Wednesday, January 31, 2001
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Posted on: Wednesday, January 31, 2001

Kaho'olawe explosion to go off as planned

By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui County Bureau

WAILUKU, Maui — A planned detonation of a large bomb on Kahoolawe today will continue as scheduled despite a plea from a marine conservation group to postpone the blast for the sake of endangered humpback whales.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jane Campbell said the decision to proceed came yesterday after consulting with the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

"Given the location of the ordnance item, the National Marine Fisheries Service advised that while some energy may enter the water, the amount will be very small and the chances are slim that there would be any effect on marine life," Campbell said.

Margaret Dupree, protected species program coordinator with the fisheries service, said her office gathered as much information as possible about the detonation and then consulted with the agency’s acoustic experts.

"After looking at the position of the bomb and the terrain, (the experts) said it’s not expected to have any effect on the animals in the area,’’ Dupree said yesterday.

Pacific Whale Foundation researchers will monitor the detonation from Puu ñlai near Makena Beach. The group had requested that the Navy delay the explosion because its research has shown that at this time of year, the area within 100 meters of Kahoolawe's shoreline is frequented by humpback whale mothers with newborn calves, "singing" males and large competitive groups of whales.

The foundation asked that the detonation be delayed until after May 15, when the whales typically will have left Hawaii to migrate to northern summer feeding grounds.

"We strongly hope that the Navy will decide to postpone the detonation given the large numbers of whales in the area, but if they decide to go through with it, we want to monitor the impact on those whales," said Pacific Whale Foundation President Greg Kaufman.

Kaufman and other researchers with the foundation will be observing whales in the vicinity of Kahoolawe before, during and after the blast, he said.

The 2,000-pound World War II-style bomb is the largest single explosive device found on the former Target Isle to date, according to the Navy. Located near the south shoreline of the Kanapou district, the bomb is scheduled to be detonated in place between 11 a.m. and noon today during a media tour of ordnance-removal operations on the island.

Kahoolawe was used for bombing practice by the Navy until autumn of 1990. Congress has allocated $400 million to clean up the island and remove the unexploded ordnance.

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