Friday, February 27, 2009

Peter Rappa's of UH-Manoa comments on the Act 2 'EIS'

The following are Peter Rappa's comments on the Act 2 'EIS'. Peter Rappa is the Environmental Review Coordinator of the UH-Manoa Water Resources Research Center, Environmental Center:

February 23, 2009
RE: 0786

Brennon Morioka, Director
State Department of Transportation
869 Punchbowl Street, Room 509
Honolulu, HI 96813

Dear Mr. Morioka:

Draft Environmental Impact Statement
Statewide Large-Capacity Inter-Island Ferry
Honolulu, Wailuku, Lihue, and South Kohala

The Statewide Large-Capacity Inter-Island Ferry Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) evaluates harbor improvements proposed by the State of Hawaii Department of Transportation (DOT) to support a large-capacity ferry vessel company. The harbors affected by these actions are Honolulu Harbor (City and County of Honolulu), Kahului Harbor (County of Maui), Nawiliwili Harbor (County of Kauai), and Kawaihae Harbor (County of Hawaii). Significant probable direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts are discussed in the DEIS. Direct impacts include displaced cultural activities and visual impacts to Pu`ukohola Heiau. Indirect impacts are defined as those occurring as a result of a large-capacity ferry vessel company’s operations and include impacts to traffic, traditional cultural practices and the loss of natural resources and activities. Significant cumulative impacts may include takes of Humpback whales, traffic in the vicinity of all four harbors, dispersal of invasive species, and impacts upon traditional cultural practices within Kahului Harbor.

This review was conducted with the assistance of Curt Daehler, UHM Botany; Richard Mayer, Maui Community College; Marshall Mock, Kauai Community College; and Ryan Riddle, Environmental Center.

General Comments

The use of the term “Statewide Large-Capacity Inter-Island Ferry” throughout the document is not necessary except we surmise for legal purposes. It should be noted however, that throughout the document the large-capacity inter-island ferry is identified as the Hawaii Superferry or HSF. We see little reason to distinguish between the large-capacity inter-island ferry and the Hawaii Superferry or HSF. It would make for easier reading if the authors could just call the HSF the HSF.

The examination of alternatives is incomplete. According to Act 2 of the Second Special Session of 2007, the environmental impact statement process shall include evaluating alternatives (Section 9(b)(5)) and that those alternatives include “alternative locations for the proposed project, as appropriate” (Section 10(a)(5)(E)). Only the four harbors where the HSF is currently operating in or plan to operate in the near future are considered in the DEIS while three other harbors, Barbers Point, Hilo and Port Allen that the HSF could conceivably use are ignored. Granted the ferry may not be planning to ever use those harbors but the DEIS should not be limited to destinations that the Department of Transportation has permitted the ferry to use. In an emergency, the HSF may have to divert to other ports to land its passengers safely. Future large-capacity inter-island ferry companies may wish to use other commercial harbors in the State and the DOT should be obligated to review the use of these alternate locations.

In addition to our general comments we also have several specific comments.

Information to be Incorporated by Reference – Rapid Risk Assessment (p. 1-4)

Since the ferry’s inception, how often have the ferry’s services been cancelled due to high seas and maintenance? What are the maximum wave conditions that the vessel can operate under?

Comprehensive List of Potential Resources and Issues (pp. 1-7 – 1-15)

We disagree with the contention on page 1-8 that the impacts to surface water quality are not potentially significant. In the event of a catastrophic accident to the HSF, it may in fact leak a substantial amount of fuel. A spill of more than 10,000 gallons of fuel is considered a medium sized oil-spill that could have significant impacts on the water quality in the vicinity of the spill. The potential of a spill and the response to the spill should be discussed in the DEIS.

In regards to sidewalks (mentioned on page. 1-9), a listed concern is the lack of sidewalks at Kawaihae Harbor. The DEIS states that foot traffic from large-capacity ferry vessel passengers outside of the ferry terminal area is expected to be minimal. How many passengers does the DOT estimate will be pedestrians on the ferry and at what point will passenger levels warrant the construction of sidewalks?

The DEIS mentions on page 1-9 that underground utility corridors are being considered for new Kawaihae Harbor projects to reduce visual impacts to the national park and viewshed. While this issue is indeed a management issue for all of Kawaihae Harbor, we would like to see a more in-depth discussion on the scope of the electrical infrastructure needed for upcoming Kawaihae Harbor projects. Is the ferry’s landing at Kawaihae Harbor the catalyst for undergrounding the utilities there?

