POSTED: 3 NOVEMBER 2008 - 9:45am HST

The Act 2 Draft EIS Delayed

image above: National Guard loads Hummers onto Superferry in January 2008. Source

by Brad Parsons on on 1 November 2008

I don't buy any of Mike Formby's reasons for delaying the EIS. The Act 2 Draft EIS was suppose to be issued by the end of October 2008, by Lingle's DOT/Belt Collins' own schedule. When the State Supreme Court, a few days ago, scheduled Oral Arguments contesting Act 2 for Dec. 18th, it would seem the Lingle Administration decided to push back issuing the Act 2 Draft EIS so that it's inadequacies will likely not be seen by the Supreme Court Justices before they make their decision in the Act 2 case.

DOT and Belt Collins have had a year to do the draft. HSF's changing schedule has been happening throughout the year. Affected traffic studies are some of the most easily quantifiable effects of what the EIS could cover. It's the other things that are not so easily quantifiable and mitigated, like invasive species and resource depletion, that Belt Collins is weak in and which probably won't even be adequately addressed in the Draft EIS even 2-3 months from now, and that clear inadequacy will not likely be seen by the Supreme Court Justices until after they've made their decision.

Lastly, Belt Collins should have been almost done with the Act 2 EIS by now. Changes in HSF's schedule should only need a few more weeks to incorporate into the Draft EIS, not 2-3 months. If that was not the case, then this announcement should have been made well before now. By taking more time now on the Draft copy of the EIS, and sticking to an arbitrary final sunset deadline, DOT and Belt Collins are taking time away from incorporating public comments and ideas into the Final copy. Implied is that DOT and Belt Collins assume they know better than the vast number of people in the public, what to address and how to mitigate it on this issue.

DOT and Belt Collins should just issue what they have, let the Supreme Court Justices see this Draft 'EIS' for what it is and let the more productive public comment period begin. Any better ideas that DOT or Belt Collins may have can be put into the Final Draft later. This assumes, of course, that Lingle and DOT are not trying to 'hide the ball' from the State Supreme Court.

[Editor's Note: this article was submitted to the The Garden Island Forum]



POSTED: 3 NOVEMBER 2008 - 9:45am HST

Superferry draft EIS delayed

image above: Army tractor loaded onto Superferry in January 2008. Source

by Edwin Tanji on 2 November 2008 in The Maui News

Undisclosed operational changes cited for missing October deadline. The release of a draft environmental impact statement on state harbors improvements to accommodate the Hawaii Superferry has been delayed until January because the Superferry has changed its operational plans, state transportation officials said Friday.

The draft EIS was to have been completed by October.

A critic of the Superferry operations said she's not surprised at the delay based on preliminary information provided on the ferry's runs between Maui and Oahu. Irene Bowie, executive director of Maui Tomorrow Foundation, said a risk assessment prepared as part of the environmental impact process is already indicating there are "real problems for them."

" With their schedule changing and so many things changing, it must be difficult for them. But I just think the process has not been legitimate," Bowie said.

An EIS is required by a special state law that allowed the Superferry as a "large-capacity ferry" to begin operations while the report was being prepared. The Legislature went into special session in October 2007 to approve the measure that became "Act 2" after the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled the state violated its environmental laws by allowing the ferry to operate without conducting an environmental assessment.

In a statement dated Friday, Deputy Transportation Director Mike Formby said the delay is the result of changes in the Superferry's operational plans but does not discuss what changes occurred.

" The studies within the draft EIS are based upon the large-capacity ferry vessel's operational plans and any proposals to change those plans would have a direct effect on the analysis," the statement said.

" Rather than evaluating each change at the time it was proposed, certain studies for the draft EIS were suspended until the operational plan was firmed up, or the time limit of Act 2 necessitated these studies to resume. The decision to resume studies was made earlier this month."

When Hawaii Superferry announced its plans in 2004 for an interisland ferry carrying vehicles and passengers, the proposal was for two 350-foot vessels providing service between Oahu and Maui, Kauai and the Big Island.

The first ferry, the Alakai, went into operation in August 2007, although the service was stopped after two days - by a court order on Maui and protests at the Kauai harbor.

With the Act 2 exemption, the Alakai briefly resumed operations in December 2007 only to be stalled by damage to the vessel that put it into dry dock for two months. It has been fully operational on a Oahu-Maui route since April, including a second round trip two days a week.

Last week, Hawaii Superferry announced it would postpone the 2009 start of service to the Big Island, has not yet resumed service to Kauai and has reduced its sailing schedule to Maui to six days a week for the winter season.

The state's announcement said the delay in issuing the draft EIS "should not affect the completion date of the final EIS, which is scheduled for distribution in summer of 2009."

" While the completion of the draft EIS was delayed, it will ultimately increase efficiency of the study and ensure that the state does not incur additional costs," Formby said.

Bowie, who represents one of three Maui organizations challenging the legality of the Superferry operations, said the organizations want to see what the costs are.

The state's oversight task force on the Superferry this week is expected to receive data on what the state has paid to upgrade harbor facilities - including Kahului Harbor - and for the environmental impact statement studies.

" More telling will be some of the cost information that is supposed to be presented to the oversight task force at its November 6 meeting," Bowie said. "We were told they would produce numbers on what it is costing the state."

The meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday at the Conference Center at the interisland terminal at Honolulu International Airport. The task force is set up by a provision of Act 2 to monitor the ferry operations while the EIS is being prepared.

Bowie said an appeal to the Hawaii Supreme Court of the Maui Circuit Court's ruling that Act 2 is valid is scheduled for a hearing on Dec. 18.

" We feel that the whole process in setting up this EIS has not been legitimate, and we're anxious to go before the Supreme Court," she said.

Maui Tomorrow, the Maui chapter of the Sierra Club and the Kahului Harbor Coalition filed a suit questioning the legality of Act 2 in granting an exemption from environmental laws to a specific business. While 2nd Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza upheld the law, the Supreme Court said it will consider an appeal of his decision because it raises an issue of fundamental public importance and because there is a novel legal issue to be addressed.

see also:
Island Breath: HSF Rapid Risk Assessment
Island Breath: State & HSF task force failure
Island Breath: HSF after the fact EIS
Island Breath: HSF dry docked
Island Breath: HSF Rudder Mess
Island Breath: January HSF News
Island Breath: HSF night trips
Island Breath: HSF military trips
Island Breath: HSF EIS Smoking Gun
Island Breath: HSF two trips