Sunday, May 12, 2002

Gun range will be
a distant neighbor

The planned Army site would not
impact the Honouliuli Preserve

By Gregg K. Kakesako

The Army plans to shift a proposed rifle and pistol range at Schofield Barracks' South Range so it will have no impact on the neighboring 3,692-acre Honouliuli Preserve in the rugged Waianae mountain range.

The South Range qualification range is one of 32 projects, valued at $693 million, which the Army hopes to complete over the next decade as part of a major military overhaul to make it able to respond faster to national emergencies.

The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii had expressed concern last month that the Army's initial plans would have affected the northern portion of the preserve and the habitat of more than 70 rare and endangered species that live there.

However, Col. William Puttman, Army Garrison Hawaii commander, said "the Army is now working on a proposed solution that would shift the impact area of the proposed range site."

Puttman said the Army hopes to re-orient the firing range so "the safety arc" -- the area behind the targets -- is far away from the preserve.

"The idea would be to completely reorient the range," Puttman said, "so even the safety zone would not be in the preserve."

Trae Menard, natural resource manager for the Conservancy, said nothing has been agreed upon. "We are still in negotiations."

He said the conservancy wants to make sure that the "fan" -- or area behind the targets -- is "not in any of the areas we now actively manage. We are now working with the Army to come up with a design that will minimize impact on the preserve."

Capt. Stacy Bathrick, Army spokeswoman, said "maps of the proposed expanded South Range area will most likely be produced and published this week after all parties involved agree on proposed boundaries."

The Army's current proposal, which is now being circulated for public comment, calls for the Army to buy or lease 1,500 to 2,100 acres from Campbell Estate to build the new firing range and a motor pool and equipment storage and maintenance facilities large enough to support a brigade-size unit.

Puttman said the decision on whether to purchase or lease the Campbell Estate land will depend on the size and location of the two proposed facilities.

"The Army also is considering limiting the amount of land needed," Puttman said, "by shifting the motor pool complex farther north."

For more than a decade the Nature Conservancy has been leasing the watershed land from Campbell Estate and managing it as a refuge for rare and endangered species and as a site for research, education, community service and cultural preservation. Its lease with Campbell Estate will expire in 2020.

Within the preserve's boundaries, the Nature Conservancy says, is one of the last remaining habitats on Oahu for native Hawaiian birds such as the pueo (owl), elepaio, honeycreepers, crisom-feathered apapanes and yellow amakihis.

Last year Hawaii's 25th Infantry Division was designated to be in the forefront of the Army's transformation process with its 2nd Brigade identified to receive 480 more soldiers and 400 new Stryker combat vehicles.

It is currently preparing a draft environmental impact statement that will be completed early next year.

As part of the transformation process, the Army plans to continue enlarging the Kahuku Training Area on the North Shore by spending another $1 million to purchase an additional 71 aces from Campbell Estate. The Army in 1999 spent more than $23.5 million to acquire 8,214 acres from Campbell Estate for lands in Kahuku which it had been leasing.

Three new training facilities will be built to replicate situations today's soldiers will probably face as the battlefield shifts to a more urban environment. That environment envisions the military responding to terrorism attacks in places like Afghanistan, Bosnia, Somalia, Haiti and Southwest Asia and major conflicts in places like Korea.

One of the sites, which at one time housed the Army's noncommissioned officers school, will represent a military compound. Current proposals call for renovating six existing buildings.

Two buildings, at a former Army Nike missile security facility, will be rebuilt to represent a commercial and industrial area while a nearby Nike launch site will be transformed into "a park, market, town and residential community." Two buildings there will be renovated while another 16 will be built.

On the Big Island the Army plans to build a private 29-mile road from Kawaihae Harbor to the Pohakuloa Training Area to lessen its impact on civilian traffic. Major live-fire ranges will be developed at PTA along with the upgrading of the air strip at Bradshaw Army Airfield to accommodate C-17 jet cargo planes.

On Oahu, Wheeler Army Airfield also will be renovated to accommodate C-130 cargo planes which could pick up 25th Division soldiers and fly them directly to PTA for training or anywhere else in the world.

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