Army Breaks Promises at Makua

Violated Settlement in Draft Environmental Impact Statement


David Henkin, Earthjustice (808) 599-2436


Fred Dodge, Malama Makua (808) 696-4677

The Army is continuing to violate its commitment to perform comprehensive archeological investigations of areas at the Makua Military Reservation on O’ahu, according to a new government document received by Earthjustice. The document, a draft environmental impact statement for military training at the live-fire training facility, also shows the military has broken its promise to the Wai’anae community to consider training locations other than Makua.

The draft EIS is the result of an October 2001 settlement agreement between the Army and Malama Makua (represented by Earthjustice),

Earthjustice secured an advanced copy of the draft EIS earlier this week. It reveals the Army has failed to conduct archeological surveys of all areas within Makua’s Company Combined-Arms Assault Course ("CCAAC") and of areas outside the CCAAC that might be hit by artillery and mortar shells, in violation of the 2001 settlement. The Army has also refused to consider locations other than Makua, where live-fire training could be conducted with less harm to irreplaceable cultural and biological resources, violating both its obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act and its promises during public scoping for the EIS in 2002 that it would explore such alternatives.

"The EIS is supposed to give the Army and the public the information they need to decide whether to allow training at Makua," said Malama Makua spokesman Fred Dodge. "That’s why, when we settled our lawsuit, we insisted that the Army agree to carry out comprehensive archeological surveys of the areas where mis-fired mortar or artillery shells could destroy cultural sites. The Army’s failure to hold up its end of the bargain makes this EIS useless for making an informed decision about training at Makua."

Makua, which means "parents" in Hawaiian, is a sacred site, rich in cultural resources. Over 100 Native Hawaiian cultural sites have been identified at Makua, including heiau (Hawaiian temples), ahu (altars), burials and petroglyphs. The 2001 settlement required the Army to complete, as part of the EIS process, surface and subsurface archeological surveys of all areas within the CCAAC training area and surface archeological surveys of all "surface danger zone" areas (areas artillery and mortar shells might land) outside the south firebreak road. For areas suspected of containing improved conventional munitions ("ICMs"), the Army committed to making good faith efforts to secure waivers to conduct the required archeological surveys.

"After signing the settlement in 2001, the Army did absolutely nothing for over two and a half years to try to get a waiver," said Earthjustice attorney David Henkin. "It still has never submitted a complete waiver request. I don’t call that ‘good faith."

When the Army invited the public to provide input on the EIS’s scope in 2002, it promised to consider locations other than Makua for military training, including training at Pöhakuloa Training Area on Hawai’i Island and building a replacement facility at another Army facility on O’ahu. Because of Makua’s cultural and biological importance, the public endorsed the Army’s proposals, particularly urging the Army to consider re-configuring facilities at Schofield Barracks to accommodate company-level training. In the draft EIS, the Army categorically refuses to consider any alternate locations for training.

"The Army may have a short memory because its commanders change every couple of years, but we don’t," said Malama Makua president Sparky Rodrigues. "We’re going to hold the Army to their promise to take an honest look at moving training out of Makua. We owe it to our children and children’s children to protect this sacred place."

"When the Army wants to do something, like bringing Strykers to Hawai’i, it says spending hundreds of millions of dollars to move ranges at Schofield and build new facilities at Pöhakuloa is no big deal," noted Dodge. "When the community wants the Army to protect Makua by training elsewhere, all of a sudden, it’s ‘no can.’ That’s just not right."

The alternatives section is considered the heart of the EIS. To allow for an informed choice by the Army and the public, the EIS must evaluate alternatives that would avoid or minimize adverse impacts to the environment. In addition to scores of cultural sites, fifty endangered and threatened species – as well as thousands of acres of native forest habitat on which they depend – are threatened by live-fire training at Makua.

"When you consider that the Army has trained at Makua only 26 times in the last seven years, the Army’s claim that Makua is vital to its mission looks pretty dubious," said Henkin. "In fact, the Army didn’t even use 11 of the training exercises allowed under the 2001 settlement."

From September 1998 until October 2001, Makua was closed to live-fire training pursuant to an earlier settlement agreement between the Army and Malama Makua (represented by Earthjustice). The 2001 settlement authorized the Army to conduct up to 37 live-fire exercises at Makua while preparing the EIS.

Additional Resources

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people's health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.