updated 8/30/2007 5:49:43 PM ET 2007-08-30T21:49:43

A state judge has denied a request to lift a temporary restraining order that bars Hawaii Superferry from using Maui's Kahului Harbor.

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The company and the state argued that the ferry should be allowed to operate while a required environmental assessment is done.

Circuit Judge Joseph E. Cardoza on Wednesday also heard testimony on a request by opponents for a preliminary injunction to keep the ban in place until the environmental assessment is completed.

The hearing was continued until Sept. 6, the day the temporary restraining order is set to expire.

Cardoza issued the restraining order Monday in the aftermath of last week's state Supreme Court decision that the state should have required an environmental assessment of publicly funded projects related to ferry operations.

Passenger-vehicle ferry service linking Honolulu with Maui and with Kauai had been slated to begin Tuesday, but the starting date was moved up to Sunday with the lure of $5 one-way tickets following the high court's ruling.

The Honolulu-Maui run operated Sunday and Monday before the restraining order was issued.

The company halted service to Kauai on Tuesday following disruptive protests Sunday and Monday that led to a number of arrests at the island's Nawiliwili Harbor.

The injunction is being sought by Maui Tomorrow, the Sierra Club and the Kahului Harbor Coalition.

Opponents of the $300 million venture say the ferry endangers whales, threatens to spread invasive species and will worsen traffic and pollution. But Superferry officials say the ship's water jet propulsion system means there are no exposed propellers to strike aquatic animals.

Built at a cost of $95 million, the 350-foot Alakai can carry more than 800 passengers and 200 vehicles.

Austal USA, which built the catamaran in Mobile, Ala., is also building a second ferry scheduled to serve the Big Island starting in 2009.

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