Court backs ban on Superferry protestors

By Zahid Arab - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - A federal judge's decision puts the wind back in the sails for a possible return to Kauai by the Hawaii Superferry.

Monday, an appeals court backed the Coast Guard's plans to keep Superferry protestors away from Kauai's Nawiliwili Harbor should it return to the island.

Ferry opponents see the ruling as one step in their fight. They sued saying the ban was a violation of environmental laws and their freedom of speech.

Supporters also see it as a step towards restoring Superferry's service.

It was mayhem. As many as 40-people swam out into the path of the Hawaii Superferry a year ago with almost 300 other protestors on shore cheering them.

Blocking the Nawiliwili Harbor and Superferry's entry to the island, the U.S. Coast Guard sealed it off for security.

"This whole thing is unconstitutional. It's discrimnatory, so I think it's great doing it, it's great to hear the news," said Pro-ferry group member Kimo Rosen.

Pro-ferry groups say protestors should have been barred from the harbor before, but a spokesman for one anti-ferry group says that while Monday's ruling is a setback, its sights are set on a higher court.

"I kind of suspected that the decision that came out would come out, but having said that, there are two cases pending before the Hawaii Supreme Court," said Anti-ferry group member Rich Hoeppner.

Anti-ferry groups continue to insist an environmental study needs to be done on economic, social, marine life and public safety issues.

"There are a lot of people that don't want Superferry here. We have said from the very start, get an independent EIS first, follow the law," said Hoeppner.

"These other people are stopping a business from happening that's invested a lot of money. I think its great the law is finally on the side of who it should be on," said Rosen.

A source for Kauai's economic success, or a strain on it's serenity, ultimately Hawaii's Supreme Court may have to settle this Superferry fiasco.

People in favor of the ferry are planning a peaceful demonstration to petition later this month to bring it back.

Superferry executives say as of right now there are no plans to return to Kauai.