Monday, October 5, 1998


The Navy owns more than 9,000 acres
in the Waianae Valley. Its radio
towers are a familiar sight, but
more goes on beneath the earth

By Gregg K. Kakesako


Two antennas of the Navy's communication systems at Lualualei stand 1,500 feet over the Leeward Coast as the state's highest structure.

Despite the high visibility of the antennas, much of what the Navy does with more than 9,200 acres it occupies in Waianae Valley lies deeply buried in the earth.

About 1,700 acres at Lualualei was taken from the Hawaiian Home Lands in 1930 and 1933 under federal executive orders when Hawaii was a territory and turned over to the Navy for ammunition storage. The acreage represented about one-fifth of Hawaiian Home Lands on Oahu.

In August, under a law sponsored by Sen. Daniel Akaka, the federal government was required to determine the value of the land seized at Lualualei and the amount of lost income to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and transfer excess federal property of equal value to the department.

In exchange, the Navy gets continued use of 1,356 acres of disputed Waianae Valley real estate which make up part of the 9,200 acres that currently house the Lualualei Naval Magazine and the Naval Radio Transmitter Facility.

By Ken Ige, Star-bulletin
Capt. Shawn Morrissey walks towards the entrance of
an above-ground magazine in the valley. Many of the magazines
are empty, but ready for use. This particular storage facility,
however, is being used, as noted by the caution signs.

Of the 1,718 acres occupied by the Naval Radio Transmitter Facility, 1,224 acres are part of the 1,356 acres covered by the recent agreement.

The naval magazine occupies 132 acres of the disputed lands, 27 acres of which will be returned to the state under the recent agreement.

Eighty-four radio antennas make up the communication complex, which was built in 1934 and is responsible for transmitting messages to naval forces scattered throughout the Pacific. It is the primary Department of Defense long-range radio transmitter station in Hawaii.

Moses Naehu, communications supervisor, said the facility maintains one of the largest radio transmitters in the Navy capable of transmitting 1 million watts of power.

"We are constanting transmitting information to our submarines, 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said Naehu, who was an Army electronics officer for 30 years before he retired and went to work for the Navy.

Capt. Julie Keesling, commanding officer of the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station, said the range of messages run from "the mundane like fresh milk to command and control data" governing the operations of the Pacific Fleet.


Built in 1972, the two 1,500-foot antennas dwarf any other man-made structures on Oahu.

Nestled further into the valley at the base of the Waianae Mountain range are the 266 underground and above-ground ammunition storage areas that make up the Lualualei Naval Magazine.

Spread over 7,498 acres, the Lualualei operation is just one of three ordnance storage facilities on Oahu -- the others are at West Loch on the Waipio Peninsula in Pearl Harbor and Waikele.

Besides storing ordnance in its 101 magazines at the 4,092-acre annex at West Loch, the Navy also conducts torpedo and missile maintenance at its Pearl Harbor branch which was constructed in 1996.

In the early 1950s, more than 1,500 military and civilians were employed by the naval magazine, but that figure in recent year has been cut almost in half.

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Capt. Shawn Morrissey, left and Lt. Troy Westphal look
at the gate of a magazine at Lualualei.

Capt. Shawn Morrissey, facility commander, said the Navy is in the process of closing the 519-acre complex in Waikele and declaring it as surplus federal lands. One hundred twenty tunnel magazines make up the Waikele complex which was capable of storing 56,120 tons of explosives until they were removed in 1993.

Lualualei was established as a Naval Ammunition Depot in 1934 and converted to a naval magazine in 1974 whose primary mission is now to store and handle the ammunition for the military in the Pacific.

This means everything from small items such as fuses and detonators to five inch shells, torpedoes, artillery rounds and Tomahawk cruise missiles. The only ordnance Morrissey won't discuss is whether nuclear weapons are stored at Lualualei or West Loch.

A 1992 independent study reported that the number of nuclear weapons stored in Hawaii, mainly at West Loch, would drop from 275 to 90 by the end of the decade. The study said Hawaii's arsenal would include 40 nuclear free-fall bombs and 50 nuclear cruise missile warheads by the year 2000. At one time, the report states that Hawaii may have had as many as 345 nuclear weapons stored here.

The Navy estimates that 50,966 tons of ordnance are stored at the two naval magazines. Both the Lualualei and the West Loch magazines handle about 31,000 tons of munitions annually.

