Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Another Good Letter and Ferry OTF Meeting Sept. 19

Another good, long letter to the editor in the Kauai paper yesterday:

"More Hawaii Superferry oversight needed"

"Much was made recently of Hawaii Superferry carrying its 125,000th passenger; a so-called milestone for a company where “success” is operating at half capacity.

Having recently attended a Superferry Oversight Task Force meeting, I’m struck by how little about this operation is getting out to the public.

Put in place as part of Act 2’s special legislation, the Task Force operates for one year. Its findings will be reported to the state Legislature early in 2009. As I listened to the information shared at that August meeting, it became clear just what a travesty Act 2 is.

Hawai‘i’s environmental law states that an environmental assessment must be performed prior to operation’s start. If this law had been followed, many of the problems now being brought forward could have been dealt with in advance.

One critical issue is inter-island spread of invasive species. A report prepared as part of the Superferry’s EIS process finds an unacceptable number of muddy vehicles being allowed to board. An undercarriage pressure wash system was originally suggested to mitigate this problem, but the suggestion was ignored.

Now the study finds such a system is needed, but there is no room for it in the current operations area. Had this system been required before the operation began, space would have been provided and the system would now be in place. As dirt on vehicles is a pathway for the spread of invasive species, this is of critical importance.

The report also suggested Hawaii Superferry needs to provide items as simple as a vacuum cleaner and better flashlights for their employees for more thorough inspections.

It was equally disappointing to hear Hawaii Superferry’s CEO, Admiral Thomas Fargo, state that night vision goggles, radar, and “bow-mounted cameras” that might prevent collisions with humpback whales are still not ready.

Members of the public told the Task Force in early February that the promised technology was not adequate, yet HSF continued to state through last year’s whale season that those technologies were in place and would ensure safety for humpbacks during evening transits.

Now, two months before the first whales begin arriving in Hawaiian waters, Admiral Fargo says it will take more time. This is unacceptable in regards to a federally protected and endangered species.

The only mitigation for this issue is reduced speeds, down to 10 knots (11.5 mph), when traveling after dark. An update is needed on Hawaii Superferry’s whale avoidance plan for Winter 2008-09. Will the HSF’s “whale season” be abbreviated as it was last year or run concurrent with the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale Sanctuary’s accepted November through May season?

DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement monthly report on inspections and findings at Kahului Harbor was an eye-opening menu of natural resources being taken from Maui on a regular basis.

To have over 400 pounds of reef fish taken from Maui waters in a one-month period is astounding. Forty-nine pounds of opihi in one month; another 75 pounds the following month; over 250 pounds of limu in a month— how long will these natural resources remain for our community?

The people of Maui treasure our cultural and natural resources. Greater effort must be made to stop the plunder. DOCARE’s regular reports are the only comprehensive assessment of items leaving Maui aboard this new form of inter-island transportation.

We need continued information to make educated decisions on procedures needed, not only for Maui, but also for the Big Island as the second vessel comes online in 2009 and for Kaua‘i if HSF resumes service there. Yet these DOCARE officers will be pulled from inspections when the Task Force disbands at the end of this year.

As Gov. Lingle recently issued emergency orders to control and reduce government expenditures, now, more than ever, Hawai‘i taxpayers deserve a document released to the public, stating the costs the Department of Transportation has incurred for this one private enterprise.

What has it cost the taxpayers for Ag and DOCARE staffing? The DOT lawsuits and on-going appeals? The Oversight Task Force’s year-long operation and the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement? The cost of barges and tugs to assist the “Alakai” at Kahului Harbor and any other costs related to the operation of this ferry system?

The next meeting of the Oversight Task Force for Hawaii Superferry will be held on Maui on Sept. 19 at the Kahului Harbor passenger terminal beginning at noon. If you are concerned about the ferry’s impact on marine mammals; our over-burdened roads, parks and beaches; and especially the plunder of our natural and cultural resources, I urge you to attend or send testimony to this meeting and let your voices be heard."

Irene Bowie,
Executive Director
Maui Tomorrow Foundation
Makawao, Hawai‘i

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