Clarifying misperceptions about the Superferry
By Andrea Brower, George Inouye, Noelani Rogers and Ed Coll
Published: Monday, January 26, 2009 3:09 AM HST
Hawai‘i Superferry has been debated in Hawai‘i ever since the newly elected Gov. Lingle assigned her chief of staff, Bob Awana, to personally consult and expedite the HSF project back in 2002.
Since then, volumes of information have reached every Hawai‘i resident; factual and informative, partial and biased, sometimes not true at all. As a result, public opinion has formed up around ideology and personal interest, often without basis in fact. Here, then, are four common misperceptions about the Superferry.
The first misperception is that a study just released, mandated by the Oct. 29, 2007 Act II legislation, is a legitimate environmental impact statement. That report, being called an EIS, is lacking a critical component of a true Environmental Impact Statement, as defined in the National and Hawai‘i Environmental Policy Acts. Both include an option of “no action.”
That means if the study shows that environmental impacts are very serious and cannot be mitigated, then the project must be terminated. An EIS should be conducted before the start of a project in the same way that a driver should be licensed and the car have a safety check before being allowed on the road.
The misnamed “EIS” recently released by the contractor Belt Collins omits the “no action” alternative; it was custom-tailored by the legislature in special session to suit the needs of HSF. That means that any findings, no matter how disastrous to the environment, will not get in the way of the company’s operations.
The second misperception, fostered by the Lingle administration, is that there is no connection between HSF and the military. In its Public Utilities application in June 2004, HSF Inc. “anticipated that an entire battalion of 350 Stryker tanks will be able to be transported from O‘ahu to their training grounds on the Big Island in four trips…”
Soon after that, CEO John Lehman was quoted in Pacific Business News as saying the Superferry “will make it easier for soldiers to train when the Stryker Brigade comes to Hawai‘i.”
Misperception number three: Being against HSF is to be against alternative modes of transportation. This is a false division. Almost all “Superferry protesters” are in favor of an inter-island ferry service. How would these ferries be different? They would carry passengers only, with some cargo capacity.
That would substantially reduce the threat of invasive pest transfer and removal of already depleted ocean and mountain resources from the outer islands. No more searching of vehicles and personal property. Their speed would be like that of other inter-island vessels, the danger to whales being nearly eliminated. The ferries would be sized appropriately for our travel needs, would have a clean, cost-effective propulsion system and would be Hawai‘i-owned, either privately or publicly.
The fourth misperception is that those opposed to the Superferry don’t care about the economy. Hawaii’s economy starts and ends with our environment and our indigenous culture. It is worth noting that in a poll by National Geographic Travel Magazine to select favorite island vacation destinations, in which O‘ahu placed 104 out of 111 choices, poll respondents cited overdevelopment of the island and trivialization and commercialization of the Hawaiians’ culture.
Hawai‘i Superferry, publicizing itself as the H4, extends that develop-and-exploit mindset to the outer islands. Where did Kaua‘i place in that poll? 64th.
If viewed in the context of promoting a healthy local economy, those who think Superferry would be good for business should be careful what they wish for. Businesses on O‘ahu, from plumbers to surf instructors, would leap at the opportunity to expand to Kaua‘i. And with their higher sales volume allowing for lower profit margin, they would be very competitive indeed.
In a larger context, for many on the neighbor islands, a good portion of what they put on the table comes from the mountains and the sea. Unlike O‘ahu, we have considerable remaining natural resources.
When oil prices climb again, and traditional jobs and money become more scarce, these resources and our agricultural lands, our “natural” economy, will be needed to bridge us to a future where we must supply much more of our own needs, while maintaining and restoring the resources as well.
The real equation is: To oppose Superferry is to oppose the way the democratic process was completely discarded. Gov. Lingle bent over backward to give a New York corporation, the HSF, whatever it wanted, when it wanted.
That included calling the special session to craft a law, the constitutionality of which is now being questioned by the Hawai‘i Supreme Court.
Here we have neither a company nor an administration that have shown respect for our local communities.
Andrea Brower is a coordinator for Malama Kaua‘i. George Inouye is a Westside fisherman. Noelani Rogers is a Kanaka Maoli activist. Ed Coll is a teacher at Kaua‘i Community College