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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, September 9, 2006

Defense bill allots $470 million to state

By Audrey McAvoy
Associated Press

The U.S. Senate yesterday approved nearly a half-billion dollars in defense-related spending for Hawai'i, including $3 million to assess the environmental effects of chemical weapons dumped off Hawai'i's shores in the 1940s.

House and Senate leaders will approve final amounts after comparing their respective versions of the defense appropriations bill.

The legislation, which includes some $470 million for Hawai'i defense-related spending, budgets money for the fiscal year starting next month. The breakdown of Senate-approved Hawai'i spending was announced in a news release from Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawai'i.

Funds for the chemical weapons assessment come after Hawai'i members of Congress raised concerns. The Daily Press in Newport News, Va., first reported last year that the military dumped chemical munitions in at least 26 locations off the coasts of 11 states including Hawai'i over several decades.

The Army later said it identified at least two locations where 2,600 tons of mustard, cyanogen chloride, hydrogen cyanide and lewisite were dumped off O'ahu between 1944 and 1946.

One site is about 10 miles off Pearl Harbor in about 1,200 feet of water. Another is about 10 miles off the Wai'anae Coast in about 6,000 feet of water.

The Army approached Inouye and suggested that the federal government set aside funds to study the dumped weapons, said Mike Yuen, the senator's spokes-man.

The University of Hawai'i and Hawai'i businesses would be contracted to carry out the assessment.

Army officials have said the World War II era munitions did not threaten the health of Hawai'i residents.

The Department of Defense appropriations bill for fiscal 2007 also includes $25 million to help local communities acquire conservation easements around military bases and ranges like Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island.

Another $25 million is set aside for the Maui Space Surveillance System, which houses the U.S. military's largest telescope.

Other highlights:

  • $18.5 million to buy technology used to train troops flying C-17 planes out of Hickam Air Force Base.

  • $5.5 million to support construction projects at public schools with large numbers of military dependents.

  • $2.5 million to map and detect unexploded ordnance on Big Island land owned by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands that the military used to use. Plans call for eventually clearing the munitions from the land.

  • $2 million to keep brown tree snakes off military transport planes bound for Hawai'i.