Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New Scoping Meetings for EIS Needed

From: http://volcanicash.honadvblogs.com/2009/05/18/interisland-ferry-issues-bigger-than-superferry/

Interisland ferry issues bigger than Superferry May 18th, 2009 by David Shapiro

Many in the community still have hope that the Hawaii Superferry will be back after legal and environmental issues are resolved.

But chances of that happening seem dim with the Superferry auctioning off its physical belongings and canceling its leases on O'ahu and Maui while its two ships are being refitted in Alabama for other duty.

It's too bad; without getting into the complex question of who was to blame for its messy departure, the Superferry offered valuable travel and shipping options to local residents and businesses and deserved a fair chance to prove whether it was economically viable.

UH law professor emeritus Dick Miller and Betty Sugarman make an interesting argument that in an island state like ours, a ferry is effectively part of the highway system and the state has a responsibility to promote ferry service between the islands whether the Superferry returns or not.

"Providing an inexpensive, reliable, and reasonably frequent way for members of the public to travel between our islands is almost as much a need and as much a compelling governmental obligation as providing safe, uncongested highways, and as providing rail service for residents of O’ahu," they argue.

"Of all the states, only Hawai’i’s landmass is divided so significantly among several islands. The ability that most citizens of other states have to visit other areas within their state by just hopping into their vehicles is just not available to us. Nor can our businesses inexpensively transport their products to islands other than the one on which they are located.

"To serve these needs the closest equivalent to a highway system would be inexpensive, reliable, and regular ferry service. It is the state’s job to fulfill this responsibility, just as all states assume responsibility for highways."

We're in the throes of battle fatigue from the Superferry conflict and nobody is likely to take up the cause anytime soon, but for the long term, Miller and Sugarman make good sense...

Responses to “Interisland ferry issues bigger than Superferry”

  1. zzzzzz:

    I question whether an 'inexpensive, reliable, regular ferry service' between islands is technically and economically possible.

  2. innocent observer:

    don't agree with profs - the state is not obligated to provide nonhighway interisland travel, but they may. If the state gets involved in such services, then it will open a pandoras box. Will the state need to provide support to the airliness also for interisland service? And if the state is involved, the taxpayers will pay, which will mean more taxes to the people. Nothing is free. These services are to be provided by private enterprises - such an airlines, etc. and the cost is borne by the users and not the whole populace.

    However, the feds do provide resources to airlines and shipping companies for interstate travel.

  3. Mauibrad:


    Regarding the points by UH law professor emeritus Dick Miller and Betty Sugarman, now is a good time to bring this up. The DOT is internally developing the scope of the EIS right now. My hunch is that it is very narrow right now in an effort to finish the EIS quickly, for what? In the meantime soon HSF is likely to be committed to as much as 2 year leases on those vessels. So what's the rush with a narrow EIS?

    In Alaska, Washington state, and Texas among others the state owns the ferry system. Therefore it allows the ferries not to have to be profitable as with a concession, they just have to cover their operating costs. State owned, better decisions can be made towards a sustainable and viable ferry system. In reading your quotes from Miller and Sugerman, that is the implication I see.

    The type of vessel and even the type of entity of ownership should be a part of a new Scope for the EIS on this.

  4. William Kibby:

    Last time I checked, the highways in Alaska were inadequate and few and far between. Which is why The Alaska State Ferry System is part of the State Highway System. It is known as "The Alaska Marine Highway System."

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