Kahului Harbor (p. 2-8)

The DEIS states that the barge and ramp system for Kahului is similar to that illustrated (Figure 2-5) for Honolulu. In what ways does it differ?

Action Alternative (pp. 2-8 – 2-12)

On pages 2-8 through 2-12 harbor improvements for each of the four harbors are described. While these improvements are discussed in detail, it is difficult to discern which of the actions are underway or finished and which will be initiated in the near future. Perhaps, a chart in this section would be helpful in distinguishing the sequence of each of the projects listed.

Ferry Routes (p. 2-12)

The DEIS states that Kauai service is expected to be operated as the afternoon/evening roundtrip voyage on alternate days with the second Honolulu and Kahului round trip voyage as listed in Table 2-2. The times for the service to Kauai are not listed in Table 2-2. Is there an estimate of the departure times for the Honolulu-Nawiliwili service once it is reinstated?

In regards to weekly frequency, the DEIS reads, “When both vessels are operating, round trip voyages between Oahu and Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii Island are planned on a schedule frequency ranging from 3 days per week to daily plus four additional voyages per week.” These estimations vary greatly – what factors would influence these decisions?

Ferry Vessel (p. 2-14)

In regard to bilge water the DEIS states, “any water that could be contaminated with petroleum products is contained within its own disposal system and is designed to flow into a 500-liter holding tank to be emptied periodically in Honolulu by a commercial vendor.” How often does HSF or DOT estimate the holding tank will be emptied? The size of the holding tank is approximately 132 gallons - is that large enough to hold bilge water spills?

Potable Water System (p. 2-15)

In Section the DEIS states “Each HSF vessel has on board a 2,000 gallon potable water tank, refilled daily through a shore-side connection located at the pier.” On average, how many gallons of potable water are consumed per voyage?

Table 3-8: Distribution Status of Invasive Terrestrial and Freshwater Species of Concern by Island (p. 3-29)

With the exception of Bush beardgrass (Schizachyrium condensatum) all of the invasive species of concern mentioned have not established themselves on Kauai. As a result, perhaps procedures should be more stringent on Kauai in order to prevent establishment of these species of concern.

Cultures Resources (pp. 3-32-3-33)

In the fourth paragraph in the section on cultural resources, the Office of Environmental Quality Control (OEQC) is erroneously identified as being part of the Department of Health (DOH). The OEQC is advisory to the Governor and placed in the DOH for administrative purposes.

Population and Housing (p. 3-54)

In Section 3.6.1 the DEIS states, “Residents of neighbor islands often speak of Honolulu as a busy metropolis and contrast life on Oahu to their more rural lifestyle. While they can point to Honolulu’s population density and congested highways as an example to be avoided in local planning, the image of Hawaii as a single city and a rural hinterland on all other islands is misleading.” Did you mean “the image of Oahu as a single city . . .”?

Potential Impacts and Mitigation (pp. 4-1 – 4-129)

To what extent do current and proposed harbor improvements accommodate global sea-level rise predictions? While this is an issue primarily for the harbors’ long-range plans, this issue merits serious consideration in the DEIS.

Invasive Species (pp. 4-62 – 4-71)

On page 4-62 the DEIS states, “Large-capacity ferry operations would add to the existing risk of inter-island transport of invasive species.” This statement is entirely accurate. Unfortunately, these risks are difficult to quantify. Of primary concern is that this mode of inter-island transport - passengers with their vehicles - provides new opportunities for deliberate or inadvertent transport of invasive species. As might be expected in such a case, policies more stringent than those used for other modes of transport have been put into place by HSF. In principle, the guidelines set out in Executive Order 07-10 provide a reasonable strategy for minimizing risk.

In the current arrangement employees of HSF mainly carry out inspections. This arrangement creates a conflict of interest. In order to remain a viable business, HSF must strive to please its customers and maximize profits. In contrast, useful inspections generally displease customers. Customers are even more displeased if violations are recorded and actions are taken against them. It is in the interest of HSF to minimize such negative interactions with customers, rather than to run an effective biosecurity program. Therefore, a more effect system would use inspectors who are independent of HSF and who also have law enforcement authority. The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) has both the mission to protect the islands from invasive species becoming established and the police power to enforce state conservation laws. The task of conducting inspections might reasonably fall to DLNR, although they would probably require compensation in order to be involved.

