In reversal, state says military training at Big Island range not compatible with conservation land

The state documents said the Army’s draft EIS does not meet requirements and has major gaps.
Published: Aug. 15, 2022 at 5:50 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 15, 2022 at 5:58 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Army has a surprising new critic to continued military training at the Pohakuloa range on the Big Island: The state.

HNN obtained documents in which the state Land Department said the training is not compatible with the conservation land. The Army wants to retain up to 23,000 acres of state land at the Pohakuloa Training Area for continued training and asked for comments on a draft environment impact statement.

Options included retaining the land for military use, partial retention or losing its 65-year lease, which expires in 2029. It’s a lease that cost the army just $1.

The state documents said the Army’s draft EIS does not meet requirements and has major gaps.

“Military use that involves maneuvers, ammunition, artillery and mortar systems, depleted uranium, explosives, firing points, hazardous materials and waste, live fire, unexploded ordnance, and weapons systems do not appear to be consistent with the Conservation District,” said the DLNR’s Office of Conservation and Coastal Land, in the June 7 document.

“The OCCL was alarmed at the number of previous dump sites on the state-leased land. It is inappropriate to conduct this type of warfare practice upon Conservation District land adjacent to areas designated as critical habitat for the palila; and a recreational campground for the people of Hawaii.”

Clarence Ku Ching, Native Hawaiian activist, said he’s celebrating the pushback.

“This is something new. I’m not sure what’s causing it, but it’s a welcome position that the state ― at least DLNR ― is taking.”

Attorney David Kimo Frankel says it’s been years since he’s seen this new approach from the state.

“It’s really refreshing to see staff at DLNR take on an aggressive approach to protecting our resources,” said David Kimo Frankel, attorney.

DLNR Chair Suzanne Case was also concerned about the impact to nene, the Hawaiian hoary bat and its habitat and said the draft EIS lacked mitigation measures.

The Army says it’s working on responses to the comments, but has said training at Pohakuloa is necessary for the military and local agencies.

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