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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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From Marti:Lualualei along the Waianae Coast

The Navy has been on the hot seat lately for the damage it has caused in Hawaii nei.  In central and western Oahu, the Environmental Protection Agency and the state got a commitment from the Navy to clean up any remaining contamination at two Superfund sites – one in Lualualei near the naval munitions storage area and the other in Wahiawa. While preliminary investigations have indicated that no immediate threats currently exist at the sites, soil contaminants at the sites include PCBs, volatile organics, semi-volatile organics and metals. PCBs can cause cancer in animals and adversely affect the nervous, immune, and endocrine systems in humans.

“Our agreement with the Navy and the state finalizes the process that the Navy will follow to complete the investigation and clean up of any remaining chemical contamination at both sites.” said Keith Takata, director for the EPA Pacific Southwest Region’s Superfund Division.

The agreement with the Navy is open to public comment.  Get your say in now by visiting: www.epa.gov/region09/NavalComputer

Check out the full article at The Hawaii Independent: http://www.thehawaiiindependent.com/hawaii/oahu/2009/04/02/epa-us-navy-agrees-to-clean-wahiawa-lualualei-superfund-sites/

Broken coral reef from the USS Port RoyalAnd, on the South shore of Oahu, controversy is brewing as the state attempts to hold the Navy financially responsible for the carnage of coral from the USS Port Royal grounding in February 2009.  Ten acres of ancient coral was destroyed!  Chunks as large as cars are still bouncing around on the ocean floor causing further damage.

“There is a critical need for the U.S. Navy to mitigate the damage which has occurred, which continues to occur, and which will get worse with the upcoming south summer swell,” said Laura H. Thielen, chairwoman of the DLNR, in the letter.

“We urge the U.S. Navy to commit appropriate resources to rescue disturbed or destroyed coral, remove or stabilize rubble, and protect loose live coral that has resulted from this incident.”

Here, here!!  Systems that ensure the “polluter pays” are a completely reasonable (and actually quite capitalist) approach to addressing damage to our environment.  The Navy’s negligence destroyed a significant part of our ocean environment. They should be required to pay for the injury they have caused and do all they can to prevent further damage.

What the Navy does in this situation will be a key indication of what the public can expect from their activities affecting the Papahanaumokuakaea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (you will recall the Navy plans to intercept chemical-laden missiles over Nihoa – the only home of at least four endangered species and one of the most significant cultural and archeological sites in the archipelago).

Check out the full article here: http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/20090402/NEWS11/904020369/1001

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Female humpback whale calf will be buried at the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF), perhaps appropriate–since PMRF is the place where much of the high intensity sonar activity in Hawaii is centered. The Navy 20 years ago placed sonar devices on the ocean floor off the west coast of Kauai to detect and track underwater activity.

Maybe we can count this one against the 20 serious injury or mortality ‘takes’ for seven species of marine mammals the Navy requested a few years ago. Sigh.

From the Associated Press:

Officials are conducting a necropsy on a dead humpback whale calf that washed ashore in western Kauai this week.

A veterinarian, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials and the Hawaii Pacific University Marine Mammal Response Team arrived on Kauai on Tuesday to determine how the whale died. A Kauai cultural practitioner met the group and conducted appropriate cultural practices over the remains. NOAA said the whale is 17 feet long and is female. The cultural practitioner is expected to return to conduct ceremonies for the whale, and the remains will be buried on site at the Pacific Missile Range Facility. A tour boat captain spotted the dead whale in the vicinity of Kokole Point in Kekaha at about 8:45 a.m. Monday.

Kauai whale2019s death a mystery | North Shore Kauai

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Some random quotes about the opposition to marine monuments in the Pacific from “Islands Business International” a Fijian on-line newspaper.

The obstacles it cites: first the Navy, then WESPAC.

Ironically, the most significant opposition to extending the monuments to the full EEZs of the 11 islands had nothing to do with fishing: it came from the US Navy. Even though Bush specified in a memorandum last August that the monument designation “should not limit the department of defense from carrying out its mission” in the Pacific, senior Pentagon officials expressed concern that it could lead to future restrictions on their ability to carry out their tasks. They cited lawsuits restricting the use of active sonar, which injures whales and dolphins, that arose from Bush’s designation of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands monument two years ago. “Without the Navy, I think the monuments would have been a lot bigger,” said one environmentalist.”

