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Yes, EIS’s matter! Hawaii Superferry

This is my first blog entry ever, and I can’t think of a better topic than Environmental Impact Statements (EIS’s).  We govdocs-loving, tree-hugging types are quite attached to EIS’s, as in this fine example of an EIS regarding Columbia River water management, plucked from my library’s online catalog.

The Northwestern University Transportation Library has a lovely page defining EIS’s and providing a guide to their own extensive collections in this area.  My library has its own internal cheat sheet as well. And you may wish to check out this list of impact statement announcements appearing in the Federal Register since 1994, some of the past few years with linking out to full text documents (thank you, Environmental Protection Agency).

Why do I have EIS’s on the brain?  I was reading my local Tacoma News Tribune last Monday, when I saw on page A5 a stunning color photo of an enormous vessel emblazoned with the words Hawaii Superferry, along with a surfer catching a wave in the foreground!  I am no stranger to ferries.  I grew up on Lake Champlain, vacationed in Maine, and now live in Puget Sound, home to some of the hardest-working ferries on the planet (my personal favorite is the
Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay ferry in nearby British Columbia).  But I am used to the thought that one must take an inter-island flight to get around in Hawaii, not board a big honking ferry to get from Oahu to Maui to Kauai.

The article’s author, Jaymes Song, notes that the Superferry’s first attempt to dock in Kauai was blocked by a dozen surfboarding protesters in the water.  What a sight this must have been, as the ferry with 500 passengers and 150 cars had to turn back.  The protestors, joined by hundreds more on the shore, say that the ferry company failed to perform a full environmental analysis before beginning operation.  Think of it:  no EIS published, and our surfers will block your dock — that Is seeing the real power of government information.  There are many twists and turns to this tale, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran an informative article on September 2.

The Superferry itself is maintaining a list of news articles about its own fate.  Yes, people, EIS’s matter.