Wahiawa speaks out on Strykers

Posted on: Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Hawaii Stryker plan gets wary welcome

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

WAHIAWA – An Army proposal to permanently base a $1.5 billion Stryker brigade combat team in Hawai’i received a somewhat warmer reception last night in Wahiawa than
it had in several previous meetings.

Last night’s hearing was the fourth of nine to take place in Hawai’i, Alaska and Colorado regarding a revised environmental impact statement on the Stryker brigade team. The Stryker unit would consist of about 4,000 soldiers, 328 Stryker vehicles and about 600 other vehicles.

Hugh Lowery, a member of the Wahiawa-Whitmore Neighborhood Board’s ad hoc committee that reviewed the EIS proposal, said the committee and community are keeping an open mind.

On the other hand, he said, they would like some reassurances from the military.

“Basically, we said we’ll concur – if,” Lowery said.

“We’d like to see more specifics. When they say ‘significant’ (environmental impacts), what exactly do they mean by that? We live here. And I at least am pro-military and pro-training. The Army is our children, our nieces, our nephews and our grandchildren. But we need to have some controls.”

While most of the 75 people in attendance at Wahiawa District Park spoke against the EIS and the Stryker brigade, numerous residents also spoke in favor of both.

Native Hawaiian Thomas Shirai, a decorated former Coast Guard member, said his grandson is doing his second tour of duty in the Special Forces in Iraq. Shirai said his grandson and other soldiers must have the proper military training, and that projects such as the Stryker brigade are vital to America’s security.

But Kamoa Quitevis, a Native Hawaiian, Navy veteran and Hawaiian cultural monitor, said he strongly opposes the Stryker unit and harshly criticized the revised EIS. He said he has seen the damage done to cultural sites because of the military presence in the Islands.

“We all need to look deeper into this, and really see what is the impact,” Quitevis said. “I don’t seen any information in this draft EIS that is answering any of the questions of how they (the Army) will mitigate the damages to our environment, our health and our culture.”

Native Hawaiian William Prescott, who was raised in Wahiawa and is pro-military, dismissed the cultural arguments as irrelevant. The Hawaiian religion was outlawed by the Hawaiian monarchy in 1819, he said. Consequently, he said all mention of religious cultural sites should either be deleted from the EIS or listed as “formerly considered sacred cultural sites.”

Opponents of the proposal who appeared at earlier meetings in Nanakuli on Monday and in Hilo on Sept. 25 and 26 had been vocal in the condemnation of the Stryker unit and the EIS, citing pollution and limited Island space.

Numerous speakers at those meetings, as well as those last night, criticized the Army’s revised EIS, saying it was incomplete and not objective.

Last October, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the Army’s 2004 EIS failed to comply with federal environmental law because it did not analyze alternative locations outside Hawai’i.

In July, the Army issued its revised EIS that did not mention a preferred location. However, it considered the possibility of bringing the Stryker project to Hawai’i after a future Iraq deployment, or basing it at Fort Richardson in Alaska or Fort Carson in Colorado.

The Army has said that if it should have to move the Stryker unit out of Hawai’i in late 2008 or early 2009, it would be replaced with a smaller airborne or infantry brigade.

Complaints about the EIS focused on the Army’s decision to not conduct site-specific EIS studies at the Alaska or Colorado locations until a decision has been made to exclude Hawai’i from consideration.

Wai’anae activist William Aila, who spoke at the Nanakuli meeting Monday night, said the Army’s approach appears to be aimed at making Hawai’i the predetermined site.

Paul Thies, chief of the Environmental Planning Branch at the U.S. Army Environmental Center in Washington, D.C., last night said the military was conducting the meetings to hear from the community, and to
listen to all its concerns and thoughts. He said all comments will be taken into consideration.

Reach Will Hoover at whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com.

Source: http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2007/Oct/03/ln/hawaii710030391.html/?print=on

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