Saturday, June 9, 2001

Aluli unhappy with
Kahoolawe cleanup efforts

By Gary T. Kubota

WAILUKU >> The chairman of a state commission says he is disappointed with the Navy's effort to clear ordnance off the former target island of Kahoolawe.

Dr. Emmett Aluli, chairman of the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission, said the amount of cleanup is considerably less than what was agreed upon when the project started in 1998.

The Navy's work on Kahoolawe, designated as a cultural preserve by the state and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is scheduled to end Nov. 12, 2003.

Aluli said he now believes the job could have been done better by the state, another federal agency or a nonprofit group.

"This is the first Navy cleanup project of this magnitude," he said. "The Navy had to learn how to do it, and they (Navy officials) still don't know how to do it."

Aluli made the statements in an interview with the Star-Bulletin as he looked back at the commission's association with the Navy and prepared for Friday, when he will step down as a commission member after two four-year terms.

Under state law, commission members cannot serve three consecutive terms.

Aluli has been appointed by the commission to head a special panel focusing on the transfer of control.

Several years ago when the work began, Navy officials thought they could clear the entire surface of the island and 30 percent of its subsurface as far down as four feet.

If funding continues as expected under the current projection, the Navy plans to have 62 percent of the 28,600-acre island cleared of surface ordnance, including a 10 percent cleanup of the subsurface.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Paul Borkowski said he was sorry Aluli was disappointed.

Borkowski said no other federal agency has done a cleanup of the magnitude of Kahoolawe, shuttling some 325 workers by helicopter four days a week between Maui and the island.

"It's a very difficult cleanup," he said.

Borkowski said the initial projections were made without much understanding of the difficulties but that the Navy and its subcontractors and workers have done a great job under the circumstances.

"I applaud their efforts," he said. "This is a story of success."

Borkowski noted that of the $400 million authorized for the cleanup, only $240 million has been released.He said there is a proposal to appropriate $61 million in fiscal year 2001-2002.

Now 57 and co-medical executive director of Molokai General Hospital, Aluli has been helping native Hawaiians return to healthy aspects of their traditional diet and developing dietary programs for them. "That's been more my work than Kahoolawe," he said.

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