CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Lt. Col. Michael Donnelly, 25th Division spokesman, talked Thursday about training exercises, which resumed at Makua Valley that day for the first time since August 2004. Donnelly also said the Army needs to do a number of controlled burns to complete its environmental assessment.
Army study on Makua lagging behind schedule
A deadline for talking about a marine survey is delayed by weeks
The long-delayed environmental impact study justifying the Army's continued use of Makua Valley Reservation might be not be completed until summer, months later than a revised Army estimate.
The Army Corps of Engineers put out a public notice this week asking for comment on a marine resources study, which is one of six that make up the Makua Military Reservation environmental impact statement. The last day for comment is April 6.
That deadline under the original timetable was supposed to have been Feb. 20, with a draft report completed by June and a final report two months later.
Under the marine resources study Terta Tech Inc. will sample and analyze the fish, mollusks, crustaceans and limu in the stream mouth, just offshore of the training area that could be affected by continued military training.
Yesterday, the Army declined to discuss the timetable for the marine resources study or if it would delay the completion of the EIS.
Army spokeswoman Stefanie Gardin would only say, "The Army is continuing with its plan to complete the EIS this spring. Anything else would be speculation."
Army lawyers have testified that the controversial EIS, which was supposed to be completed in October 2004 under a court settlement between the Army and Malama Makua, would be done in the March-April time frame.
They made that statement in arguments before Federal Judge Susan Mollway on why the Army needed an exemption from the 2001 agreement to use live ammunition to train 7,000 Schofield Barracks soldiers bound for Iraq this summer. That agreement banned live-fire exercises in Makua until after the completion of the EIS.
On Feb. 2, Mollway rejected the Army's request to use live ammunition, saying, "Fifty-two months later, the Army has still not completed the EIS."
The Army leases Makua from the state until 2029. Training resumed this week at the valley for the first time since August 2004. About 300 soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team practiced air assault techniques, firing only blank ammunition.
On Thursday, Lt. Col. Michael Donnelly, 25th Division spokesman, said the Army still needs to do an unspecified number of controlled burns to finish its assessment of the historical and cultural sites in the valley. Hawaiian groups have long considered Makua sacred.
Earlier Army studies found that there were more than 100 Hawaiian cultural sites in the valley. It is also the home to more than 30 endangered plants and four animals -- the kahuli tree snail, elepaio, Hawaiian hoary bat and pueo.
Donnelly reiterated in a written statement yesterday that "the potential for the EIS to be delayed exists." He said scheduling of controlled burns will be "based on factors out of our control, mainly weather."