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From Marti:

Hearings tonight:
1/11 (Tuesday) at Hilo Intermediate 6-9pm
1/12 (Wednesday) at Waimea Elementary and Intermediate 5:30-9pm

This week, the U.S. Army is holding two hearings on its plan to expand operations at Pohakuloa Training Area to include risky high-altitude helicopter training on the sacred slopes of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. If can, please attend a hearing near you, and pass along the word to others!

This type of high-altitude military training exercise caused a crash in the Mauna Kea Ice Age Natural Area Reserve in 2003, where an irreplaceable cultural and natural area was damaged.

So far, the U.S. Army has done very little study on how these activities will impact irreplacable cultural and natural resources, endangered species, access, cultural practice, or hiking/recreation on the slopes of Mauna Kea.

You can find more details and talking points below. Please let the Army know that Hawai`i demands better for our sacred mountains.

Mahalo nui,
Marti

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Proposed Action: High-elevation, high-risk helicopter training exercises in the protected forest reserves of Mauna Kea

– The proposed project area encompasses the Kīpuka ‘Āinahou Nene Wildlife Sanctuary, Palila bird critical habitat, a Native bird flight corridor, game management areas, as well as the habitat for twenty-one plant, thirteen insect, and ten bird and mammal species under state and/ or federal protection.

– Similar attack helicopter training exercises in Hawai`i have resulted in numerous crashes, injuries and fatalities. In 2009, the CAB lost two pilots when their Kiowa Warrior helicopters took a “hard landing” and crashed in flames near Schofield Barracks. Two other army aviators died when their Cobra helicopter malfunctioned over Schofield in 1996.  Six soldiers (4 of whom were from the CAB) were killed and 11 injured when two Black Hawk helicopters collided during a night training exercise over Kahuku in 2001.

Talking Points:

Environmental Assessment is Inadequate: The Army’s Environmental Assessment is not forthcoming about the threats expanded military exercises on Mauna Kea pose to Native Hawaiian rights, fragile ecosystems, nor to other recreational uses of the area. Nor does it detail mechanisms whereby the Army can be held accountable.

Require an Environmental Impact Statement: The Army must complete a full environmental impact statement — not the minimal environmental assessment conducted so far — on all of the Army training at PTA.  This EIS must include a cumulative impact assessment of all land uses threatening Mauna Kea (like the new giant telescope proposal).  The EA fails to adequately analyze: (1) noise impacts, (2) risks to recreational users, (3) threats to protected and endangered species in the project area.

Require a Cultural Impact Assessment: This EIS should also satisfy Hawaii’s state environmental reporting requirement for a cultural impact assessment. The Army’s EA notes some historic properties of cultural significance in the landing zones.  Instead of studying these areas more closely, the Army’s EA relies on the 2009 University of Hawaii Comprehensive Management Plan.

Mitigate Accidents:  This type of high-risk trainings have been linked to many accidents.  In 2003, the exact same kind of training resulted in a helicopter crash in the Mauna Kea Ice Age NARS.

As people who love and care for our beloved Mauna Kea, your testimony can help to protect this area from the harms of these dangerous military exercises.  Please attend these important hearings and spread the word!

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We attended the Honolulu scoping meeting on the Navy’s planned expansion of sonar and underwater munitions testing and training activities two weeks ago. We’re still working on processing the information and our thoughts about the process. In the meantime, we thought we’d share these thoughts from Uncle Jim on Moku o Keawe about their experience in Hilo:

From Uncle Jim Albertini:

Tonight’s (8/26/10) EIS Scoping Meeting on Navy expansion plans for Hawaii and the Pacific was more hardball than the Marines similar meeting of 2 days ago. (Then again, at the Marines meeting we had retired Marine Sergeant Major, Kupuna Sam Kaleleiki, to open the path with a pule and the initial public testimony.)

The Navy EIS personnel weren’t nearly as respectful of the right to public speaking and the community being able to hear each others concerns.  Some of the Navy team were downright arrogant, insulting and contemptuous.  Initially the Navy wasn’t going to allow us to bring our portable sound system into the Hilo H.S. cafeteria to hold a citizen public hearing.  Finally with police presence brought in, the Navy yielded the last hour of the planned 4-8PM event to our citizen hearing.

Some of the Navy EIS team were blatantly rude in not listening to community speakers and carried on their own conversations.  Before the public testimony, we invited all present to join hands in a pule and asked for mutual respect, and open minds and hearts.

The Navy refused to have any of their personnel take notes to make the public comments part of the official record of scoping concerns.  Community people were very respectful of the Navy personnel as human beings, but the aloha spirit wasn’t returned by many of the Navy people present.  Too bad.

