Marines will close off
Waikane range

Unexploded ordnance makes
the valley too dangerous for training

The Marine Corps announced last night that it will close the 187-acre Waikane Valley training range, which it has deemed too dangerous to be used as a jungle survival training area.

Maj. Chris Hughes, Marine Corps spokesman, made the announcement at the Kahaluu Neighborhood Board meeting.

In November the Marines said safety concerns prompted a decision then to suspend use of the Windward Oahu valley.

A 16-month-long environmental assessment and a staff study concluded that there was still too much unexploded ordnance in the valley. For decades until 1976, Waikane was used as a live-fire range.

Marine Corps training there included the use of rockets, mortars and hand grenades.

Members of the Kahaluu Neighborhood Board and other Windward Oahu residents have said the Marines should clean up the valley.

Hughes said that no decision has been made on what the Marines will do next.

"I don't want to predict what the future will be for Waikane Valley," Hughes said.

He said the Marines have spent $800,000 to build a fence around the property, and it should be completed late this summer.

The decision to reopen Waikane to training came following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the need for the Marines to train for combating terrorism in places like the Philippines.

The Marines still operate a jungle warfare center in Okinawa.

Two major sweeps of the valley recovered 24,000 pounds of ordnance debris in 1976 and 16,000 pounds in 1983.

No other cleanup has been conducted since then, and no one knows how much ordnance remains.

Studies have shown that no threatened or endangered plants or animals live in Waikane Valley.


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