Army Makua study opposed

Army Makua study opposed

Wai’anae group asks court to order new one, delay live-fire training

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

A Wai’anae community group yesterday asked the federal court here to reject an environmental study prepared by the Army and require it to do a new one before soldiers are allowed to resume live-fire training at Makua Military Reservation.

Malama Makua, represented by Earthjustice attorney David Hen-kin, said the Army failed to adequately prepare contamination studies and archaeological surveys that are part of a settlement agreement between the group and the Army.

Malama Makua made its request to the U.S. District Court in Honolulu. The group is asking the court to set aside, or annul, an environmental impact statement prepared by the Army for training at Makua.

The military has not conducted live-munitions training in the 4,190-acre valley since 2004 while the Army addressed community demands that the training not harm archaeological and cultural sites, and the environment. The Army has been hoping to return to combined-arms, live-fire exercises involving helicopters, artillery and mortars.

The Army yesterday issued a statement saying it “has satisfied its obligations required in the previous settlement agreements.” The statement, issued by U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii, said the public has the right to challenge the process and that “it is standard Army policy not to comment on potential or ongoing litigation, and to allow the courts to reach a decision before responding.”

U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii spokesman Loran Doane said the Army has not set a date to resume live-fire training at Makua. He said any such training would not begin until the appropriate mitigation measures and conditions identified in the final environmental impact statement have been implemented.

Last month, Col. Matthew Margotta, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii, said he was confident that the Army would be able to balance cultural and biological resource protection in Makua with its training needs for soldiers.

Henkin said the Army has not complied with its end of the settlement agreement, even as Malama Makua agreed to permit limited Army training in Makua while the environmental impact statement was being prepared.

“We put on the table that we wanted to make sure that the Army would tell people if the food they put on the table is being poisoned by the military training,” Henkin said. “And we wanted complete information about the archaeological and cultural resources that could be lost forever if the Army returned to training at Makua.

“The Army promised to give those to us as part of the bargain. We didn’t get it. We’re back in court.”

Henkin said the Army was required to indicate the likelihood of past military training in the valley contaminating fish, shellfish, limu and other sea life area residents gather and eat.

Instead, he said, the Army conducted two questionable studies on fish and shellfish, only studied limu (seaweeds) that are not eaten by people, and did not study other sea life in the area at all.

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