Stupid Ferry

One unique character of Hawaii is that each island has evolved in the motoring age without the benefit of vehicular passage between the islands. This makes each island so much more independent and unique due to the limited movement of people and goods. For example, there are very few RVs (camping-cars) blocking the roads on Kauai because residents don’t need them and nobody can bring them here easily. More importantly, while Oahu might have nearly one million residents, Kauai is not over-run with city-dwellers on weekends.

Now, the so-called “super” ferry wants to change all that, not to mention harm our fragile ocean and island eco-systems in the process. After several years of lobbying, the ferry project has been granted a license to operate by the governor’s administration, without any preliminary study about how it will impact the people or environment of Hawaii. As details about the size (350 feet / 105 m long and 11 feet/ 3.5 m draft) and high speed (35 knots / 40 mph / 65 kmh) of the ferry were made available and people realized what it really means to have a ferry, much opposition has developed on Kauai and Maui (the Big Island is spared until 2009). Concerned citizens have created the website to raise awareness about the many ways in which a ferry would negatively impact Kauai.

With service scheduled to begin in July of this year, the state legislature finally looked into the matter and drafted bills to require the studies. This is my letter in support of those laws, with some links added.

TO: Chair, Hermina Morita, Energy & Environmental Committee
  Vice-Chair, Mele Carroll, Energy & Environmental Committee

RE: In favor of HB702, requiring Environmental Impact Statement on Hawaii Superferry

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT ON HAWAII SUPEREFERRY, being heard 2-1-2007, 0800, Room 312, House side, State Capitol.



The so-called “super” ferry represents such a change in how people and
goods will move between the islands that no state harbor improvements
should be made for the ferry before an environmental impact study (EIS)
has been done.

For me, the most serious impact to consider is the danger to the
whales. The ferry will travel at over 40 miles per hour, and whales are
often near the surface. The newspaper today contained an article about
a “speeding” cruise ship in Alaska killing a whale, and the ferry
vessel will travel even faster. Imagine the effect that one whale death
will have on the growing eco-tourism market in Hawaii. Even if ferry
activity were limited to the summer months when the whales are in
Alaska, what about green turtles, also an endangered species?

I am also worried about invasive species, both plants and animals,
spreading between islands. Dealing with the coqui frog on Kaua’i has
wasted thousands of hours of work and will cost the county hundreds of
thousands of dollars
. Weeds are choking our forests and their seeds can
easily hitch a ride on vehicles. The ferry spokespeople claim vehicles
will be cleaned, but an EIS will mandate how to do it thoroughly.
Finally, I’ve heard callous people claim that the only solution to
Kaua’i’s chicken “problem” is to import the mongoose so readily seen on
other islands. How does the ferry intend to protect against such a
calamity that would decimate the island’s native bird population,
including the nene?

Any type of ferry is also sure to cause economic and social impacts.
The fact of the matter is that neighbor islands have developed an
economy and society that does not rely on vehicular travel between the
islands. Given the population imbalance between the islands, the ferry
will certainly affect issues such as traffic, over-crowding, and crime
much more on the neighbor islands than on Oahu.

An Oahu resident might not mind sitting in Kapa’a rush hour traffic
instead of that on the H-1, but local residents are sure to feel the
additional surge of traffic. Even though vehicles will come and go on
the ferry, there will undeniably be more passenger-miles driven on
Kaua’i, and most of it will be concentrated on weekends, the only time
many residents have to enjoy their parks and beaches.

Overcrowding at said parks and beaches is therefore also an issue.
Neighbor island counties already have limited resources to maintain
their parks and hire lifeguards. An influx of users, in addition to the
crowds of tourists, will degrade the experience for everyone. I also
think that Oahu’s homelessness problem will be exported to Kaua’i and
Maui, creating a further burden on those counties.

The ferry website does not address how drugs and criminals will be
prevented from traveling between islands. Unless an impact statement
can identify solutions such as photo identification checks and video
surveillance, what will keep fugitives, criminals and illegal drugs
such as “ice” from spreading to the neighbor islands on the ferry? What
if such measures are unconstitutional?

One last impact that I find galling is the unfairness of the advertised
ferry schedules towards neighbor island residents. With late departures
and overnight stop-overs, it is obvious that the schedules all favor
Oahu residents and happen to inconvenience neighbor island residents.
An impact study might suggest how all residents could benefit equally
from the ferry.

Perhaps an economic impact study is necessary as well, in order to see
if the inevitable cost of all the environmental mitigation measures is
even justified. What are the benefits to private individuals and groups
when compared to flying and renting a car or bus? What are be benefits
to businesses given the advertised rates, and are those benefits equal
for neighbor island businesses given the disadvantageous schedules?
What are the potential revenues, direct or indirect, to the state that
justify the outlay for the harbor improvements? What if the ferry
business is not successful, can the state be reimbursed for the harbor
improvements that directly benefited the ferry?

All the environmental and economic risks also need to be weighed along
with the potential disruption of current island lifestyles, existing
businesses, and current harbor users. That’s why I ask you to please
enact this legislation to require impact studies before any harbor
construction or ferry service can begin.


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