Kauai Environmental Groups Concerned

WAILUA, Kauai (KHNL) -- A day after Governor Linda Lingle gives the thumbs up to the Hawaii Superferry to resume service to Kauai, people there are speaking out. Some are worried protests could escalate if the ship returns before the completion of an environmental review.

The Hawaii Superferry is docked at Honolulu Harbor for two more weeks before it heads back out to Kauai, but some believe this is the calm before the storm.

"I am fearful," said Rich Hoeppner, president of People for the Preservation and board member of 1,000 Friends of Kauai. "I am very afraid of what's going to happen when the ferry comes in here before an environmental assessment is complete."

He said Governor Lingle's announcement Wednesday did little to ease people's concerns.

"From what I've heard, there's going to be more protests," said Hoeppner. "There's going to be more people in the water and we have no control over that."

This despite a stern warning from the attorney general.

"If they violate the law, they will be arrested, they will be prosecuted, and I believe they will be convicted, and they will have a criminal record possibly for the rest of their lives," said Mark Bennett, Hawaii's attorney general.

Kauai environmentalists said there's a simple solution to avoid further confrontation.

"If they complete the environmental impact statement, we will welcome them with open arms," said Hoeppner.

While Hoeppner supports peaceful protests, he does not condone actions by those who confronted Superferry passengers.

"I would like to lend them my apologies," he said. "However, when you have a thousand people demonstrating, there's no way anybody can control a thousand people."

Lawyers for Kauai environmental groups are working on ways to stop the Superferry before services resume in less than two weeks.

The Superferry's fate on Maui is also being debated in a courtroom. A hearing there continued for a fourth day. Three witnesses took the stand, testifying about the potential threat of invasive species. Close to 60 are scheduled to testify. The hearing could be extended through next week.