Wednesday, April 1, 1998

Legislature '98

will not be clear of
ordnance by turnover

Only 38 percent of the island
will be clean by 2003, state
lawmakers are told

By Pat Omandam

Only 38 percent of Kahoolawe will be cleared of unexploded ordnance when the federal government turns over the island to the state in 2003, says the man in charge of overseeing the cleanup.

That's not good enough, responded officials at the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission.

Jim Putnam, Pacific division director of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, told state lawmakers yesterday the $400 million in federal funds authorized in 1993 to clean up the former Target Island will not remove all unexploded ordnance there.

Putnam estimates only 11,000 acres of Kahoolawe's 29,000 acres -- roughly 38 percent -- can be cleared for that money when the state takes control of Kahoolawe on Nov. 11, 2003. He later said it will take more than $1 billion to properly clear the island of military debris -- federal money that Hawaii's congressional delegation will have to secure in the future.

"There's just not enough money to clean up the whole island," Putnam told the Senate Water, Land and Hawaiian Affairs Committee.

Cleanup will begin in earnest this summer, with a gradual increase in tempo throughout the year and "full on" clearance next year, Putnam said.

But Keoni Fairbanks, the commission's executive director, said the clearing of only 11,000 acres is unacceptable. The commission, he said, will continue to push the Navy and the contractor to maximize the number of acres that can be cleared, an issue that also concerns committee co-chairwoman Malama Solomon (D, North Hilo-South Kohala).

"It doesn't seem that we're going to get a lot for the money we're spending," Solomon said.

Of the $400 million authorized, only $120 million has been appropriated. Of that amount, $20 million was spent for a test cleanup of 200 acres that included creation of an access road and base camp. By law, another 11 percent was given to the state for use on Kahoolawe after it assumes control of it.

Putnam said ordnance crews working along the 11-mile road found everything from discarded small arms munitions to 2,000-pound bombs. The entire island is covered with ordnance, he added."We found an awful lot. It's a dangerous place," Putnam said.

The U.S. Navy last July awarded the Kahoolawe contract with a ceiling of $280 million, to Parsons Infrastructure Technology Group of California and UXB International of Virginia. Five of six subcontractors for the project will be Hawaii firms, with another 230 Hawaii-owned businesses serving as suppliers.

Fully funded, the project will create 260 jobs. Most will be local except for unexploded ordnance technicians and laboratory specialists.

Navy Cmdr. Carol Petrea, Kahoolawe project officer for Pearl Harbor Naval Base, explained the cleanup is based on a federal law that requires the state to develop a land use plan describing all the proposed uses of the island.

In turn, the Navy will design a cleanup plan based on that desired use.

Later this month, the Navy, the commission and the contractor will hold statewide public hearings on the ordnance removal plan. It hopes to start actual work in June or July.

These plans, however, do not include cleaning up Kahoolawe's surrounding waters.

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