By Leland Kim
HONOLULU (KHNL) --- At the crux of the Superferry debate is the environmental assessment. That process is moving forward, as the Hawaii Department of Transportation selected a contractor Wednesday.
The environmental assessment is moving forward. Typically an EA takes six to nine months, so it's still a long ways away.
The Hawaii Superferry sits in Honolulu Harbor, as it's done for more than a month. Tuesday's court ruling prevents the ship from entering Kahului Harbor before the environmental review process is completed.
The Department of Transportation announced Wednesday, the process is moving forward, and because it's become a divisive issue, DOT officials hope to get it resolved fast.
"The Department of Transportation is optimistic that we'll be able to complete the environmental assessment as quickly as we can, and we're hopeful the Superferry will be able to operate within six to nine months," said Michael Formby, deputy director of the Department of Transportation's Harbors Division.
An environmental assessment could lead to an environmental impact statement (EIS) if the study finds there's likelihood of significant impact by the ship.
"If we do an EIS after that, the total time in which you go from an EA to an EIS, could be between nine to twelve, possibly fifteen months," said Formby.
But by going directly to an environmental impact statement, it's even faster.
"There's pros and cons to doing both," said Formby. "If you go with an EIS before you know whether or not there's going to be significant impact, you have extra time and extra money involved. So, we haven't made that decision yet, but it is an option."
The state chose Belt Collins Hawaii to conduct the environmental review. Thursday, the initial review process begins and the environmental assessment will begin shortly after that.