Gov Signs Bill Allowing Superferry to Sail Before EIS Completed

Governor Linda Lingle
Governor Linda Lingle
Jeff Mikulina
Jeff Mikulina

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- A victory for the Hawaii Superferry Monday. Governor Lingle signed a bill allowing the carrier to resume interisland service before an environmental assessment is completed.

Superferry, start your engines. After suspending operations amid protests by environmental groups, the vessel is now cleared to sail.

But the company faces more than 40 conditions that, the governor says, should minimize the impact on Hawaii's environment.

"Some people might say Superferry is being held to a higher standard, that we've set the bar higher, and that's a true statement," Governor Linda Lingle (R) said. "But perhaps we need to have a higher bar."

Among the conditions:

The Superferry must post two people to act as whale lookouts to prevent potential collisions.

It must conduct agricultural inspections of all passengers and vehicles.

All vehicles, as well as camping, hunting and fishing equipment, should be washed and free of debris.

The company must ban the transport of logs, cut trees, opihi, lobster and fishing nets.

And it must conduct traffic studies for each port.

"Overall, we think these conditions fall short of what's really needed in this interim. We need to be extra cautious while we're doing the review," Jeff Mikulina, Sierra Club director, said. "Once, you know, invasive species get established or once we strike whale, we know how difficult it is to reverse those situations."

The Sierra Club is also disappointed the vessel will be allowed to travel at 25 knots.

"Thirteen knots is what scientists have established," Mikulina said. "Superferry would like to travel 37 knots through some of these areas. You don't meet in the middle."

Under the new law, there will be a rapid risk assessment team to monitor Superferry operations, and make any recommendations to the Legislature.

"There is going to be a heightened attention on the impact of various vessels, both on the ocean, as well as the impact on the shores and the ports that they go into," Lingle said. "And I think that's a positive thing."

The state Monday filed a motion to lift the injunction that keeps the Superferry from utilizing Kahului Harbor. Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza has set a scheduling hearing for Wednesday.