During the current year the two facilities serviced 76 submarines and 63 surface warships, according to the Navy.

But Morrissey said each magazine is strategically laid out to isolate it from the others and to prevent multiple accidents. "Each magazine casts an arch," Morrissey said "that would not catch another magazine."

He notes that there have been only two significant accidents in the past. On May 21, 1944, 163 men were killed and 396 were injured and six LSTs (landing ship tanks) and three smaller landing crafts were destroyed when an explosion rocked West Loch while ammunition was being loaded.

A crane touched off an explosion at the Waikele magazine in 1946.

By Ken Ige, Star-bulletin
Commanding officer Capt. Julie Keesling, right, and
supervisor Moses Naehu discuss the particulars of the
radio transmitting station at Lualualei.

Parcel of history

Bullet 1921: Congress designates 2,000 acres at Lualualei as Hawaiian homelands.

Bullet 1930 & 1933: Territorial Gov. Lawrence Judd signs executive orders granting all but 475 acres to U.S. Navy for ammunition depot and radio station.

Bullet 1986: State files suit to recover Lualualei land.

Bullet 1988: Federal Judge Harold Fong throws out state suit, saying statute of limitations had run out.

Bullet 1989: 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds Fong's decision.

Bullet Nov. 2, 1995: President Clinton signs Hawaiian Home Lands Recovery Act authored by Sen. Daniel Akaka that set dollar value of the 1,356 acres confiscated at Lualualei.

Bullet Aug. 31, 1998: Department of Hawaiian Home Lands gets 894 acres of surplus federal land under the Akaka recovery act; in return Navy gets continued use of Lualualei.

By Ken Ige, Star-bulletin
The twin 1,500-foot low frequency antennas are a familiar
sight along the Waianae Coast. So much so, that fishermen
on boats miles offshore use them as landmarks.

Possibilities for
the antenna farm

By Gregg Kakesako


The Navy's antenna farm at Lualualei was one of several sites identified by state officials as a possible photovoltaic demonstration project.

But Art Seki, Hawaiian Electric energy specialist, said technical and cost factors make such a demonstration project highly unlikely at this time.

Seki said the problem is not the Waianae Valley site, but the high cost of the solar energy producing cells. "I think we have to wait and see until the cost of the technology comes down."

Hawaiian Electric currently has two small photovoltaic demonstration projections with the military -- one at Hickam Air Force Base begun in 1996 and another on Ford Island.

The electric bill for the Navy's transmission mission system at Lualualei runs as high as $150,000 a month and three 6,500-kilowatt generators are maintained to ensure that emergency power will be available if the power ever goes out.

Tallest structures

Bullet Lualualei Naval Radio Transmitter antenna: 1,503 feet

Bullet KMVI radio tower (Maui): 455 feet

Bullet First Hawaiian Center: 438 feet

Bullet KAIM radio tower (Molokai): 410 feet

Bullet Waterfront Towers: 400 feet

Bullet Nauru Tower: 400 feet

Bullet One Archer Lane: 400 feet

Bullet Communication Engineers Tower (Kauai): 400 feet

Source: March 1998 State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism

Coast Guard to
transfer 38 acres

By Gregg Kakesako


The Coast Guard will transfer 38 acres of at Upolu Point on Oct. 11 to the state under the 1995 Hawaiian Home Lands Recovery Act, authored by Sen. Daniel Akaka.

The land at Upolu Point near Hawi on the Big Island is part of the 894 acres that will given to the Hawaiian Home Lands Department. Under the 1995 law, the Navy will get continued use of 1,356 acres of land at Lualualei in Waianae as an ammunition storage depot and a communications facility.

The Coast Guard Loran Transmitting Station, built in 1944 as a navigational aid for naval vessels in World War II at Upolu Point once boasted the second largest tower in the state which was 625 feet and completed in 1960.

That distinction ended when the navigational aid tower was dismantled in early 1990 and the station closed in 1991 when the global position satellite system was put in place.

The Coast Guard plans to retain 25 acres at Upolu Point, spokesman Dave Santos said, which houses its digital global position system satellite station and a new 90-foot antenna.

Nine additional acres will be declared excess and could be returned to the state if other federal agencies have no use for it.

Santos said the Coast Guard did return 17 acres to Richard Smart whose family owns Parker Ranch.

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