The Hawaii Superferry, halted nearly a month because of protests and legal challenges over its potential environmental impact, will resume service between Oahu and Kauai this month with heightened security, Gov. Linda Lingle said Wednesday.
Lingle, a supporter of the Superferry, said the vessel will resume service Sept. 26 on a temporary daytime schedule, arriving at Kauai’s Nawiliwili Harbor at 11 a.m., eight hours ahead of its usual stop. The daytime hours are being used to better ensure public safety, but it may inconvenience cruise ships.
The harbor will be heavily secured by Kauai County police and state officers, while the Coast Guard will escort the luxurious, 350-foot catamaran.
The governor said the plan also calls for “swift and sure prosecution of anyone who violates the law,” whether its federal or local.
“It’s not our desire to arrest anyone. ... But it is Superferry’s legal right to use Nawiliwili Harbor,” she said.
Calls for environmental review
Jeff Mikulina, director of the Sierra Club’s Hawaii chapter, criticized the move to resume service.
“It is highly inappropriate for Superferry to travel to Nawiliwili before an environmental review is complete,” Mikulina said. “Not only is such a trip contrary to state law, it belies common sense. We study and prepare for adverse impacts before they happen, not after.”
The Superferry, operating Hawaii’s first vehicle-passenger service, voluntarily suspended its Oahu-Kauai service Aug. 28 after two days of demonstrations at the harbor, where dozens of protesters on surfboards, canoes and kayaks blocked the $95 million ferry.
A few of the hundreds of protesters were arrested by Kauai police on misdemeanor charges. State Attorney General Mark Bennett promised that violators will be arrested and prosecuted.
“We will not allow a small group of protesters to act out in a lawless manner to obstruct the operations of a legitimate business, intimidate the people who wish to use its services or put people’s lives at risk,” Lingle said.
Maui service suspended
Service to Maui, meanwhile, has been suspended by court order as a state judge determines if the ferry will be allowed to operate while an environmental assessment is being conducted for the island’s Kahului Harbor. Environmental groups argue the Superferry should conduct an environmental review since it received $40 million in state funding.
The state is also conducting an environmental analysis on the impact of the Superferry that will include harbors statewide.
Last week, a judge on Kauai refused to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent the ferry from using Nawiliwili Harbor. But a hearing on a request for a permanent injunction is slated for Monday.