by: Mari-Ela David
HONOLULU (KHNL) - Is there a military conspiracy involving the Hawaii Superferry? That's what some protesters are saying. Wednesday night, they called the Army out on it during a public hearing at Kawananakoa Intermediate School.
The hearing was not on the Superferry, it was on a draft environmental impact statement over a plan to permanently station a stryker brigade in Hawaii. But Superferry protesters claim there is a disturbing connection.
The Army is looking at Hawaii as one of three prime sites for a permanent stryker brigade station. The other two proposed locations are in Alaska and Colorado.
"It is our observation that the people who support these projects will be paid, and those who will be affected most will pay the price," says Ikaika Hussey, an activist with DMZ Hawaii.
During a public hearing, protesters blasted the Army for conspiring with Hawaii Superferry. As evidence, they list an article in Pacific Business News published in March 2005. In it, Superferry Board Chair John Lehman says the ship will be used to transport strykers.
"Lehman told PBN that this logistical plan will make it easier for soldiers to train when the stryker brigade comes to Hawaii. The brigade will be stationed on Oahu and conduct training exercises on the Big Island," says Kauai Superferry activist Andrea Noelani Brower.
"I'm sure the Ferry would like to have some additional business. Who knows if down the road the Army puts a contract out and the Superferry wins the contract, but right now the Army's got its own transportation - boats. The Army wouldn't need the Superferry to the best of my knowledge," says Army Chief Environmental Planner Paul Thies.
Protesters fear Hawaii's environment is at stake.
"The primary armament on stryker vehicles is a gun with ammunition made of depleted uranium," says Brower.
"Weapons in the firing of this installation, on this island, we're in the continental united states, We'll never use depleted uranium. It's a Department of Defense policy, in fact it's above the Department of Defense," says Thies.
The Army will accept public concerns until the end of October, and make a decision by Christmas.
The army does admit a stryker brigade will have significant environmental impacts on Hawaii.
At the meeting, the army had a poster listing those impacts, including soil erosion, wildfires, and threats to endangered species.