TRO rejected by a Kauai judge last week (and only perhaps if a permanent restraining order gets granted during a hearing September 17th), we shall see how it goes when the Superferry is set to begin its Oah’u to Kaua’i service again on September 26th. Of course to the surfers, as in any High Surf Advisory situation, be safe!
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