Procedures that are in place to prevent the spread of pests on produce and agricultural products are unclear. Agricultural pests have the potential to cause major economic damage to crops. HSF employees are unlikely to detect these pests, including emerging pests (recent arrivals to the State), which are commonly found several times per year. The Department of Agriculture (DOA) has employees that have the expertise needed to spot pests on sight. Perhaps the DOA could administer this inspection.

Procedures for screening the interior of vehicles are not described. The interior of vehicles are likely to be a major mode of transport for the prohibited items outlined in Executive Order 07-10.

Agricultural Screening and Vehicle Inspection (p. 4-69)

Why are baggage inspections random? All passengers and baggage are inspected on airline flights and a maximum effort to intercept invasive plants and animals would require the inspection of all ferry baggage as well.

Archaeological and Historic Sites (p. 4-81)

On page 4-81 the DEIS states “No impact on archaeological and historic sites would occur from ferry related operations.” This may be true, but impacts on archeological and historic sites are likely to come from the passengers. These potential impacts as not discussed in the document.

Fiscal (pp. 4-93 – 4-95)

Numerous aspects of the State’s revenues and expenditures have been omitted from or misrepresented in the fiscal analysis in Section and Appendix G. These extra expenses include: legislative operating costs; costs to operate the six month Oversight Task Force and the Rapid Risk Assessment; costs associated with the State auditor’s investigation and report; the Special Traffic Study (Kahului); as well as the additional cost (above $1.6 million) for the preparation of this DEIS. Other State expenditures include those associated with citizen’s court cases over the last four years, and the interest payments of approximately $2 million per year on the $40 million State issued general obligation reimbursable bonds (the ferry being asked to pay only the $40 million principal). Additionally, the DEIS fails to include the dollar amount of the land that the State purchased at Kahului Harbor (the Kahului Railroad location).

Many infrastructure expenditures are also omitted. These include costs associated with preparing Honolulu’s Pier 19 for future use; the new mooring system for Kahului Harbor; estimates of long-term costs pertaining to the maintenance of barges and harbor facilities; and the large potential costs of constructing a new ferry pier or docking facility on the West Breakwater at Kahului Harbor.

The State Revenue figures in Section are derived from the more detailed estimates in Appendix G. On page G-56, footnotes 5, 6, and 7 are based on the ferry company’s “gross receipts”. Given the number of estimated passengers (p. 4-97) and vehicles (p. 4-98), $86 million seems to be a substantial overstatement.

A large portion of the expected net state revenues (supposedly $5 to $10 million per year) is derived from high visitor expenditures by ferry passengers. This is misleading since many of the passengers are residents who will be merely shifting their spending from one island to another, resulting in no increase in State revenues. As for mainland tourists who use the ferry, they would be using an airplane instead and would be spending roughly the same amounts on any island visited, again resulting in no increase in State revenues.

The fiscal impacts section needs to have a thorough discussion of the losses that the State would incur if no ferry uses the barges and the company does not make the expected repayments on the $40 million spent on harbor improvements.

Projected Impact of Ferry on Inter-Island Cargo, 2010 (p. 4-98)

Ignored in the revenue calculations is the loss of revenue due to ferry passengers taking their car instead of renting a vehicle? The State will lose $3 per day for each of the 3.8 days that the average passenger will spend on the other island. That is a loss to the State of $3*3.8 = $11.40 for each person who takes a vehicle instead of renting.

According to page 4-98, there will be about 206,000 vehicles shipped. At $11.40 per vehicle, that is $2.35 million dollars per year in lost rental-car State revenue. This is not an insignificant amount.

Harbor Uses, Including Recreational Users (pp. 4-100 – 4-106)

Given that State funds were provided for the harbor improvements, should any restrictions be placed upon their use by recreational users? Will the determination of potential recreational users be made on a case-by-case basis?

Table 5.11: State Revenues Associated with Ferry Operations (p. G-55)

Given that the ferry company cannot reach a “break-even” passenger load with its reduced fares, it cannot be assumed that the company will have a profit and that the State will receive any “Corporate Income Tax” payment as is assumed on page G-55.

Thank you for the opportunity to review this Draft EIS.


Peter Rappa
Environmental Review Coordinator

cc: OEQC
Lesley Matsumoto, Belt Collins
Richard Mayer

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