Friday, July 22, 2005

Malama Makua says
Army reneging

A draft plan does not consider
alternative live-fire training sites

The Army broke its promise to the Waianae community to consider alternatives to holding live-fire training in Makua Valley, the citizens group Malama Makua said yesterday.

Public meetings for
comment on Makua

The draft environmental impact statement on military training activities at Makua Military Reservation can be seen at www.makuaeis.com, the Hawaii State Library on South King Street and the Waianae, Wahiawa and Pearl City libraries.

Public meetings to receive comment on the document will be held at:

» Waianae District Park, 85-601 Farrington Highway, 7-10 p.m. Aug. 23 and 2-6 p.m. Aug. 27.
» Nanaikapono Elementary School, 89-153 Mano Ave., 7-10 p.m. Aug. 25.

Written comments may be submitted until Sept. 20 to Gary Shirakata, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Honolulu Engineer District, Building 230, Fort Shafter, HI 96858-5440; or Makua-EIS@poh01.usace.army.mil.

In the draft environmental impact statement on military training in Makua Valley expected to be formally released today, the Army did not consider moving the training to the Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island, Schofield Barracks or another location on Oahu, or the continental United States, said David Henkin, an attorney for Malama Makua's law firm, EarthJustice.

During 2002 meetings on what should be included in the environmental report, Waianae residents strongly urged the Army to look at other locations, Henkin said.

The Army also did not conduct archaeological surveys of all the Makua Valley areas that were expected for the study, said Malama Makua spokesman Fred Dodge.

"The EIS is supposed to give the Army and the public the information they need to decide whether to allow training at Makua," Dodge said. "That's why, when we settled our lawsuit, we insisted that the Army agree to carry out comprehensive archaeological surveys of the areas where misfired mortar or artillery shells could destroy cultural sites. The Army's failure to hold up its end of the bargain makes this EIS useless for making an informed decision about training at Makua."

The draft EIS, posted on an Army Web site yesterday, said, "These alternatives (levels of training) were eliminated because they do not meet the purpose and need, which is to provide military training in an existing training area of at least 1,136 acres that is in proximity to Schofield Barracks."

Responding to Malama Makua's allegations yesterday, Army spokeswoman Maj. Stacy Bathrick said, "The Army has performed the draft environmental impact statement in compliance with the settlement of the lawsuit brought by Malama Makua and EarthJustice."

"The intent is to make the draft document available to the public, gather input and determine the changes needed for the final EIS," she said in a written statement.

Three meetings to hear public comment are planned next month in Waianae.

Henkin countered that "to suggest you'd put out a draft, then include whole new proposals in a final is patently illegal."

The alternatives the Army does consider in its draft EIS, Henkin said, include using weapons -- including anti-tank missiles and tracers -- that have not been used there in a decade because of their potential for igniting wildfires.

A "controlled burn" in Makua Valley got out of control and burned 2,000 acres in 2003. Earlier fires at the valley had been ignited by training weapons.

Army live-fire training was stopped in Makua Valley from 1998 to 2001 by a Malama Makua lawsuit but resumed on a limited basis 2001-2004 when the Army agreed to terms that included cultural visits, a detailed fire management plan and conducting an EIS.

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