Many of the Navy people were hard set to their format. Tour the science fair stations, and  If you wanted to comment, put it in writing or type it into a computer.  We were told over and over.  This is not a public hearing. No public speaking is allowed.

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Many of you followed the sonar lawsuit from 2008, in which KAHEA, in partnership with Earthjustice and other local, national and international NGOs, sued the U.S. Navy over its proposed expansion of military exercises around Hawai’i, including the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The State of Hawai’i, at our urging, also asked the Navy to comply with laws protecting endangered species in Hawai’i. Not surprising, the Navy refused.

Now, there’s another round of public scoping hearings for more sonar and more detonations. But don’t worry about those whales. According to the U.S. Navy, the deafness caused by underwater explosions and sonar is only temporary.

An update on U.S. Navy training in Hawaiian waters, from the Hawaii Independent:

The U.S. Navy announced its intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Overseas EIS (OEIS) relating to military training and research, including sonar and detonating explosives, within the Hawaii-Southern California Training and Testing (HSTT) study area.

Public scoping meetings throughout Hawaii have been scheduled to hear comments. Last year, the federal government issued authorization to the U.S. Navy to impact whales and dolphins while conducting sonar training exercises around the main Hawaiian Islands for five years, Environmental News reported.

The letter of authorization and accompanying rules allow for injury or death of up to 10 animals of each of 11 species over the five years covered by the regulations. The Navy requested authorization under the Marine Mammal Protection Act because the mid-frequency sound generated by tactical active sonar, and the sound and pressure generated by detonating explosives, may affect the behavior of some marine mammals or cause what the Navy calls “a temporary loss of their hearing.”

Mid-frequency sonar can emit continuous sound well above 235 decibels, an intensity roughly comparable to a rocket at blastoff, according to Environmental News.

The sonar blasts travel across hundreds of miles of ocean to reveal objects, such as submarines, underwater. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) will be a cooperating agency in preparation of this EIS and OEIS. In January 2009, the NMFS’s ruling stated: “After reviewing the current status of the endangered blue whale, fin whale, humpback whale, sei whale, sperm whale, Hawaiian monk seal, green sea turtle, leatherback sea turtle, loggerhead sea turtle, and Pacific ridley sea turtle, … [Navy training activity in the Hawaii Range Complex] each year for a five-year period beginning in January, 2009, are likely to adversely affect but are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of these threatened and endangered species under NMFS’s jurisdiction.”

While Earth Justice wants the Navy to stop using sonar until it can avoid serious injury to marine mammals, the environmental group recommends several things the Navy can do to minimize the harm to marine life: Impose seasonal and geographical limitations, avoid nursing areas, ramp sonar up slowly, avoid areas that were created specifically to protect endangered marine life, create a 25-mile safe haven distance from shorelines, avoid steep-sloping seamounts that provide important habitat for many marine species, prohibit testing at night or other times of low visibility, and adopt protocols similar to those of other naval forces to minimize the impact on marine wildlife.

The Navy’s latest proposed action is to conduct training and testing activities within the at-sea portions of existing Navy training range complexes around the Hawaiian Islands and off the coast of Southern California. Training activities, such as sonar maintenance, explosives, and gunnery exercises, may occur outside of Navy operating and warning areas. In 2009, the Navy instituted mitigation measures relating to sonar that include stationing lookouts, adjusting sonar decibel levels when marine animals are detected within 200 to 1,000 yards, and increased visual and aerial surveillance for marine life. The HSTT study area combines the at-sea portions of the following range complexes: Hawaii Range Complex, Southern California Range Complex, and Silver Strand Training Complex. The existing western boundary of the Hawaii Range Complex is being expanded 60 miles to the west to the International Dateline.

The HSTT study area also includes the transit route between Hawaii and Southern California as well as Navy and commercial piers at Pearl Harbor and in San Diego, CA where sonar may also be tested.

Public scoping meetings will be held between 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

– Tuesday, August 24, 2010, Kauai Community College Cafeteria, 3-1901 Kaumualii Highway, Lihue, HI.
– Wednesday, August 25, 2010, Disabled American Veterans Hall, Weinberg Hall, 2685 North Nimitz Highway, Honolulu, HI.
– Thursday, August 26, 2010, Hilo High School Cafeteria, 556 Waianuenue Avenue, Hilo, HI. 6. Friday, August 27, 2010
– Maui Waena Intermediate School Cafeteria, 795 Onehee Avenue, Kahului, HI.

