Court Confirms No Live-Fire Training at Mākua until Army Completes Missing Studies


Army ordered to report on progress in studying marine contamination, threats to cultural sites


David Henkin, Earthjustice, (808) 599-2436, ext. 6614


Sparky Rodrigues, Mālama Mākua, (808) 352-0059

Yesterday, U.S. District Chief Judge Susan Oki Mollway issued an order confirming that no live-fire training may take place at Mākua Military Reservation (MMR) on Oʻahu until the Army completes new studies of potential military contamination of marine resources at Mākua and new surveys of Native Hawaiian cultural sites at risk of destruction from military training. Judge Mollway previously found that the Army’s failure to carry out these studies violated two court-ordered settlements with Mālama Mākua, a Waiʻanae Coast community group that first sued the Army in 1998 to secure comprehensive review of the impacts of military training at MMR.

A cultural site in Mākua. The valley was once heavily populated, with a rich and vibrant cultural life.
(David Henkin / Earthjustice)

“Last year, the Army said it wanted to keep open the option of conducting live-fire training at Mākua,” said Earthjustice attorney David Henkin, who represents Mālama Mākua. “Yesterday’s order makes clear that the court will hold the Army to the promise it made in 2001 that it would first complete these important studies before any live-fire training can occur.”

In October 2010, Judge Mollway determined that the Army violated its obligation under a 2001 settlement with Mālama Mākua to complete comprehensive subsurface archaeological surveys to identify cultural sites that could be damaged or destroyed if mortar rounds, artillery shells, and other ordnance go astray during training exercises, as they have in the past. Despite the passage of nearly two years since that ruling, the Army failed to take any steps to carry out the required surveys. In yesterday’s order, Judge Mollway instructed the Army to file quarterly progress reports to “update the court on the progress of these surveys.”

The Army also must report on its progress on studies of contamination of limu (seaweed) and other marine resources in Mākua’s nearshore waters on which Waiʻanae Coast families rely for subsistence. In her October 2010 order and in a separate order following a June 2011 trial, Judge Mollway concluded the Army had violated the terms of a 2007 settlement with Mālama Mākua when it failed to conduct these marine studies.

“We have been waiting over a decade for the Army to make good on its promises to conduct meaningful studies to let us know if military training at Mākua is poisoning the food that we put on the table to feed our keiki (children) and to identify cultural sites that military training threatens to destroy,” said Mālama Mākua president Sparky Rodrigues. “We’re pleased that the court will now be keeping tabs on the Army to make sure we finally get accurate information about the harm to public health and cultural sites that military training at Mākua can cause.”

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