And now friends, to paraphrase William Shakespeare, let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of superferries. Not sure if you noticed–it didn’t get a lot of play–but Gov. David Ige mentioned the old Hawaii Superferry in his Jan. 25 State of the State Address. It was part of a section labeled “Truthfulness.” And he didn’t mince words:
We, in government, are obligated to be truthful, even when the truth is not easy or popular. When we live without truth, our actions fail to pass the test of time. Moreover, we tend to repeat our mistakes because we have not learned from them.
A few years ago, we saw the demise of the SuperFerry. Its failure has been attributed to environmental objections and a hostile court. But that is not exactly what happened. The fact is the state failed to follow the law. When we tried a legal end run, it also failed. The point is the state should have followed the law and done the right thing in the first place.
If only former Governor Linda Lingle, who was in office at the time of the Hawaii Superferry and vigorously promoted it, even as neighbor island protests and court rulings blasted holes in its hull, had believed in such words. Hell, we might even still have Hawaii Superferry–or something much like it–today.
Then again, the Hawaii Superferry suffered from two major flaws. First, it brazenly ignored the state’s environmental impact laws, which angered environmentalists. Second, it focused on shipping people and their cars, instead of just people, which scared neighbor island locals into thinking that Oahu locals would drive over and crowd their favorite surfing and fishing spots. It was as though Hawaii Superferry execs went out of their way to design a ferry that people living on Oahu would love, but neighbor island residents would hate.
New legislation percolating in the state Legislature makes all this more than a mere history lesson. Senators and Representatives have introduced numerous ferry bills since late January–some dealing with inter-island as well as intra-island (Oahu) ferries. One, Senate Bill 3022, even comes up for a joint Transportation and Energy/Water, Land and Agriculture Committee hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 9.
SB 3022–introduced by 12 senators, including Maui’s own J. Kalani English, D–East Maui, Lanai, Molokai and Gil Keith-Agaran, D–Kahului, Wailuku, Waihee–straight-up “Requires the Department of Land and Natural Resources to conduct any necessary environmental assessment for the establishment of a[n] intra-state or inter-state ferry system and makes an appropriation,” according to the state Legislature’s website. It also “Provides a non-refundable tax credit and a fifty per cent reduction in harbor fees for the first year of operation for any company operating an inter-island ferry vessel.” Indeed, the bill text itself even calls an inter-island ferry “the missing link in Hawaii’s transportation system, providing critical connections essential for the health, safety, and well-being of the people of Hawaii.”
Does this mean the Hawaii Superferry is coming back? Who knows, but if it does, it would be nice if those pushing it accepted the wisdom of Gov. Ige’s speech.
The SB 3022 hearing takes place in Capitol Conference Room 229 at 2:45pm on Tuesday, Feb. 9.
Photo courtesy Hawaii Superferry, Inc.