Judge orders updates on Makua Valley studies
WAIANAE, Hawaii (AP) — A federal judge is ordering the Army to complete studies of impact to marine resources and cultural sites before any live-fire training can take place at Makua Valley in western Oahu.
No branch of the military has trained in Makua with live ammunition since 2004, after the Army failed to complete a court-ordered environmental study on the effects of decades of military training. The Army and its opponents have been embroiled in a decade-long legal dispute over how the military may use the valley.
Many Native Hawaiians consider the valley sacred. Others object because the environment includes more than 50 endangered plant and animals. Lawsuits came after the training exercises led to multiple fires in the 4,190-acre Waianae Coast valley.
Army officials say the military branch will abide by the order and use the military reservations in different ways, and decide whether to resume live-fire training once the studies are complete.
“The Army will continue to prepare soldiers through a training regimen that does not employ live fire while studies are completed, the results are analyzed and the appropriate level of National Environmental Policy Act planning is completed,” the Army said in a statement.
Last year, the top Army commander in the Pacific told The Associated Press he would need to keep his options open on Makua in case the construction of new ranges at Schofield Barracks and Pohakuloa Training Area is delayed.
Community group Malama Makua, which took the Army to court in 1998, welcomed the latest ruling. Sparky Rodrigues, the group’s president, said it wants to know if cultural sites and food sources are threatened.
“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 Makua can cause,” Rodrigues said in a statement.