Military is asked to prepare land givebacks
Abercrombie adds Kalaeloa and Makua to the defense bill
U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie has asked the military to plan for the eventual return of Makua Valley and a portion of the old Navy air station at Kalaeloa, which he said could be used as a stop for a mass transit rail system.
The two requests were part of the 2007 Defense Authorization bill that passed the U.S. House and Senate yesterday.
Abercrombie, a proponent of rail transit, wants the Navy to sell or lease 499 acres along the northern edge of the former Barbers Point Naval Air Station to the state or a private developer.
The Hawaii Democrat said the Barbers Point land, which has been vacant since 1999, could not only help with the city's proposed transportation plans, but also help meet the need for more affordable housing. Abercrombie wants the Navy to finalize the transfer by Sept. 30, 2008.
The 1993 Base Realignment and Closure Commission shuttered the naval air station and transferred its P-3 Orion subhunter squadrons to Kaneohe Bay. Some of the land was deeded to the state, but the Navy still controls thousands of acres.
The Navy is considering whether it will base a nuclear aircraft carrier at Pearl Harbor, and the former Navy base has been considered as the potential home of jet fighter squadrons that would be assigned to a carrier.
As for Makua Valley, which has been used by the military as a firing range since World War II, Abercrombie said in a written statement, "Eventually the land must be returned, so the Army needs to look beyond its current use to the eventual return of this historic and environmentally sensitive treasure."
The language of Abercrombie's provision requires the Army to report to Congress by March 1 on its future training range plans in Hawaii, including alternatives to Makua. The return of Makua has long been advocated by Hawaiian activists, who have filed numerous lawsuits to stop all military training there. The last time the military used live ammunition in the 4,190-acre valley was August 2004.
The Army has fallen behind a deadline to complete an environmental impact study justifying the continued use of the valley, home to more than 30 endangered plants and animals. The environmental study was supposed to have been completed in October 2004.
Abercrombie also said the defense spending bill requires the military to identify and assess the risk caused by the dumping of unexploded and chemical weapons off the Leeward Coast in the 1940s.
"The language requires the Department of Defense to identify, survey, analyze and report on at least two dump locations near Hawaii so we can understand the potential risks and what it will take to clean them up," he said.
Abercrombie's office said $2.4 million had been requested in a companion bill for the Army, the University of Hawaii and Hawaii businesses to conduct the study.
Reports have indicated that 4,220 tons of hydrogen cyanide were dumped somewhere off Pearl Harbor, and 16,000 additional 100-pound mustard bombs from upper Kipapa and Ala Moana were dumped at an unspecified location listed as "about five miles off of Oahu."
The Army also dumped seven tons of 1,000-pound hydrogen cyanide bombs, 461 tons of 1,000-pound cyanogen chloride bombs, 28 tons of 500-pound cyanogen chloride bombs, 800 tons of 114-pound mustard bombs, 510 tons of 4.2-inch mustard mortar shells and 1,817 tons of 1-ton mustard containers off Waianae.
Two years ago the Army surveyed an area near the Waianae sewage outfall -- referred to locally as Ordnance Reef -- and identified more than 2,000 conventional military munitions at depths ranging from 15 to 240 feet, with the majority of munitions observed at depths below 60 feet.