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Hawaiian group says EIS on Makua is not complete


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POSTED: Saturday, June 06, 2009

The Army said it will decide by early July to what extent it will resume live-fire military training exercises in Makua Valley. The training plan was part of an environmental impact statement released yesterday.

But Malama Makua, the nonprofit organization whose lawsuit forced the Army to halt exercises in the 4,190-acre Leeward valley, said it will be back in court to stop the Army again from resuming training because the environmental assessment is flawed and incomplete.

;  “;We don't share the Army view that this is a final copy,”; said Earthjustice attorney David Henkin, who represents Malama Makua. “;They don't provide the legally required information,”; Henkin said.

He said one example of insufficient assessment came in a “;shellfish study”; portion released by the Army Corps of Engineers in January. Intended to determine whether marine life that is consumed by people would be contaminated by minerals from military weaponry, the study only looked at two of the four marine categories required, and examined areas affected by sewage outfall pollution and urban runoff. “;We hired experts to look at their study,”; Henkin said. “;I wrote a letter that they ought to withdraw this document.”;

The Army favors using the Makua Military Reservation up to 50 days over a 242-day training year for infantry squad- and platoon-level exercises using multiple weaponry including missiles, rockets and illumination munitions. That is the highest usage among five alternatives assessed in the EIS. It would also allow up to 200 convoy live-fire exercises. “;This alternative would allow the Army to train its units with maximum realistic training using critical weapons systems,”; according to the EIS report.

“;It will be Army leadership in Hawaii, in conjunction with leadership in Washington, D.C., who make the decision about how Makua is going to be used, if used at all,”; said Loren Doane, public affairs officer for U.S. Army Garrison, Hawaii.

Doane said the Army prepared a list of all cultural sites within the valley as required by the federal court.

Relocating targets away from known cultural features is one of the “;mitigation measures”; listed in the EIS. Other public concerns about the damage and disturbance to natural resources and cultural sites, which came out in public hearings after the draft EIS was released in September, show up as “;mitigation measures”; to protect native plants, prevent soil erosion, deter brush fires and even minimize Army convoy effects on traffic.

The federal court ordered the Army to prepare an environmental impact assessment after Makua Malama filed suit in 1998 claiming that military use was harming natural and cultural resources. The Army agreed to halt live-fire training but was allowed to resume after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It was halted again in 2005 until the EIS was completed.

“;It is important for people to remember that ... in all that time, soldiers have been trained, they have performed their tasks while receiving training elsewhere,”; Henkin said. “;Training at Makua is not the only place the Army has said it can accomplish its mission. People of Hawaii need to ask why the Army is pursuing the most destructive course of action.”;