Saturday, October 11, 2008

First Public Report on OTF Meeting of 10/9/08

Here is a brief summary of a few key points by a person attending:

"They said again yesterday that the draft EIS should be out at the end of Oct. Also said the state has shifted the tug assist costs to HSF as of Oct. 1st.

DoA said they’ve had their budget cut by 24% so won’t be able to staff at harbor. Laura Thielen/DLNR said they are committed to DOCARE inspections through the end of the year but, due to budget cuts, they will continue with only random monitoring in 2009. She said they will also work on standardized reports for HSF inspections; review the EO and refine it, especially in regards to fish allowed on vessel; work with HSF to improve education efforts on prohibited items and continue training HSF staff.

It was mentioned that Act 2 states that there are reports due each quarter from Governor (I believe) to Legislature and they questioned whether this has been happening? Supposedly they’ll look into this and report back."

Here was one of the testimonies submitted:

Public Testimony
Gregory D. Kaufman, President
Oversight Task Force meeting, Honolulu, HI, October, 9, 2008

In my written and oral testimony presented to the September 19, 2008 Oversight Task force meeting in Kahului, Maui I
detailed a new ‘Proposed Route’ (see attached) for the Hawaii Superferry (HSF) during the peak whale months of December – May. The new ‘Proposed Route’ would:

a. Avoid the whale dense area of Penguin Bank;
b. Reduce transit time in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary; and
c. Minimize the amount of time HSF spends in waters 100 fathoms or less.

Following my presentation to the OTF, and the recommendation to use the ‘Proposed Route” exclusively during the winter whale months, I was made aware that my ‘Proposed Route’ may not be a new and novel idea. During a June 19, 2006 Department of Transportation public meeting (detailing the HSF project), HSF representatives presented the attached slide entitled “We Change Routes During Whale Season to Avoid Whale-Dense Areas.”

The slide promises HSF will use “routes (that) go around Penguin Banks….” However, during the 2008 whale season it appears HSF used only the “non-whale season” route (now known as the ‘Alternate Route’) – traversing across Penguin Bank and south of Molokai. Had HSF utilized the route depicted in their slide (around the west end of Penguin Bank), they would have nearly duplicated our “Proposed Route” and thereby minimized potential impacts to wintering humpback whales.

We reiterate our recommendation that during the months of December to May, HSF be prohibited from using both their “Regular Route” (north of Molokai) and their “Alternate Route (or ‘non-whale season route’) across Penguin Bank and through the near-shore waters south of Molokai, and be required to use only our “Proposed Route.”

Further Recommendations (from December to May):

• We continue to insist that HSF abide by special federal and state regulations in Hawai'i which prohibit approaching humpback whales (by any means) closer than 100 yards (90 m). We further believe HSF should come to a complete stop when within 100 yards or less of a humpback whale.

• Given the sophisticated technology available to a very large, high-speed vessel such as HSF, it is imperative that they be required to collect GPS sightings data of all whale sightings and near misses, and that this data be made available for independent study and review.

• Develop a strike predictability model for all routes.

• Nighttime operations: HSF must curtail all nighttime operations with operations limited from 30 minutes prior to sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.

• Mitigation of Blind Spot: To help reduce the likelihood of the HSF hitting whales found inside its 100 yard blind spot, HSF must comply with Condition A-5 of the Executive Order 07-10 and install a series of cameras on its bow. The video from these cameras to be routed to the pilothouse whereby a dedicated observer can monitor them during operation.

• Observers: Three full-time observers required. Two observers would be dedicated to forward/lateral detection, with the third observer monitoring the bow camera.

• Double blind tests run to ensure independent verification of observer efficacy -- to be measured randomly throughout the whale season.

• HSF must maintained a minimum of 500 meters distance from sighted whales whenever possible, as required by E.O. 07-10 condition A.4.

• HSF be limited to speeds of 12 knots or less in all waters of 100 fathoms or less, and while in Sanctuary designated waters.

Finally we would like a full accounting of the Operating Agreement between the State DOT and HSF. During the DOT meeting of June 19, 2006, HSF represented that it would pay the following fees for use of harbor facilities upon start of service:

• $2 for every passenger;
• $4 for every private vehicle;
• $20 for every commercial vehicle;
• 1% of gross receipts; and
• a minimum annual guarantee of $2.3 million through year three, with $16.5 million paid over the first four years to the “DOT-Harbors Fund.”

What is the status of the foregoing payments and obligations to the State DOT by HSF?

I thank you for your time and consideration of this matter.

Gregory D. Kaufman
President & Founder

Aloha, Brad

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