But that did not prevent aggressive pushback from Pacific marine conservationists’ old nemesis, the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, a federal agency whose executive director, Kitty Simonds, has fought restrictions on fishing for three decades. Wespac is tasked with protecting the interests of fishing companies as well as insuring that these interests don’t reduce fish stocks, but it has presided over the rapid collapse of lobster stocks in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and a steep decline in the fish stocks of the Main Hawaiian Islands. It has even encouraged the issuance of commercial bottom-fishing and lobster-fishing permits in the National Wildlife Refuges of Baker, Howland, Kingman, Jarvis, Johnston and Palmyra, in violation of federal laws, says Jim Maragos, a veteran Fish and Wildlife Service scientist.

In Saipan, where tourism and the garment industry are in free-fall, a pro-monument petition attracted 6000 signatures and the Hotel Association and the Chamber of Commerce endorsed turning the waters around the three northernmost islands—Maug, Asuncion and Uracus—into a marine national monument. “Almost no one is able to enjoy these islands at this time,” wrote Lynn Knight, chairwoman of the association, in a letter to Bush, while monument status would “boost the local economy in promoting ecotourism”.

In contrast, the governor and most of the legislature have voiced their opposition to what they call “The Pew Monument” in language that strikingly resembles Wespac’s.

“The opposition was led by Wespac in every regard,” said Rick Gaffney, a former Wespac council member. “Without Wespac,” added Andrew Salas, a former Marianas legislator, “the opposition would have been minimal. There would have been a bit of grumbling because relations between the Marianas government and the federal government are pretty bad these days, but that’s it, because the overwhelming majority of the people support the monument.”

Wespac is under investigation by the US General Accountability Office and the Inspector General of the Commerce Department for suspected illegal lobbying. In a letter to Bush that received wide publicity in Saipan, Aha Kiole, an organisation essentially created by Wespac to prevent marine reserves from being created in Hawaii, accused the president of having created the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands reserve “without the participation of the Native Hawaiian people,” all of whom feel “anger, trepidation and despair” whenever the monument “is mentioned.” Although more than 100 hearings were held on the issue over six years, the letter asserts that most Hawaiians “did not know that the Pew Foundation was planning to take three-fourths of Hawaiian lands and make it into a monument.” (In fact, the total land area of the ten-islet monument is 13 sq km, while the rest of Hawaii totals 16,635sq km).

The Marianas monument, the letter continued, “will take an integral part of the Marianas culture away from the native people—with no hope of ever getting this part of their heritage back”. Like all federal agencies, Wespac is barred from spending federal funds to lobby the legislative branches of state and federal government. The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, and the Inspector General of the Commerce Department are currently both investigating allegations that Wespac lobbied the US Congress and the Hawaii legislature to push its pro-fishing, anti-conservation agenda, notably in creating Aha Kiole.

In Saipan, much of the political elite has ties to Wespac. The governor’s chief of staff, Ray Mafnas, is a senior, unsalaried Wespac official who collects over US$600 a day every time he travels for Wespac. Arnold Palacios, Speaker of the House, is a former member of the Wespac council. He wrote in a letter to Bush that the “loss of control over such a vast area of land and water is an assault on the traditions and culture of the islands.” The representative Speaker Palacios appointed as chairman of the House Federal Relations Committee, Representative Diego Benavente, is a former lieutenant governor who is running for governor. He engineered the approval of two He was president of the Saipan Fishermen’s Association in 2005 when it got a US$150,000 grant from Wespac to rent and equip a store to sell its members’ catch. But this past December, the Marianas Variety reported that the store had closed two months after it opened because of unexpected expenses “like utilities, rent, and salaries.”

Benavente was quoted as saying: “We ran out of money, basically.”

Valentin Taisakan, the mayor of the Northern Islands Municipality, which lies south of the three islands designated as a monument by Bush in January, also wrote to Bush in opposition to the monument. Taisakan, who lives in Saipan, received a US$90,000 Wespac grant to create a fishing base in his remote municipality, but the base never opened, according to Saipan sources. In another letter to Bush opposing the designation, Juan Borja Tudela, the mayor of Saipan, where most of the Marianas’ 65,000 people live, said the monument waters should be left under the control of Wespac, which he called “much more sensitive to the Pacific Islanders’ way of life.” Wespac’s vice-chairman, Manny Duenas, head of a fishermen’s group in Guam, went further in his own letter to Bush. “The taking of our marine resources may be construed as being no different than cattle rustling” and it would “serve as a springboard to ensure the cultural genocide of a people,” he wrote. The result of all this opposition, and of negotiations between James Connaughton, Bush’s environmental adviser, and Gov. Benigno Fitial, was a Marianas marine reserve truncated into three segments, all falling far short of the goals articulated by its proponents.”

