Superferry Service in Jeopardy

HONOLULU (KHNL) -  Just days before it's maiden voyage, the Hawaii Superferry hits a legal roadblock that may keep it tied up in Honolulu Harbor.

It's all because of a ruling issued late Thursday afternoon from the Hawaii State Supreme Court.

By a unanimous 5 to 0 margin the justices ruled a Circuit Court judge on Maui erred when he said the Superferry was exempt from conducting an environmental impact statement.

The case was brought forth by 3 environmental groups.

They say the Superferry did not conduct an impact assessment on the effects, if any, the project may have on such issues as marine life and traffic management at Kahului Harbor.

Today's ruling jeopardizes the interisland ferry's scheduled launch next week.

But the lawyer for the groups challenging the Superferry says the state should have conducted the assessment before the project began.

Isaac Hall said "had they done that at the time, that process would have been completed and we would have been able to accept probably the Superferry now because mitigation measures were in place."

In a statement received this evening, Hawaii Superferry officials said "the same careful attention to regulatory compliance and overall responsiveness has been applied to the protection of whales, safety and security issues, community and harbor users, prevention of the spread of invasive species, and traffic management."

An environmental impact statement could delay the Superferry's launch by months, even years.

Isaac Hall says he expects to speak with Department of Transportation officials tomorrow.

And he says if the State does not abide by the ruling, he'll ask a Maui judge to enforce it.