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...More >>
HONOLULU (KHNL) - The Hawaii Dept. of Transportation released a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) Thursday morning, outlining potential primary and secondary impacts of an interisland ferry system. So what does it cover, and what does it mean, for the Hawaii Superferry and others like it?
We are in front of the Hawaii Superferry, the ship most directly impacted by the draft EIS. It's a very comprehensive 1,200-page document, covering everything from impact on ocean life to vehicle traffic near the harbor. But environmental groups still have some concerns about interisland ferry service.
The Alakai has been sailing back and forth to Maui on a daily basis since December of 2007. More than a year later, a draft environmental impact statement is now available.
"In the past they said we just don't know what the impacts are; this discloses the impact to the community," said Mike Formby, the Dept. of Transportation's deputy director for the harbors division. "In any EIS process, there are always impacts that are not mitigated, but at least you know they're out there."
But environmental groups like the Sierra Club say this should have been made available more than a year ago.
"If a proper environmental review had been done, the hope would have been you would've identified those problems in advance, considering them, thought about them, and tried to make sure they were avoided if possible," said Robert Harris, the director of the Hawaii chapter of the Sierra Club.
"We know that the Supreme Court ruled we should have done it prior to the project," said Formby. "But I think after the fact, it still has a beneficial purpose because it has identified things people previously did not think about. So it still is a good process."
The Department of Transportation says the Superferry has taken measures from the beginning to minimize environmental impact.
"They took steps and I think in good faith, I think they'll take further steps and they've already indicated that to the oversight task force," said Formby. "That they'll go above and beyond what is required to make sure they operate with due diligence and what's in the best interest of the public and environment."
"We appreciate the fact that there's attention and focus on some of the problems and hopefully some of the problems will be resolved, but fundamentally our point of contention is that they should go through a real EIS process," said Harris.
The Sierra Club hopes a lesson is learned from all this.
"The state allowed company to evade environmental law and now we're sort of compounding it over time," said Harris.
The state says it will continue to support the Superferry as an alternate means of interisland transportation.
"They have indicated they are committed, that they do want to do their best to make it a successful operation in the state," said Formby. "That is why we continue to work collaboratively with them."
Written comments are due within 45 days from January 8, 2009. A final EIS is expected in the summer. A copy of the draft EIS is available by clicking here or going to the link on this page.