Re: Comments on the Draft EA for the Kahului Harbor Improvements Project of the Hawaii Department of Transportation – Harbors Division.
Dear Mr. Hiraga,
To begin, I am very unhappy with the shoddy and woefully inadequate analysis evident in the DEA prepared by Brian Ishii and E.K. Noda & Associates. My complaints are many. I am a farmer whose livelihood is threatened by the ongoing failure of HDOT and HDOA to control the introduction of new and dangerous alien pest species. Increased arrivals of airplanes and ships, facilitated by HDOT’s airport and harbor expansion projects, are the cause of the increasing alien pest problem which threatens diversified agriculture. Small, diversified agriculture is the fastest-growing sector of Hawaii’s economy –so much is at stake.
Last August 2003, E.K. Noda & Associates were found guilty of making illegal and “false-name” political campaign contributions and received the largest fine in Hawaii history. Because during the investigation Mr. Noda and those involved were less than candid and provided the Campaign Spending Commission misinformation, extra fines were levied. Mr. Noda himself faced criminal prosecution for money laundering and making campaign contributions under false names.
These violations were occurring at roughly the same time as when the Airport EIS was being “accepted” by the “Accepting Authority”. The Accepting Authority, in this case, was Gov. Ben Cayetano. Ironically, many of the illegal contributions made by Noda and his employees, were made to Gov. Cayetano. Why would HDOT want to add to the appearance of corruption, by retaining these convicted criminals to prepare the DEA for the Harbor projects? Interestingly, the contract to prepare this DEA, whether it was a bid or non-bid contract, was awarded to Noda during the period that they were committing the violations, and before they were indicted (this is illustrated by the fact that the comment letters for the harbor project were solicited in Oct. 2002 – a period when the recipient of the illegal donations, Gov. Cayetano, was still in office.) Ironically, the $74,000 in fines collected by the Campaign Spending Commission has now been refunded to Noda and Associates in the form of a [non-bid] contract to prepare this DEA.
Criminal activity aside, the Kahului Airport EIS is regarded by many as the most controversial environmental document in Hawaii’s history. It resulted in many court rulings, a contentious Contested Case Hearing at the State LUC, numerous contentious hearings at the County level, and actually caused serious divisions among members of our local community. Ironically this led to a treasure trove of new “work” for Noda & Associates – as they received additional contracts to patch up and supplement the deeply flawed EIS, and to “facilitate” numerous additional hearings and meetings, such as the aforementioned ASAP meetings. Why would HDOT not seek to turn over a new leaf, and hire an untarnished consulting firm to do this new Harbor analysis? Or put the contract out to bid?
In order to restore the public’s faith in the process, E.K. Noda and Associates must be removed from this assignment and the current DEA should be thrown out. Then a fresh DEA or DEIS can commence using an untarnished and neutral consulting firm.
As a farmer who is constantly battling new pest species, I will discuss this aspect of the project first:
A. During the ongoing Kahului airport expansion controversy, it was stated many times by testifiers, scientists, and DOA & DOT officials, that Kahului Harbor was the “second main portal” for the arrival of new dangerous pests. However, in this DEA, the importance of the alien species is purposefully minimized. Section 188.8.131.52 does nothing to support the claim that there will be no impact regarding alien species. No effort is made to use the vast wealth of knowledge about alien species or mitigation measures gained in the very similar Kah. Airport controversy, over a decade. “DOT Harbors and DOT is participating in committees and task forces to monitor and resolve the potential introduction of alien pest species.” Where’s the data? What IS DOT doing about the problem? What is the track record of DOT and DOT-Harbors in interdicting pests? What alien species crises or threat has been “resolved” by DOT? How does DOT and DOT-Harbors “monitor” introductions? The issues should be very similar to those in the Airport case:
10. “The proposed improvements are not expected to increase the number and types of ships to Kahului Harbor and therefore, the improvements will not increase the amount of alien species introduced to Maui.” This is a dishonest and misleading statement apparently based on Noda and DOT’s belief that the project is not growth inducing. (See below “Project is Growth Inducing”).
B. Inter-island Super Ferry
Though barely mentioned in the DEA, the harbor expansion is clearly geared toward accommodating the new Inter-island Super Ferry, with its “365 calls per year”. I believe the unrestricted operations of the proposed ferry system represent a new major threat to our environment and agriculture.
