Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Who got us into this mess? According to memos released to the Honolulu Advertiser under FOI, Hawai'i DOT was telling both Gov Lingle and the Superferry company they must do an EIS.
But then Gov. Lingle stepped in and directed DOT to find a way around environmental law.
That's when DOT came up with the poorly conceived, unworkable, expensive, Chinese-made barge. That barge cost us $38 million dollars of tax-payer money. I was in the room when the pilots told DOT administrators that it physically wouldn't work. But Lingle forced DOT to go ahead anyway, thinking this would circumvent the law.
Since them we've spent almost another $Million repairing the dock and paying for tugs to hold it still. Another half a million dollars is slated to be spent on another probably fruitless attempt to anchor the barge so it doesn't dash itself into Pier 2 during high surf conditions.
Meanwhile the Superferry has been operating at about 25% capacity -- only half of what they need to break even. Had they done the EIS, it would have shown these things:
1. The ship they chose was too big for the passenger loads reasonably expected
2. The ship they chose used too much fuel to be economical
3. The ship they chose was the wrong design to sail comfortably in the extreme conditions of our interisland channels.
4. They should have included onboard ramps (as their second ship has) so as not to need any barges thus saving us about $41,000,000 that Lingle has wasted.
But Superferry feared an EIS. We can only speculate that they were set on the current ship design for reasons that have little to do with their ferry business. Investigating the many tangled relationships, we find that the major shareholder, Lehman, is involved in ship building for the military and the Superferry was perhaps the "proof of design" prototype for a very lucrative Joint Highspeed Vessel contract the military was going to award.
So what got us into this mess? Lingle deliberately flouting the law to do favors for a very highly placed neocon, Lehman (slated to be McCain's chief of staff had McCain been elected) and a greedy company with ulterior motives not in the best interests of the people of Hawai'i.
Many supporters of the ferry are crying out against the Supreme Court decision, little realizing that because the EIS was not done, we got a plan that was doomed to failure. Too big, too fuel-hungry, wrong design for comfort. As we pointed out for the last 4 years - the business plan simply didn't add up to a profit.
The Court decision may have hastened the end of the Superferry but its days were numbered anyway.
Mayor Tavares of Maui said it the best:
Maui County Spokesperson Mahina Martin released this statement about the Supreme Court Decision.
"The ruling is not unexpected. If an Environmental Impact Statement was first done as required by laws that exist to protect our environment, then DOT and the Superferry owners would have been able to assess the impacts and take necessary steps years ago to address any concerns.
"Early compliance would have benefited both the environment and today's small businesses that utilize the Superferry. Having a variety of transportation options is important. It is equally important to follow laws meant to safeguard our communities."