November 18, 2008
Settlement lets OHA access some Stryker training areas
Deal with Army aims to ensure protection of cultural resources
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Army have settled OHA’s 2006 federal lawsuit claiming the Army failed to protect Native Hawaiian cultural resources when it brought the Stryker brigade to the state.
OHA representatives, along with an archaeologist, will be able to survey certain Stryker training areas at Schofield Barracks, Kahuku and Pohakuloa as a result of the agreement, the state agency announced yesterday.
Through the surveys, OHA said it and Army representatives “aim to ensure the appropriate identification and treatment of cultural and historic resources located in Lihu’e, the traditional name for the Schofield Barracks region,” as well as other parts of Hawai’i.
The settlement means the Army can put behind it another legal case involving the $1.5 billion Stryker brigade of 4,000 soldiers and about 328 of the armored eight-wheeled vehicles.
The unit is deployed to Iraq. The soldiers and vehicles are expected back in Hawai’i in February or March.
“This agreement will afford OHA the opportunity to have a firsthand look at important cultural resources that would not otherwise be accessible to the general public, and to determine whether they were fully addressed in the Army’s prior surveys of areas affected by Stryker activities,” OHA chairwoman Haunani Apoliona said in a statement yesterday.
Col. Matthew T. Margotta, commander of U.S. Army Garrison, Hawai’i, said the Army values the “spirit of cooperation and communication with OHA.”
Margotta added that the agreement will “build upon our existing robust programs to identify and care for these cultural and historical resources, while balancing the need for soldier training.”
When it filed the lawsuit, OHA said cultural monitors had been partly responsible for the discovery of historically significant sites and burial grounds that were overlooked by the military’s archaeologists.
On July 22, 2006, an unexploded-ordnance removal crew bulldozed across a buffer protecting Hale’au’au heiau at Schofield, according to cultural monitors hired by the Army.
OHA also said there were other incidents involving displacement and damage of petroglyphs, the filling of a streambed known to contain Native Hawaiian sites and the construction of a road over burial grounds.
The Army in 2001 decided to base a Stryker unit in Hawai’i, and started about $700 million in construction projects.
Based on a separate federal lawsuit, a federal appeals court ruled in 2006 that the Army had not adequately examined alternative locations outside Hawai’i for the fast-strike unit, and ordered the Army to do so.
The decision temporarily halted one of the biggest Army projects in the Islands since World War II.
The end of that lawsuit brought the resumption of about six construction projects related to the Stryker brigade. Work is projected to continue through 2017.