Hawaiian Superferry

Starts service between Oahu (that’s where Honolulu, Waikiki and Don Ho is) and Maui and Kauai in late August, 2007. You can take a car, a bike, a van and even yourself on the Hawaiian Superferry! Another Ferry is under construction to provide service to the big Island of Hawaii too!

But not quite! On Oct 10th the Maui County judge ruled that state law requires an environmental impact statement. Something the owners/operators were told a couple of years ago. But the state Dept of Transportation said they didn’t need it. Meanwhile, the Ferry is threatening to suspend operations and lay off 300 people.

And on Oct 11th, they furloughed 289 people.

Here is a “Letter to the Editor” of the Maui News which I expect to be published soon, but in an abridged version since they only allow 250 words.

Solution to Hawaiian Super-Ferry Problem

As a former environmental mediator, the solution is easy.

I know, I successfully mediated a community dispute between the City of Moorhead, Minnesota, Anheuser-Bush, the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group and the State. I also help bring to final resolution the grand-daddy of all environmental disputes, the Reserve Mining conflict in N. Minnesota. Later Hewlett-Packard hired me to help them site a new facility in Lake Stevens, Washington and another in Rohnert Park, California.

1. The super-ferry should announce that they will fund and fully cooperate with an environmental assessment, as fast as possible.

Note: An Environmental Assessment is just that… an assessment of the positive and negative impacts of a proposed development. It does not render a decision. It is to be used to inform the public of the tradeoffs and allow the political process to make an informed decision.

Without the assessment we do not know what the positive and negative impacts might be. Once known, we could improve the positive and mitigate the negative ones.

Several years ago I warned some of the investors that the community relations being employed were going to end in disaster. By failing to participate in the Assessment, it suggests to the lay public that the Super-Ferry was trying to cover something up. I don’t think they were trying to cover anything up. I think, in the end, the pros will far outweigh the cons. And there are solutions to the negative impacts… that if known can be employed.

The legislature could give the operation a temporary stay and allow it to operate until the Assessment is done and negative mitigation efforts employed. By fully supporting the Assessment, the Super-Ferry can find out what it can do to be acceptable. And doing the Assessment, while operating, is the best way to get real rather than projected data about impacts.

It does not mean that if the cons outweigh the pros, the ferry will be allowed to continue to operate. It means we will learn what the impact will be and make an informed decision. Instead of one by conjecture.

We will learn if the ferry will really impact and create traffic and harbor problems. Hurt the whales. Create jobs. Reduce the energy cost of transporting people and cargo between islands. (Since it takes a lot less energy to move stuff by boat than by air) Increase tourism, etc.

We need to know while we protect the jobs, the environment, the economy and the opportunity to move between the island by boat vs. planes. Anything else would suggest to all future investors that taking the kind of financial risks the Super_Ferry is taking… is not worth it in Hawaii. When in reality the risk was raised because the Assessment was not done in the first place.

Alternatively, the courts are not a very good place to resolve such disputes. Courts decide guilt or non guilt. But environment/economic disputes such as this are grey and require tradeoffs.

2. The best way to resolve this during and after the assessment would be for a mediator to step forward. One that is acceptable to all parties and help craft a settled agreement. I don’t know if such a person exists but perhaps there is someone with the University of Hawaii or a retired attorney with great respect can step forward and offer their services.

Here is the link to the publish, shorter version.  Mediation may be answer for Superferry dispute

The people, the environment and the economy of Hawaii deserve nothing less

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