1. The new Inter island Super Ferry will increase the risk of introduction of new pests. It will facilitate the rapid dispersal to other islands of new threatening pests like the Glassy-winged Sharpshooter, which now is only present on Oahu. Perhaps more importantly, it will act as a very efficient means of distribution for undesirable species. Campers, hunters, etc. will now be able to go everywhere say, on the Big Island, and then in a matter of hours be able to drive those same vehicles on every back road on Maui. It has already been proven that Coqui frog eggs can travel in mud splashed up underneath vehicles. The Big Island has over 20,000 acres infested with Miconia (“The Green Cancer”) Each Miconia flower produces 1 million seeds. These seeds may easily picked up by camper or hunter vehicles and transported to Maui – then dropped out of the vehicles everywhere they go in Maui.
The Inter-island Super Ferry ratchets up the alien species threat to a new level – perhaps undermining all the good work done by DOA, DLNR, Fish and Wildlife, and organizations like the Maui Invasive Species Committee (MISC), to combat the spread of invasive species.
Apparently, Noda and DOT-Harbors believe that the Ferry will come with or without the harbor improvements, so they don’t have to study the impact of ratcheting up the alien species problem. This is false and misleading, and is merely a device they are attempting to use to avoid having to look at the environmental impacts of these projects (See below “Project is Growth Inducing”.) This new elevated risk, from a new ferry system, must be studied in any valid DEA or DEIS.
C. I am also concerned that the inter island ferry will encourage the transport of detrimental illegal drugs like Crystal Methamphetamine (ICE). Presently, traffickers have a very difficult time getting through security at the airports. The new ferry system will make it very easy for smugglers to hide drugs in their vehicles and be on another island in just a few hours. The crystal methamphetamine (ICE) epidemic poses perhaps the second greatest threat to our communities’ well-being. The impact of easing drug running, with the consequence of flooding Maui with ICE, must be studied in any valid DEA or DEIS.
D. The 365 “calls” per year to Kahului by the new Ferry AND the 287 cruise ship calls poses a new threat for Maui’s citizens: Terrorism. Very easy for terrorists to plant a bomb in an automobile or even to hijack a cruise ship. Why does this DEA not discuss that possibility and mitigation measures? What kind of security measures will be in place? Will TSA get another contract to do this, and who will pay?
E. A new roadway will be constructed between Pier 2C and Puunene Avenue. I do my banking at the First Hawaiian Bank there. It can be a very difficult to get out of Puunene Ave onto Kaahumanu or to go straight up Puunene at certain hours. It is obvious that this road connection is for the disembarking automobiles from the ferry to leave the harbor complex. The DEA says “The traffic increase will be during non-peak hours and therefore will not have a significant impact on the congestion at that intersection.” Are the hours of the ferry arrival known at this time? Is there a ferry schedule in place at this time? What are the non-peak hours? If this information is known, why isn’t it included in this DEA?
F. IMPORTANT: The improvements at Kahului Harbor are simultaneously being proposed for other islands, notably for Nawiliwili Harbor on Kauai. There can be no doubt that many of these “improvements” are to facilitate the new ferry operation, an operation which may include many new types of impacts for Hawaii. The Inter Island Super Ferry is not just a single ferry, but rather a statewide system – and the impacts must be studied AS a statewide system. Any DEA or DEIS which attempts to study ONLY the impacts of the system on Maui will amount to a segmentation of the project. Segmentation is a fatal flaw when used in environmental documents.
G. A new and separate DEIS, studying the complete impacts of Inter Island Ferry System, in total, is required.
H. A glaring omission in the DEA is the lack of explanation about how the Forecast 2025 Ship Schedule was arrived at. While the container ship arrivals may be relatively easy to forecast, I don’t see any justification for the Domestic and Foreign Cruise Ship, or the Inter-island Ferry arrival numbers.
I. Project is Growth Inducing.
1. The most important flaw in this DEA is the notion that “The proposed improvements are not expected to increase the number and types of ships to Kahului Harbor and therefore, the improvements will not [have significant impacts]” The consultants also put much faith in the idea that “the cruise ships and the ferry will come anyway, whether or not the improvements are made.” They .seem to be relying on this one central idea to avoid actually having to study impacts.
Yet, no data is presented to verify that the ships will come anyway. There are no comment letters from the cruise ship industry, nor were any solicited. I believe that many cruise ships would opt NOT to call at Kahului if the lack of facilities forced them to “park offshore and wait for moorings to become available.” Likewise, the promoters of the Ferry might have to rethink their operation if DOT-Harbors wasn’t so willing to bend over backwards to accommodate them.
Therefore, the project is, of itself, growth inducing. It will make possible the arrivals of many more ships than are calling at present.
Thanks for the opportunity to comment.
President, Tropical Orchid Farm. Inc.