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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 8, 2001

Mink urges EIS before Army training at Makua resumes

By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer

U.S. Congresswoman Patsy Mink yesterday called on the Army to prepare an environmental impact statement for Makua Valley as a way of responding to community concerns about resuming use of the area for live-fire training.

Mink said she did not think resuming training while an environmental impact statement is being prepared was a logical way to resolve the matter.

State Rep. Bob McDermott, R-32nd (üliamanu-Salt Lake-'Aiea), on Sunday endorsed the train-and-study idea and also proposed that the Army ask for $7 million in federal money to pay for a $2 million environmental impact statement, a $2.5 million wildlife protection plan and a $1.9 million "cultural education center" to be used by military and civilians.

Dr. Fred Dodge of Malama Makua also said yesterday it didn't make sense to resume training without learning first from an EIS if that training could be conducted without serious environmental damage.

Mink said she didn't think the idea of training while doing an EIS "is a happy compromise for people who have been waiting for an EIS since 1998." Nor, she said, was a cultural center the answer to residents' concerns about live-fire training in a portion of the 4,000-acre site.

The Army faces a May 29 hearing in federal court on the issue, and is supposed to advise U.S. District Court Judge Susan Oki Mollway by May 15 whether it will be prepared to proceed with the hearing.

The Army suspended training in Makua in September 1998 so the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service could evaluate the effect of live ammunition training on endangered plants and animals in the 4,190-acre valley.

Training was set to resume in November 1999, but was delayed by a federal court settlement on an earlier lawsuit filed against the Army by Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund and Malama Makua. All parties agreed that use of the valley would not resume until a study was completed, but the settlement did not stipulate what kind of study should be done.

Then Earthjustice and Malama Makua sued the Army again.

Mink said Maj. Gen. James M. Dubik, commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division (Light) and U.S. Army, Hawai'i, and other Army officials had briefed her on the situation, but that she told them they should do a complete environmental impact statement.

"This is like the fight over longline fishing, in which a government agency wouldn't do an EIS until ordered to do so by the court," she said.

The Army said in response to questions that it was completing a revised Environmental Assessment Statement — less demanding process than an EIS — in hopes that it would satisfy community concerns. Under federal laws, the assessment is conducted to determine whether an EIS is required.

Army spokeswoman Maj. Nancy Makowski said yesterday that while the Army and Malama Makua are in litigation, McDermott's ideas seemed "too speculative for us to comment."

But Makowski added that "we have been meeting extensively with members of the community, and have proposed ways to address some of their concerns" over matters including access, and ground-water quality.