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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Effort to stop Superferry unfair

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You would think the Hawai'i Supreme Court had ample time to voice its opinion on the Hawai'i Superferry.

Instead, it issued a vague ruling just days before the Superferry was set to launch, paving the way for a costly backlash. Yesterday, three Maui groups filed a request for a temporary restraining order to halt the service immediately, and Maui attorney Isaac Hall asked for an injunction. These actions, as well as the court's ruling, come after more than three years of planning, and after the state has already invested $40 million of taxpayers' money in harbor improvements.

Such last-minute moves reflect a serious lack of planning, and serve as red flags against doing business in our state.

The ruling requires the state to conduct an environmental assessment to see whether improvements at Kahului Harbor may have a significant impact on the environment.

From the start, Superferry executives have been willing to participate in a broad EIS process that studies the impact of broader plans for expansion by all harbor users. It's unfair to focus on the Superferry as the sole cause of change in harbor operations.

The project has never been required by the state or federal agencies to prepare an EIS and has won court rulings upholding that decision. And in March, a bill that would have required an environmental study was killed after chairman of the House Transportation Committee, state Rep. Joseph Souki, declared it unfair to target the Superferry when other interisland carriers did not have to do environmental impact statements.

So as much as opponents may try, it's hard to blame the Superferry folks. Indeed, they did everything they were told to do by the state. An injunction should only be filed if they have disregarded a ruling or posed a health or safety issue neither of which appear to be the case.

What did pose a safety issue were the numerous protesters who formed a human blockade in front of the Superferry as it approached the Nawiliwili harbor in Kaua'i on Sunday. This forced the ferry to wait to enter the harbor while the U.S. Coast Guard used force to secure the waters.

Community involvement is crucial in any major project.

But creating a dangerous environment does nothing to further the cause, especially with an issue that demands calm, clarity and closure.