Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Report on OTF Meeting of 9/19/08 (pt.3)

The following is the most complete summary report on the OTF Meeting of 9/19/08 thusfar released to the public. Rather than organize and recreate my notes, will just refer readers to the following article reported in the local Maui Weekly paper:
Thursday, October 02, 2008
"Superferry Resurfaces"
By Trisha Smith

"As Hawai‘i Superferry prepares for whale season, emotional public testimonies offer resolutions to conservation enforcement at final oversight task force meeting on Maui. “Maui’s resources for Maui’s people.”

The meeting of the Hawai‘i Inter-Island Large Capacity Ferry Vessel Oversight Task Force (OTF) brought many issues to light on Friday, Sept. 19, at the Kahului Harbor, Passenger Terminal.

As the Hawai‘i Superferry (HSF) celebrated its 125,000th passenger in August, many still questioned its benefits. Recent information released by the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DLNR/DOCARE) about the removal of natural resources proved disturbing to many Maui residents.

State conservation enforcement officers have been delegated to assist the HSF with inspections through the end of December, and provide assistance to the OTF for its final report to the State Legislature.

Several in attendance recommended conservation enforcement remain [onsite] past the cut-off date at the end of December.

“It’s important to keep DLNR there until after December,” said a West Maui lifeguard during her testimonial. “All the issues have not been addressed.”

After December, the DLNR will provide random assistance. Many suggested a $5-per-passenger surcharge be implemented to pay for the conservation enforcement services.

In a statement to the OTF, Mayor Charmaine Tavares recommended that Hawai‘i Superferry pay for DLNR officers to remain [onsite] permanently. Retired U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Richard Houck asserted that the state has the right to introduce the surcharge, not the HSF.

Nearly 100 concerned community members trickled in and out of the lengthy meeting as OTF members reported their findings and listened attentively to 26 public testimonies.

HSF’s environmental impact statement (EIS) remains unfinished with whale season right around the corner. The State Department of Transportation (DOT) is still conducting a draft for Act 2 EIS and predicts a late-October completion.

“I already feel uncomfortable that some of the issues haven’t been dealt with,” said Collette Y. Machado, trustee for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Lesley Matsumoto, director of environmental consulting for Belt Collins Hawai‘i Ltd., supplied results from the rapid risk assessment (RRA), giving a preview of what the long-anticipated completed EIS the DOT hired them to do will look like.

Matsumoto went over passenger concerns, including traffic, inspection procedures and whale avoidance. According to the recent RRA, an advanced night vision and infrared-thermal imaging system with goggles will be installed on the Alakai to further assist in spotting whales.

To the audience’s gratification, Randy Awo, DLNR/DOCARE enforcement chief for Maui, questioned the firm’s survey. “Have there been any questions asked of the people of the community? When you talk about socioeconomic impacts, I find that kind of troubling. You only speak with the people who use the service, when in fact, the service has an impact on the whole community. I just don’t get it,” said Awo, shaking his head.

Awo and many others believe since resources are leaving Maui, an examination needs to “go well beyond ridership.”

At least two DOCARE officers have been [at the harbor] for each O‘ahu-bound voyage. Of the nearly 3,800 vehicles screened from Aug. 10 to Sept. 12, they confiscated over 500 pounds of various reef fish species, ‘opihi, octopus, limu loa (edible seaweed) and other natural resources, including coral called “Live Rock.”

HSF’s Houck reported ridership had declined recently, averaging 350 passengers and 100 vehicles per trip due to the new school year and continual economic decline. Houck said the removal of “resources have been small” and that he feels good about the inspection process. He also responded to why cargo violators were not being penalized. [HSF is now saying 300 p. and 100 v. per trip.]

“We can’t assess fines,” said Houck. “We can seize the material, but the state has to take action.” Houck discussed how the DLNR might implement a “Civil Resources Violations System,” where enforcement could write tickets.

Heartfelt public testimony included 20-year-old Caitlin Harrowby of Wailuku, who held up a sign stating, “Maui’s resources for Maui’s people.”

A group of high school seniors from Hana stepped up to the microphone. Some were brought to tears during testimonials on natural resources, whale season and traffic.

“Traffic’s becoming a bigger and bigger problem each day,” said Aaron Friesen, when speaking about the increase of accidents and traffic delays.

“Don’t make Maui look like another O‘ahu!” one student proclaimed.

One teary-eyed girl admitted she felt betrayed. “Keep natural resources in Maui around. Hurts me to think they won’t even exist anymore.”

Touching deposition came from an East Side man called “Uncle Kema,” as he told a compelling story of his grandmother and the “candies of the sea” — opihi. “You gotta’ ask first.”

Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF) President and Founder Greg Kaufman presented a thorough printed report. He revealed that “time is of the essence” as whale season—although predicted between January and April—in actuality, is “just weeks away.”

He called the HSF a “lethal killing machine,” but there are ways to alleviate damage.

According to the RRA, the vessel travels “at 25 knots or less when within the 100-fathom curve, whether inside or outside sanctuary waters.” Kaufman recommends 12 knots or less. Even then, he believes whales will be in danger, but at least “impact won’t be fatal and there’s a chance of recovery.”

His advised curtailing night operations, rerouting, extra cameras and employing more observers.
Maui Tomorrow Executive Director Irene Bowie received a warm response as she bulldozed through a list of costly HSF developmental and operational activities.

“It has become even more critical that Hawai‘i taxpayers be presented a public report, listing the costs which the state has incurred supporting a private, Mainland-owned corporation,” said Bowie in her informative public testimony.

According to Bowie, OTF should provide a detailed financial assessment in its final report to the legislature including—but not limited to—the $40 million to accommodate harbor changes, the yearlong operation of the task force itself and DLNR/DOCARE staffing.

One concerned man queried, “Who’s checking carry-ons?” referring to small ‘opihi. He also spoke of the need to address public safety. “What if it hits a pod? Do we have emergency help if it were to sink? Whales, yeah, but I worry about human life more than whales,” he said.

Maui’s farmers and small businesses, such as Kula’s Surfing Goat Dairy—which has increased revenue due to new O‘ahu Whole Foods—have experienced HSF benefits. HSF also claims it gives inter-island families the opportunity to travel more cost-efficiently by bringing their vehicles aboard.

Despite efforts to convince the OTF to congregate in Maui, the next meeting was set at the Honolulu Airport.

“We will take serious consideration into everything brought before us,” said Mike Fromby, DOT harbors division director and task force facilitator for OTF.

The final OTF report is anticipated to be in the hands of the legislature in January.

For more information, visit the OTF link at"

Well done, will post a few more parts to the Report on OTF Meeting of 9/19/08,
Aloha, Brad

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