Archive for May, 2019

Editorial on Pohakuloa

Saturday, May 25th, 2019

Editorial: All eyes on Pohakuloa Training Area
Today Updated 6:50 p.m.

The Hawaii Supreme Court hears oral arguments last week Thursday, in a case in which the DLNR is accused of failing to ensure that the military does not trash the Pohakuloa Training area on the Big Island in violation of its lease with the state.

It seems like deja vu all over again — and not in a good way. The Hawaii Supreme Court is now deliberating whether the state upheld its duty to protect public trust land over a military-leased training site — namely, Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA) on Hawaii island. Oral arguments were heard last week.

This case evokes a history of failed stewardship of Hawaii’s aina involving the military. Makua Valley, a training range for nearly a century, has drawn legal fights, including a 2001 court settlement over cultural access and a 2016 lawsuit over unexploded ordnance. Waikane Valley, which underwent munitions remedial investigation and removal after more than 30 years of artillery training. And of course, Kahoolawe, which was so known for bombing practice over decades that it was dubbed the Target Island.

In their lawsuit over Pohakuloa, Hawaiian cultural practitioners Clarence “Ku” Ching and Mary Maxine Kahaulelio claim, compellingly, that the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) failed in its duty to protect the land. Since 1964, when DLNR entered into a 65-year lease allowing the Army to use nearly 23,000 acres, it has provided scant oversight over use of the site. Just two inspections to ensure military compliance with lease terms have occurred over the past 55 years — one in 1984; and one in 1994, an unsigned one-pager with barely any information.

In ruling against DLNR last year, Oahu Circuit Judge Gary Chang ordered the state to provide a stewardship plan, regular monitoring, inspection reports with procedures for addressing violations and debris removal plans. All this would seem the right thing to do — but the state appealed. It’s now up to the Supreme Court to affirm that Chang’s directive is, indeed, the right thing to do.

Ku Ching

 
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It seems like deja vu all over again — and not in a good way. The Hawaii Supreme Court is now deliberating whether the state upheld its duty to protect public trust land over a military-leased training site — namely, Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA) on Hawaii island. Oral arguments were heard last we…
 

Big Island Press Club president John Burnett’s letter on reporter’s ousting from military public meeting in Hilo

Friday, May 24th, 2019

Published in West Hawaii Today May 21, 2019

Press club objects to reporter’s ousting

The Big Island Press Club strongly objects to the exclusion of West Hawaii Today reporter Nancy Cook Lauer from a May 16 meeting, opened to the general public, outlining Army plans to manage historic resources at Pohakuloa Training Center and Kawaihae Military Reservation.

Cook Lauer was reportedly told, “This is not a media event” and participating parties might not feel comfortable expressing their opinions in the presence of the media.

As justification for banning Cook Lauer, Julie Taomia, cultural resource manager for U.S. Army Garrison Pohakuloa, cited a federal law which states, in part, “The agency official must, except where appropriate to protect confidentiality concerns of affected parties, provide the public with information about an undertaking and its effect on historic properties and seek public comment and input.”

The law doesn’t address the issue of excluding media from a meeting opened to the public.

PTA Public Affairs Officer Michael Donnelly described the meeting, at the county’s Aupuni Center conference room in Hilo, as “a ‘consultation meeting’ with and for consulting parties and signatories to the training programmatic agreement only” and “not a general public meeting … .”

The meeting was opened to the public, however reluctantly on the Army’s part, and classified information wasn’t discussed. Comfort or discomfort with the presence of news media by participating parties is immaterial. Donnelly, in particular, should’ve known better.

The public has a right to know about decisions affecting cultural and archaeological resources on public land. The news media are the eyes and ears of the public and it is both troubling, and a public disservice, that a reporter was excluded from the meeting.

John Burnett

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Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

Pohakuloa Military officials kick out media from Public Meeting

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

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