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Red Hill tainted water crisis reignites debate over military leases of public lands

The tainted water crisis at Red Hill has reignited a decades-old debate about land and the state’s leases to the military.
Published: Jan. 21, 2022 at 5:14 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 21, 2022 at 5:23 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The tainted water crisis at Red Hill has reignited a decades-old debate about land and the state’s leases to the military.

One new proposal would demand much more from the military in return for the land.

State Rep. Sonny Ganaden toured the Red Hill complex with other legislators and policymakers and is now proposing a bill that sets a process to reclaim state lands that are leased to the military.

The bill would raise rents, cap lease terms and add more oversight to military leases.

“We could leave this up to the Department of Land and Natural Resources, but I think it’s so big and it’s part of an international conversation about ... respecting rights of indigenous peoples,” he said.

The leases involve large tracts of land, including:

  • 23,000 acres at the Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaii Island
  • 4,370 acres at Kawailoa/Poamoho
  • and 1,170 acres at Kahuku and 760 at Makua.

The state gets $1 a year for the leases, which were signed 57 years ago and expire in 2029.

“I think it’s time we have this conversation about getting a better deal for our state taxpayers,” said Ganaden.

The land leases bill does not talk about military bases like Pearl Harbor-Hickam and Kaneohe since those are property of the federal government.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are also forming a special committee on Red Hill.

“When it comes to the environment, just two words exemplify the need for environmental justice: Red Hill,” said House Speaker Scott Saiki.

They insist the federal government ― not Hawaii taxpayers ― pay for the cleanup.

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