Court docks Hawaii Superferry pending environmental study

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A court in Maui has ruled that the Hawaii Superferry must remain docked until after the state completes a months-long environmental impact study.

Maui Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza handed down his ruling on Oct. 9 after hearing approximately four weeks of testimony from several entities, including environmental experts who argued both in favor and against the Superferry operation.

Cardoza granted an injunction sought by environment groups, ruling that an environmental study is required under state law and has to be completed before the Hawaii Superferry can operate.

The study is expected to determine whether or not the high-speed ferry will negatively impact sea life, such as humpback whales, as well as the overall environment. According to Associated Press reports, the study could take at least eight months to complete.

Meanwhile, it appeared as if the court ruling would also impact Hawaii Superferrys operations in other parts of the state.

According to a Honolulu Advertiser report, in granting the injunction Cardoza also nullified an agreement forged between the Hawaii Superferry and the Hawaii's Dept. of Transportation that involved operating in other ports.

Aside from the Oahu/Maui route, Hawaii Superferry also operates between Oahu and Kauai, although that service was suspended several weeks ago do to circumstances involving protests by environmental groups.

Overall, Cardozas ruling provided a significant victory for environmental groups who have long pressed for the impact study, despite the ferrys contention that its operations already adhered to the states environmental regulations.

While the courts ruling is a major setback for the ferry, it nonetheless may not be the final word.

The Honolulu Advertiser has reported that the Hawaii Superferry intends to quickly file an appeal.

To contact reporter Michael Milligan, send e-mail to [email protected].

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