Audit: State Allowed Superferry to Bypass Environmental Study

Mike Formby
Mike Formby

By Walter Makaula

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- The Department of Transportation is under fire and the Hawaii Superferry is at the heart of the controversy.

The state auditor says the Superferry was allowed to side step an environmental study before it was given the green light to operate in Hawaii.

That audit report says, the Department of Transportation exempted the Superferry of an environmental study after company officials threatened to cancel the multi-million dollar project.

The report goes on to say that the department caved in to pressure to meet a deadline of June 30, 2005 in order to save the deal. The department says that's not true.

"The state may have compromised it's environmental policy in favor of a private company's internal deadline." That's what the report from the state auditor Marion Higa states.

The Director of Harbors says the June 30, 2005 deadline was issued by the Maritime Administration or MARAD.

He says MARAD told the Superferry the company would not get the $140 million dollar loan guarantee it needed to build the ship if that June 30th deadline was not met.

He says his department was aware of that deadline as well.

"We knew the deadline was in fact a deadline that the Superferry would not come to the state of hawaii if they could not execute a ship building contract by that date," said Mike Formby, the harbors director

Superferry CEO John Garibaldi  told KHNL News 8 he was upfront about his business needs and that the audit report is not complete and therefore much of the information in it is taken out of context.

"They only hit particular aspects of it that they wanted to so in a way it's not a balanced document it really just went over one issue," Garibaldi said.  "They only took certain things that they could see by reviewing documents rather than understanding this complex transaction."

The state auditor has not completed her findings. She will release a second phase of the report in the near future.

The Department of Transportation says it is refraining from issuing a full statement to the audit until that second phase is completed.