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USS Missouri

From Marti:

RIMPAC officially started on Sunday, meaning you can expect beach closures, random explosions, mass strandings, and displays of excessive military force throughout the month of July in Hawaii. Remember, RIMPAC is the bi-annual demonstration of U.S.-occupation that brought us the “Hanalei Bay Incident” in 2004, when 150 melonhead whales attempted to strand themselves because of the Navy’s use of high-intensity active sonar AND the unexplained nearshore explosion that shook the windows of Ewa Beach residents on Oahu in 2006.

sonar-distressed whales at Hanalei

This year we can look forward to 150 vessels and 20,000 troops from U.S.-backed militaries — like Russia, South Korea, Australia, Japan, and Peru — engaged in all kinds of wargames, such as assault landings, target practice with live rounds, and high-intensity active sonar.


To move forward with these (and all) exercises as originally outlined in the Navy’s giant range expansion plan, the Navy had to do *something* about the pesky limitations placed on those exercises by the State of Hawaii under the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA). This federal law was passed to encourage coastal states to do more to protect their precious coastal resources, including giving these states unique authority to require federal agencies abide by state coastal protections.

Under this unique federal law, the State of Hawaii said the Navy had to do two very reasonable things related to active sonar:

1. In nearshore waters, don’t let the active sonar go above 145 decibels because this is widely accepted (even by the Navy) to be a safe level for marine mammals and humans;

2. In all other situations, abide by the conditions required by Judge Erza in the Federal District Court.

It’s not just that the Navy said “No, we don’t have to follow your stinkin’ coastal protections,” but that the Navy enlisted other government attorneys to say “no” for them in a way that would have undermine all of the cooperative state-federal partnerships set up to protect U.S. coastal resources.

I say “would have” because the legal opinion the Navy ended up with is so poorly argued that it probably won’t have much affect. Of course, it will probably take more court action at some level to sort that out.

The two basic reasons why the Navy’s legal game of Twister fails is:

1. It relies on a court opinion that was vacated, meaning the judge revisited her decision and changed her mind based on new evidence or arguments.

2. The new argument that changed the judge’s mind was that the Endangered Species Act actually says states do, in fact, have the authority to protect endangered marine species to greater extent than the federal government. And it’s well accepted that the Endangered Species Act trumps the Marine Mammal Protection Act when it comes to endangered marine species.

Sigh.

We’ll continue to keep you updated on this saga. In the meantime, you can send your thanks to the State Planning and Director Abbey Mayer for standing up for coastal protections in Hawai`i nei.

hawaiian monk seal

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Hawai‘i federal district Judge David A. Ezra today found that the Navy is violating federal law and enjoined it from carrying out its Undersea Warfare Exercises in Hawai’i’s waters without adhering to additional mitigation measures to protect marine mammals. The Navy is also required to take a hard look at the impacts of its high-intensity, mid-frequency active (MFA) sonar by preparing an Environmental Impact Statement.

Earthjustice, on behalf of Ocean Mammal Institute, Animal Welfare Institute, KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Surfrider Foundation’s Kaua’i Chapter, sued the Navy last May. Judge Ezra issued a preliminary injunction after finding the Navy was violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA), and was likely to cause harm if allowed to proceed without greater protections.

He noted the Navy’s harm threshold—173 decibels (dB)—contradicts the best available science, and “cast into serious doubt the Navy’s assertion that, despite over 60,000 potential exposures to MFA sonar, marine mammals will not be jeopardized.” The Court said further the Navy had failed to analyze reasonable alternatives to conducting its exercises in the manner it proposed, failed to notify and involve the public as required by law, and failed to take into account the potential for serious harm from an exceptionally controversial activity.

Learn more about the lawsuit and the impacts of high-intensity mid-frequency (MFA) sonar on Hawaii’s marine mammals.

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