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Thursday, December 21, 2000

Lawsuit targets
Makua live-fire plan

By Harold Morse

A Waianae community group filed suit yesterday in federal court, seeking to force the Army to prepare a detailed environmental impact statement before it resumes live firing in Makua Valley.

Malama Makua, represented by Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, filed the suit with a motion for a preliminary injunction requiring a hearing before any resumption of training.

"The Army's decision not to do an (environmental impact statement) is a grave disappointment for the Waianae community, which has said for years that the military's training at Makua Military Reservation has a significant impact on the people, the land and the resources at Makua," said Malama Makua's Sparky Rodrigues. "However, we still hold out hope that the Army will take a fresh look at alternative places to train."

There are 29 rare and endangered plants and habitats of rare and endangered animal species in the 4,190-acre reservation.

The Army announced last Thursday its finding of no significant impact on the environment or archeological sites of Makua Valley if live-fire training is resumed, perhaps as soon as March, with new safeguards.

"It's unfortunate that Earthjustice didn't allow for the regulatory comment period to take its course," said Army spokeswoman Capt. Cynthia Teramae. The Army said it already has complied with settlement terms with Earthjustice stemming from an earlier lawsuit and has gone above and beyond its legal obligations.

Comments on the Army's plans are being accepted up to and including a planned Jan. 17 public hearing.

Paul Achitoff, Earthjustice attorney, said Malama Makua doesn't agree.

"Given the biological and cultural riches that are threatened by Army training at Makua, an environmental impact statement is clearly in order," he said.

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