The meetings will consist of an informal, open house session with informational stations staffed by Navy representatives. Additional information concerning meeting times is available on the EIS and OEIS website at http://www.HawaiiSOCALEIS.com. The scoping process will be used to identify community concerns and local issues to be addressed in the EIS and OEIS. All comments provided orally or in writing at the scoping meetings, will receive the same consideration during EIS and OEIS preparation. Written comments must be postmarked no later than September 14 and should be mailed to: Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southwest, 2730 McKean Street, Building 291, San Diego, CA 92136-5198, Attention: Mr. Kent Randall—HSTT EIS/OEIS.

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Mahalo again to Alan McNarie for excellent investigative piece on Depleted Uranium (DU). Schofield Barracks (O’ahu) and Pohakuloa Training Area (Hawai’i Island) are main areas where DU is a concern, but the Army has also admitted that there may be DU at Makua (O’ahu).

According to a high Army official, the Army never intended to remove depleted uranium ammunition remnants from Pohakuloa Training Area and Shofield Barracks, and it has no plans to do so for as long as the firing ranges at those facilities are still in use.

See the full article in the Big Island Weekly at: http://bigislandweekly.com/articles/2010/06/30/read/news/news02.txt

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Video and article on the Hawai’i Undersea Military Munitions Assessment–the search to find legacy dumped munitions around Hawai’i, in the UH Malamalama: “…the first study of possible chemical weapons sites in Hawaiʻi and the most comprehensive study ever taken in U.S. waters…”

http://www.hawaii.edu/malamalama/2010/04/underwater-ordnance/

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Now that the U.S. Army has admitted to the presence of depleted uranium at its Hawaiʻi live fire training ares, the Army has applied to the NRC for a permit to possess DU at Pohakuloa Training Area. If granted, the permit would allow remains of depleted uranium spotter rounds from the Army’s cold-war-era Davy Crockett nuclear howitzer on site at the training area. The army had denied the presence of depleted uranium in Hawaiʻi until a citizen’s group unearthed an e-mail about their discovery in 2006.

Last week, the Big Island Weekly reported on the NRC’s findings on the U.S. Army’s monitoring plan–a plan intended to detect potential impacts from so-called “fugitive dust”:

The U.S. Army’s plan to monitor the air over Pohakuloa Training Area for depleted uranium has drawn sharp criticism from some Native Hawaiians, environmentalists, activists and independent experts. Now the Army has gotten an admonishment from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“We have concluded that the Plan will provide inconclusive results for the U.S. Army as to the potential impact of the dispersal of depleted uranium (DU) while the Pohakuloa Training Area is being utilized for aerial bombardment or other training exercises,” wrote Rebecca Tadesse, Chief of the NRC’s Materials Decommissioning Branch, in a recent letter to Lt. General Rick Lynch, who heads the Army’s Installation Management Command.

See full Article: “NRC to Army: DU monitoring plan won’t work

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From Melissa:

The Army plans to continue on with training in Makua Valley even though over 50 species of endangered plants and animals are found in the valley, over 100 of archaeological features are present and there is much resistance from the local community.

Eight years after agreeing to do so, the Army yesterday completed an environmental examination of military training in Makua Valley by saying it wants to conduct up to 32 combined-arms live-fire exercises and 150 convoy live-fire exercises annually in the 4,190-acre Wai’anae Coast valley.

The “record of decision” by the Army scales back from the 50 combined arms and 200 convoy exercises the Army selected in June as a “preferred” alternative.

“This (Makua) environmental impact statement was a very thorough and publicly open process,” said Maj. Gen. Raymond V. Mason, commander of the Army in Hawai’i and the deciding official. “We’ve reached the best decision that allows our soldiers and small units to train locally and reduces their time away from families, all while ensuring the Army continues to protect the precious environment entrusted to us.”

To reduce the risk of range fires and threats to endangered species and cultural sites, the Army said it would not use tracer ammunition, TOW or Javelin missiles, anti-tank and 2.75-caliber rockets, or illumination rounds.

Additionally, the proposed use of added training lands at Ka’ena Point and what’s known as the “C-Ridge” in Makua are off the table, the Army said.

But Earthjustice attorney David Henkin, who has represented community group Malama Makua in a nearly nine-year lawsuit against the Army, said the level of training proposed still far exceeds anything conducted by the Army before 2004.

Under the terms of a 2001 settlement, live fire with helicopters, mortars, artillery and a company of about 150 soldiers was halted in 2004 because the Army hadn’t completed the agreed-upon environmental impact statement.

“This is a common trick, which is, let’s propose something totally horrendous … and then compromise with something that’s just awful, and people will be thankful, and that’s sort of the (Army’s) approach,” Henkin said of the Army’s record of decision issued yesterday.

Henkin said the Army proposes to do at Makua essentially the same training and use the types of weapons “that time and time again in the past have caused wildfires that have killed endangered species.”

To read the full article click here.

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