Spin Zone: Where Hawaii’s leaders face off

April, 2007

Q: Should the Neighbor Islands be worried about the Superferry?

SEN. FRED HEMMINGS, District 25, Kailua, Lanikai, Waimanalo, Hawaii Kai

The Superferry will present a viable choice in the marketplace of interisland travel.A: There are many reasons the Hawaii Superferry must be allowed fair access to the Hawaii transportation market, including:

  • • The Superferry will be successful by hosting travelers and vehicles in both directions.
    • The Superferry must be treated equally in the eyes of the law and not singled out with legislation that discriminates solely against it.
    • The Superferry would pose no more of an environmental impact than other inter-island surface transportation.
    • Most enlightened near-shore communities in the world use ferries for transportation.
    • The Superferry is a free-enterprise venture that will not be owned and operated by the taxpayers of Hawaii.
    • The Superferry has already withstood legal challenges and the attorney general has testified that singling out the Superferry for an environmental impact statement (EIS) would be unconstitutional.
    • The Superferry would be a cost-effective transportation alternative for Hawaii’s families.
    • The Superferry could accommodate interisland small businesses’ benefiting consumers.
    • The Superferry’s success will demonstrate that Hawaii is an open-minded state where business is treated fairly.

We must not let a very vocal minority, as so often in the past, stop Hawaii from making progress that will benefit our island state. Currently in the state Legislature there is a bill that would require the Superferry to get an EIS. It does not make sense and it is not fair. There are examples where in the past Luddites and NIMBY’s used alleged environmentalism to thwart a business. Sound leadership can overcome the most vociferous opposition.

Too often environmentalism is used for political purposes without necessarily protecting the environment. We cannot let the Hawaii Superferry fall victim to this ploy.

Let’s allow common sense and fairness to prevail. Call your legislators and ask them to support the Hawaii Superferry and vote against unfair legislation that would deter its entrance into the Hawaii travel market.

SEN. GARY L. HOOSER, District 7, Kauai, Niihau

A: The Hawaii Superferry’s concept of a new interisland water transport system holds undeniable appeal. Beyond the potential weekend recreational benefits, more than a few of Kauai’s 75 working farms anticipate the opportunity to broaden their markets by driving their trucks and vans across the channel to sell their harvests on Oahu. Other types of businesses envision similar routes to profitable expansion as well.

While the Hawaii Superferry may provide such a conduit for economic stimulation, we as legislators have a responsibility to first ensure that the law is followed. Recently, the State of Hawaii Environment Council, a 15-member citizen board appointed by the Governor, voted overwhelmingly in support of a motion that essentially stated that the Department of Transportation, Harbors Division, made a mistake when it exempted the Hawaii Superferry from our state’s environmental impact statement (EIS) laws. This action reinforced what many in our community have been saying for the past two years.

Existing law requires a complete environmental review when public funds are used on public lands for improvements resulting in new and significant impacts. Public funds have been used—both federal financial guarantees and $40 million of state taxpayer money expended on Superferry-related harbor improvements. Even a cursory review of the Hawaii Superferry proposal shows clearly the potential impacts are considerable.

The EIS laws were originally passed so that important safeguards would be in place to preserve our natural environment. The rural, lush and sparsely populated Neighbor Island communities are especially sensitive and appreciative of these protections. Community leaders and residents have been adamant in their support of requiring an EIS to address the myriad of potential impacts, which include humpback whale collisions, invasive species introduction, increased criminal activity, impacts on cultural and recreational resources, and additional traffic congestion.

With an EIS, these issues and numerous others would be thoroughly examined and recommendations made on how best to mitigate potential negative consequences. Requiring an EIS does not translate into opposing the Superferry. It is already the law and it is the responsible thing to do.

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