Superferry Sunk!

Yeah, I know this is old news now.

Forgive me for waiting so long to blog on the sudden and possibly permanent demise of Hawaii Superferry, Inc. I mean, it’s not like no one else was writing about it–blogger Ian Lind took a whack at it, as did Doug White at Poinography. Ditto Larry Geller at Disappeared News and, of course, Brad Parsons at Hawaii Superferry unofficial blog. Then there were numerous stories in the Honolulu Advertiser, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Maui News, Pacific Business News as well as my old Maui Time Weekly.

To be honest, I had no idea what to add to the news that Hawaii Supreme Court had ruled that hated Act 2 was, in fact, unconstitutional, rendering Hawaii Superferry’s operation before the completion of an Environmental Impact Statement illegal and spurring the company to halt all sailings and start laying off workers. Then I started digging through some of my old writings on the ferry and found this Maui Time story I wrote last year. In it I reference a December 29, 2004 report titled “RECOMMENDATIONS,” written by some employee at the state Department of Transportation and obtained by the Honolulu Advertiser in early 2008 (click here to read the report–you’ll have to scroll down to nearly the end of the document–and here to read the accompanying Advertiser story).
Now lately it’s become fashionable to say that the people run our state government are either in the hip pocket of Hawaii Superferry, Inc. (which has very deep pockets, as you can read here) or are just stupid and no one will notice or care when they pass a bill that provides a legal exemption to a single company. But rereading that old 2004 DOT memo, I realized that that view is unfair and incomplete.
Some analyst (the memo lists no author) at our state Transportation Department knew five years ago that his or her bosses were taking our entire state down a perilously slippery slope by agreeing with Hawaii Superferry that they wouldn’t have to conduct any environmental review before starting service. The language in the 2004 report is unmistakable:
• Not doing an EIS “may trigger a challenge where we may be subject to the courts’ schedule and processes”
• Requiring a statewide environmental review is the “Right thing to do”; offers “less risk in that we avoid probable challenges”; “would address public concerns–minimize opposition and gain support”; “expedite processing of other permits”…
What’s more, the report’s author was openly skeptical of Hawaii Superferry’s reason for not wanting to do an environmental review (namely, that it would take too long, drying up investor support that had to be in place by June 30, 2005) writing (in italics!) that “The criticalness of this deadline has never been verified.
The author of this report–an employee of the state Department of Transportation–absolutely nailed the whole Superferry situation FIVE YEARS AGO. Our elected officials and department heads may made a mockery of our state laws, but they can never say they weren’t warned. If DOT has any sense of responsibility and integrity, they will immediately find this person and promote him or her all the way to the top.

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