Friday, May 7, 1999

Navy submarine
exercise proposal
raises concerns

By Gary T. Kubota
Maui correspondent


WAILUKU -- The U.S. Navy wants to expand the use of an area in Maui County waters for submarine exercises.

But some Hawaiians say the exercises should not be done because the waters are used by native fishermen.

Dana Naone Hall, a spokeswoman for Hui Alanui O Makena, said the group also opposes a Navy plan to drill under a historic fishpond to establish a land-based fiber-optic link to monitor submarine maneuvers.

"Drilling constitutes a kind of cultural damage," Hall said.

Michael Dick, project engineer for the Navy, said expanding the training area is important because it provides some unique geologic features for training sailors how to drive submarines and shoot torpedoes.

"It's a high priority of the Navy," he said.

Dick, speaking before the Maui County Cultural Resources Commission yesterday, said the Navy will not prevent fisherman from using the area during exercises and the drilling will take place 50 feet under the pond.

The Navy says the expanded area could involve joint exercises with foreign nations, including Japan, Australia, South Korea and Canada.

Naval submarines used a Hawaii Shallow Water Training Range in a 25-square-mile area in Maui County waters for two years ending in 1996.

The proposed $8 million expanded range would cover an area of 60 square miles.

Under the proposal, the Navy would also send fiber-optic lines across 3,000 feet of ocean floor, connecting sensors in the exercise area to a land-based facility in south Maui.

The fiber-optic lines would go under the fishpond at Kalepolepo to a facility on federal land next to the headquarters for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

Dick said the site on Maui was selected because it is the only shoreline land owned by the federal government in south Maui, Lanai and Kahoolawe.

The Navy said establishing a land-based facility would reduce the cost of the exercises substantially. In previous years, the Navy used a buoy to receive information.

The Navy said although about two-thirds of the proposed area is in the whale sanctuary, it expects the exercises to have little or no impact.

Dick said no live rounds will be fired in the exercises and the Navy has established procedures during whale season, including the placement of aircraft to detect any whales.

The procedures call for submarines to move away from the whales entering exercise areas or for the maneuvers to be abandoned. Dick said various groups and government bodies will be sending their comments to state historic preservation officials who may recommend changes in the Navy's environmental assessment and proposal.

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