Posted on: Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Lawsuit opposes Stryker brigade
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer
Three native Hawaiian organizations are challenging the Army’s Stryker plan in federal court, saying the service failed to consider any location other than Hawai’i for the fast-strike unit, in violation of federal environmental law.
At a press conference at ‘Iolani Palace yesterday, Kipuka spokesman Beau Bassett talked about the lawsuit challenging the Stryker plan.
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The lawsuit, filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Honolulu by Earthjustice on behalf of the ‘Ilio’ulaokalani Coalition, Na ‘Imi Pono and Kipuka, seeks to prevent the Army from going forward with the transformation of the 2nd Brigade at Schofield Barracks to a Stryker brigade.
The groups want the Army to delay the project until it expands its environmental impact statement to adequately consider “a range of alternate locations outside Hawai’i for transformation,” according to a news release.
In response to the suit, the 25th Infantry Division (Light) and U.S. Army, Hawai’i, released a statement yesterday saying, “We are disappointed that we have been sued as the Army has worked hard to involve the community and public throughout the planning process for transformation and the detailed environmental study conducted to ascertain the environmental effects.”
The environmental impact statement was released on June 4, and following a 30-day public review period, the Army signed a “record of decision” on July 7.
The approximately 3,000-page environmental review states that 1,736 tons of dust would be generated from increased vehicle traffic, an increase of 81 percent.
The Army plans to post 291 Stryker vehicles – similar to this one at McChord Air Force Base, Wash. – in Hawai’i by 2007.
The Army also concluded there would be significant effects on cultural and biological resources, but that mitigation efforts could reduce them.
The Army said it was going ahead with the Stryker Brigade because it is “critical to achieving current and future national security objectives in U.S. Pacific Command’s area of responsibility.”
Vicky Holt Takamine, president of the ‘Ilio’ulaokalani Coalition, said native Hawaiians have a responsibility to preserve and protect the natural and cultural resources of Hawai’i.
“With every move to destroy cultural sites, to destroy endangered species, native Hawaiian resources that are vital to our cultural practices, we find it extremely difficult to pass on these traditions to the next generation,” Holt Takamine said.
The Army last month gave final approval to the $1.5 billion brigade of 291 Stryker vehicles while acknowledging the cultural and environmental concerns of those who have opposed it.
The plan calls for the acquisition of 1,400 acres on O’ahu and 23,000 acres on the Big Island, and networks of private trails for the 20-ton Stryker vehicles.
Earthjustice attorney David Henkin said the National Environmental Policy Act requires federal agencies to look at the range of alternatives before proceeding with a plan such as the Stryker Brigade, which is expected to be operational by 2007.
“They didn’t look at that at all,” Henkin said at a news conference on the grounds of ‘Iolani Palace yesterday. He said the closest the Army got was examining two alternatives – transforming a brigade in a different location, and transforming the 2nd Brigade at Schofield but sending its members to the Mainland for training.
Reach William Cole at firstname.lastname@example.org or 525-5459.