EIS firm seeking cultural impact input

A private firm wants residents to share their knowledge of Nawiliwili so it can assess the potential cultural impacts from a large-capacity ferry operating at the island’s main harbor.

Cultural Surveys Hawai‘i will be interviewing community members in the next two months. The public input will be incorporated into a comprehensive environmental study conducted by Belt Collins Hawaii that includes secondary and cumulative impacts.

Last year the state mandated an after-the-fact environmental review of $40 million in statewide harbor improvements to accommodate Hawaii Superferry, a company that has struggled to keep its head up in a sea of legal and technical trouble and waves of community resistance since its launch last summer.

The Kaua‘i harbor improvements include: the installation of a ramp system to facilitate loading and unloading passengers, vehicles and cargo; the installation of shore-side power to the ramp system; structural pavement at the base of the ramp system; security fencing and pavement striping.

Hawaii Superferry operates a 350-foot inter-island catamaran that can haul 866 passengers and 282 cars on daily roundtrips between O‘ahu, Maui and Kaua‘i. Another vessel under construction in Alabama will service the Big Island beginning next year.

Although free from any legal barrier, service between Honolulu and Nawiliwili Harbor has remained suspended since August protests prevented the catamaran from docking on its second trip to the Garden Isle.

A Cultural Surveys Hawai‘i community outreach letter states the firm is seeking guidance from residents who may have knowledge of the general history, and present and past land use of the project area; knowledge of cultural sites which may be impacted by future development of the project area such as historic sites and burials; knowledge of traditional gathering practices in the project area, both past and ongoing; cultural associations of the project area, such as legends and traditional uses; referrals of kupuna or elders and kama‘aina who might be willing to share their cultural knowledge of the project area and the surrounding ahupua‘a lands; and any other cultural concerns the community might have related to Hawaiian cultural practices within or in the vicinity of the project area.

The goal is to mitigate the concerns, but some residents remain skeptical.

They point at the fact that Hawaii Superferry is allowed to operate while the study is being conducted. The company is currently providing daily service from Honolulu to Maui.

Residents also voiced concerns over a large-capacity ferry’s potential to disrupt a place where people regularly fish, paddle and surf.

“I don’t think Nawiliwili is an appropriate place to be offloading hundreds of cars or hundreds of people,” Eastside resident Andrea Brower said yesterday. “It would disrupt how the traffic flows through the area and lead to lots of congestion in an area that’s definitely a local hangout spot. Any company that’s coming in should first be responsible with dialoging with the community and addressing those concerns and finding some mutually agreed upon solutions.”

Under contract with the state Department of Transportation, Belt Collins expects to finalize the environmental impact statement by May 2009.

Assessing the cultural impacts was identified during March scope-setting meetings throughout the state.

Hawaii Superferry said yesterday that it is important to complete this study as part of the EIS process and will continue to cooperate fully with the DOT.

The company’s current mitigative measures include prohibiting the transport of iwi or human bones, opihi, lobster and other crustaceans and notifying passengers concerning state Department of Land and Natural Resources and county restrictions on the use of cultural and natural resources.

A briefing on Hawai‘i’s cultural and natural resources is included in Hawaii Superferry’s onboard programming.

Hawaii Superferry officials have not announced a timetable for returning to Kaua‘i.

For more information, call Cultural Surveys Hawai‘i Cultural Research Specialist Brian Kawika Cruz at 262-9972 or e-mail bcruz@culturalsurveys.com

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