In addition to plans to expand Army training facilities in the Pohakuloa Training Area, the Army recently issued a notice of a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for impelementation of High Altitude Mountainous Environmental Training (HAMET) on the slopes of the sacred mountain, Mauna Kea.
According to Marti Townsend of KAHEA, the area that the Army is proposing to use is state land (ceded lands) set aside as a forest reserve for the birds.
In the past, the Army has been granted a “right of entry” permit to use the forest reserve for “touch-n-go” type helicopter exercises and also overnight “set up camp in a hurry” type trainings. The permit is issued by the Division Of Forestry And Wildlife Head, Paul Conroy, meaning that it does not come before the Board of Land and Natural Resources in a public hearing. The public was not notified of the previous right of entry permits issued to the Army.
However, we have learned that an Army helicopter landed in the Mauna Kea Ice Age Natural Areas Reserve during a training exercise in violation of the permit. This prompted the state to require the Army to complete an Environmental Assessment pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Below is the excerpt from The Environmental Notice published on Dec. 23rd. Deadline for comments to the Army is January 24, 2011.
High Altitude Mountainous Environmental Training, Pōhakuloa Training Area, Island of Hawai‘i
In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, an Environmental Assessment (EA) and draft Finding of No Significant Impact (FNSI) have been prepared for the implementation of proposed High Altitude Mountainous Environmental Training (HAMET) at Pōhakuloa Training Area (PTA), Island of Hawai‘i. The purpose of the proposed action is to provide helicopter aviators/crews high-altitude training flight operations, while recognizing Army stewardship responsibilities within the affected region. The need for the proposed action is to provide realistic training to ready helicopter aviators/crews to be successful in the combat theater to support the operational and mission requirements of the 25th CAB, 25th Infantry Division, set forth by the Department of Army and Department of Defense (DoD) for deployment in support of combat operations in Afghanistan and future related theater actions. Activities for helicopter aviator/crew proficiency training include but are not limited to: Touch and go, limited landings, approach and departure, reconnaissance, abort and go around, and nighttime operations in designated areas. Based on the information analyzed, the EA concludes that the proposed action would not result in any significant direct, indirect, or cumulative adverse impacts on the natural or human environment. The EA and draft FNSI are available for public review at the following public libraries: Hilo Public Library, Kailua-Kona Public Library, and Thelma Parker Memorial Public and School Library. Copies can also be obtained by contacting NEPA Program Manager at (808) 656-3075 or William.Rogers5@us.army.mil. Written comments will be received and considered up to 30 days from the publication of this notice, and should be directed to the email address above, or mailed to: Directorate of Public Works, Environmental Division (IMPC-HI-PWE), Attn: Mr. William Rogers, 947 Wright Avenue, Wheeler Army Airfield, Schofield Barracks, 96857-5013.