‘Ferry-free Kaua‘i’ celebrated

But some residents call for ship’s return

by Michael Levine – The Garden Island

NAWILIWILI — Dozens of residents gathered yesterday afternoon at Nawiliwili Park to show solidarity and commemorate the one-year anniversary of their victory over Hawaii Superferry, an inter-island catamaran that has inadvertently divided the community.

“It’s the one-year anniversary of Kaua‘i being ferry-free,” said Rich Hoeppner, chairman of the nonprofit People for the Preservation of Kaua‘i. “It’s the one-year anniversary from the day when we blocked them and made them turn around and go back to O‘ahu, and they haven’t been back since. That requires a celebration.”

Hoeppner helped organize the protests on Aug. 26 and Aug. 27, 2007, which first delayed and then eventually turned back the Kaua‘i-bound Superferry on its inaugural trip to the Garden Isle. The demonstration played a prime role in yesterday’s festivities, which included live music, a pot luck meal, a water parade of surfers and paddlers and other activities.

“That was an incredible event, and it’s been an incredible thing for the island of Kaua‘i because it’s kept cars from bringing invasive species and it’s kept whales from being killed between here and O‘ahu,” Hoeppner said.

Jonathan Jay, who met many friends during last year’s protests, said the anniversary of such a surprising and empowering event was worth commemorating.

“People realized ‘Hey, they were coming in, we told them to stop and they did,’” he said.

In addition to People for the Preservation of Kaua‘i, the Sierra Club, Eco-Roundtable, Malama Kaua‘i and Surfrider Kaua‘i joined in the festivities, Hoeppner said. Kaua‘i County Council candidates Scott Mijares, Bruce Pleas and Ken Taylor also attended.

“I think it’s important to let the Superferry folks know that there’s still a strong commitment by the people on Kaua‘i against the Superferry coming in,” said biologist Carl Berg of nonprofit Surfrider Kaua‘i. “Surfrider’s position all along was that Superferry was unsafe to the marine life at the speed they were going to run it. We came out right at the beginning against it and demanded that an EIS be done.”

Hoeppner seconded the importance of an environmental impact statement.

“(The EIS) has been our whole focus. Not anti-Superferry, not sink the Superferry, not stop the Superferry,” he said. “It’s (about) getting an EIS, a legal, independent EIS. When you get that, we’ll welcome you. The laws have to be followed.”

Hawaii Superferry President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Fargo said Friday that he expects a draft version of the EIS to be completed by Honolulu-based consultant Belt Collins Hawaii Ltd. around the end of the calendar year.

At that point, the process will be opened for public comment and a final EIS could be completed by spring 2009.

However, Hoeppner said the EIS currently being undertaken by Superferry has been prescribed by Act 2, passed in October’s special state legislative session, and not by the standard language of the Hawai‘i Environmental Protection Act or Section 343 of Hawai‘i Revised Statutes.

For that reason, any environmental impacts described by the EIS will not necessarily be addressed before Superferry resumes service to Kaua‘i, he said.

“The EA doesn’t mean anything. It’s totally irrelevant because it says right in Part 3 that it’ll have no effect on Parts 1 and 2, what the ferry can do,” Hoeppner said. “And that’s not what an EIS is all about. An EIS is to show impact with mitigation.”

“It’s terribly misleading to think that Act 2 is requiring that they successfully fulfill an environmental impact statement,” Berg said. “They’re doing a cursory study under the governor’s direction and supervision.”

Hoeppner said attorney Daniel Hempey has filed a brief in hopes of convincing the Hawai‘i Supreme Court to find Act 2 unconstitutional and force Hawaii Superferry to undertake a new, “independent” EIS.

Commemorative shirts were sold and other items were being auctioned off to raise money for those legal challenges.

However, not all in attendance felt the same way.

Kimo Rosen, who held a sign reading “Bring Back Da Superferry” in bold letters on one side and “Let Free Enterprise Rein (sic) — Bring Back the Alakai” on the other, said he has supported Hawaii Superferry since its inception.

“These cruise ships, these cargo vessels, these freighters are much older, not even state of the art, and everyone is worried about an environmental impact (for the Superferry),” Rosen said. “I see it as being totally hypocritical.

“If you’re going to ground the Superferry, then ground Hawaiian Airlines, ground United Airlines, ground everyone who flies out of Lihu‘e Airport, ground Young Brothers, ground these other people who have never had environmental impact studies.

“I feel that they’re using (the EIS) as sour grapes. It’s just something to put it off. They’ll find something else after the EIS. They’ll find some other loophole,” he said.

Rosen — who said that while event organizers told him he was welcome, others threw rocks at him, cursed him and told him to leave — believes the free market should determine which businesses succeed and which fail.

“It’s free enterprise. If someone wants to start a ferry boat business, let them,” he said. “If they don’t have a good business, eventually it won’t happen, but let them give it a try. This is America.”

• Michael Levine, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or via e-mail at mlevine@kauaipubco.com

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