Rocking the boat

“The Superferry appeared on the horizon, headed straight at us. One-and-a-half times the length of a football field, five stories high, the uninvited menace had burned nearly 6,000 gallons of diesel from Honolulu to Kaua‘i. This was its maiden voyage.” So begins Part One of The Superferry Chronicles, a new book by journalist and filmmaker Koohan Paik and activist Jerry Mander. The book, which hit shelves last month, traces the complex, sordid history of the controversial vessel, exposing along the way the private and public players who starred in the still-unfolding drama. (If anyone has lingering questions about the authors’ stance, the subtitle is Hawaii’s Uprising Against Militarism, Commercialism and the Desecration of the Earth.)

The timing, of course, is excellent.  On December 18, the Superferry had its much-anticipated date with the state Supreme Court. Justices heard oral arguments from lawyers representing the Hawaii Department of Transportation and the Superferry on one side, and Maui Tomorrow, the Sierra Club and the Kahului Harbor Coalition on the other. 

The anti-Superferry camp’s central argument is that the ship should never have been launched without a completed Environmental Impact Statement. Attorney Isaac Hall, speaking on behalf of Maui Tomorrow et al, told the court that Act 2, a law signed by Gov. Linda Lingle that allowed the Superferry to begin operations without the EIS, “was conceived, cut and tailored for the Hawaii Superferry alone.”

Adding fuel to the anti-Superferry argument was a report by the state Auditor released a day before the Supreme Court proceedings that said Act 2 “compromised the islands’ environmental laws and set a precedent for future government intervention that puts the interests of a single business before the state’s environmental, fiduciary, and public safety responsibilities.”

At the hearing, First Deputy Attorney General Lisa Ginoza countered that Act 2, which is set to expire next summer, was perfectly legal and that it “balance[d] all interests, including the environment.”

The matter is now in the hands of the court; at press time there was no indication when a ruling would be handed down.

As for the big picture, if the history of business and government collusion spelled out in The Superferry Chronicles and the headlines of the past year-plus is any indication, buckle up—there could be choppy seas ahead. MTW