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News, updates, finds, and stories from staff and community members at KAHEA.

News, updates, finds, stories, and tidbits from staff and community members at KAHEA. Got something to share? Email us at: kahea-alliance@hawaii.rr.com.

Bombs Away! RIMPAC's Back

USS Missouri

From Marti:

RIMPAC officially started on Sunday, meaning you can expect beach closures, random explosions, mass strandings, and displays of excessive military force throughout the month of July in Hawaii. Remember, RIMPAC is the bi-annual demonstration of U.S.-occupation that brought us the “Hanalei Bay Incident” in 2004, when 150 melonhead whales attempted to strand themselves because of the Navy’s use of high-intensity active sonar AND the unexplained nearshore explosion that shook the windows of Ewa Beach residents on Oahu in 2006.

sonar-distressed whales at Hanalei

This year we can look forward to 150 vessels and 20,000 troops from U.S.-backed militaries — like Russia, South Korea, Australia, Japan, and Peru — engaged in all kinds of wargames, such as assault landings, target practice with live rounds, and high-intensity active sonar.


To move forward with these (and all) exercises as originally outlined in the Navy’s giant range expansion plan, the Navy had to do *something* about the pesky limitations placed on those exercises by the State of Hawaii under the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA). This federal law was passed to encourage coastal states to do more to protect their precious coastal resources, including giving these states unique authority to require federal agencies abide by state coastal protections.

Under this unique federal law, the State of Hawaii said the Navy had to do two very reasonable things related to active sonar:

1. In nearshore waters, don’t let the active sonar go above 145 decibels because this is widely accepted (even by the Navy) to be a safe level for marine mammals and humans;

2. In all other situations, abide by the conditions required by Judge Erza in the Federal District Court.

It’s not just that the Navy said “No, we don’t have to follow your stinkin’ coastal protections,” but that the Navy enlisted other government attorneys to say “no” for them in a way that would have undermine all of the cooperative state-federal partnerships set up to protect U.S. coastal resources.

I say “would have” because the legal opinion the Navy ended up with is so poorly argued that it probably won’t have much affect. Of course, it will probably take more court action at some level to sort that out.

The two basic reasons why the Navy’s legal game of Twister fails is:

1. It relies on a court opinion that was vacated, meaning the judge revisited her decision and changed her mind based on new evidence or arguments.

2. The new argument that changed the judge’s mind was that the Endangered Species Act actually says states do, in fact, have the authority to protect endangered marine species to greater extent than the federal government. And it’s well accepted that the Endangered Species Act trumps the Marine Mammal Protection Act when it comes to endangered marine species.

Sigh.

We’ll continue to keep you updated on this saga. In the meantime, you can send your thanks to the State Planning and Director Abbey Mayer for standing up for coastal protections in Hawai`i nei.

hawaiian monk seal


Hawaii County Council to Consider DU Cleanup Reso

DU slug

The military finally admitted in 2006 that depleted uranium (DU) spotting rounds for the Davy Crockett nuclear weapon system have been used at Schofield Barracks, the Pohakuloa Training Area, and possibly Makua Valley between 1962 and 1968.

The Army long denied ever using DU in Hawai‘i; reassuring residents in countless public hearings and environmental impact statements that “a records search for depleted uranium rounds was conducted and determined that these types of munitions were never part of the Army’s inventory in Hawai‘i… .”

The U.S. military has an obligation to be candid with the public about its activities in Hawaii because they have far-reaching implications for our health and welfare. The people of Hawaii will be left to suffer the consequences of U.S. military activities long after they have moved on to other fronts. That is why we must be vigilant and demand answers to our questions: Have other DU spotting rounds and the more hazardous DU armor penetrating rounds been used as well? What don’t we know about existing military contamination? What should we know before we even begin to consider pending expansion of live fire activities?

From friends on the Big Island:
The Hawaii County Council will be hearing Resolution 639-08 Urging the U.S. Military to address the hazards of depleted uranium (DU) at the Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA). The hearing is set for Wednesday, July 2nd 8:30 AM at the Council room on the 2nd floor of the Hilo Ben Franklin building.

pohakuloa training area (pta), big island. hawaii nei.

You can support by submitting this letter to all Hawaii County council members, urging their support of resolution 639-08.

A growing number of people feel it is time to stop all live-fire and shut down PTA and get to the root of the problem. Stopping all live-fire at PTA is a key public safety and environmental conservation issue. Any live-fire training increases the risk of spreading the radiation contamination. There needs to be a thorough independent assessment and clean-up of the existing contamination before live-fire training can even be considered!

Unfortunately, Council Chair Pete Hoffmann has already prepared an amendment to delete the call for a complete halt to all live firing at PTA which is the heart of the matter. Don’t let this happen!

live fire at pohakula PTA

“… Just as smoking affects the primary user as well as those inhaling second hand smoke, the airborne products of DU burning remain suspended for long periods and travel great distances in the atmosphere. We do not know all the toxicity of the airborne DU products (nano-toxicity) but some forms (DU oxides) we do know can persist in the body for decades. When internalized DU emits the most dangerous type of radiation, alpha radiation. Animals with implanted alpha emitters have shown high cancer rates and birth defects – which can pass on to subsequent, UNEXPOSED generations.

- Lorrin Pang, MD, MPH (speaking as a private citizen). Dr. Pang was born and raised in Hawaii, and is Retired Army Medical Corp, Best Doctors of America list 2006-8, Consultant to the World Health organization (WHO) since 1986, Consultant Glaxo Smith Kline


Where's the public in this "public process"?

From Evan, law school student and Legal Fellow from the Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law working on staff with KAHEA this summer:

Was thrown into the deep waters of the 1,200 page Papahanaumokuakea Draft Monument Management Plan for the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands this summer. It’s given me a unique opportunity to observe the workings of this “public” process. I’ve worked with experts in reviewing the plan, and attended several of the public hearings set up by the State/Federal Co-Trustee agencies. My observation: It is a recipe for disaster to take two years of closed door processes, package it into 4 very thick volumes and then expect the public at large to comment in any detail about what the plan entails.
700 pages of the 1,200 page plan
(This is what 700 pages of the 1,200 page plan looks like. Erm, fun.)

I first attended the hearing at the Department of the Interior in Washington D.C. (the only hearing held outside our lovely archipelago). I was quickly made aware of the fact that I would be the only person offering public testimony. So much for the public in this public hearing.

After giving an impassioned 20 minute explanation of KAHEAʻs overarching concerns, I was flooded with a steady stream of “How do you do’s?” and “Can we get a copy of your testimony?” from interested national NGO’s and congressional staffers. I was glad for the opportunity to get the word out on our key concerns, despite the dismal showing of public engagement.

The next chance I had to attend was the final night of the Federal/State Co-Trustee Island Summer Hearings Tour 2008. From all accounts, the crowd of about 60 at the Japanese Cultural Center in Moilili was by far the largest of any of the meetings. The format was a little different from D.C. and to be honest, quite unlike anything I had ever witnessed before. After a formal introduction to the Monument (same as D.C.), was an open discussion with Monument staff who were broken into 6 tables that synchronized with 6 priority management needs from the plan. It had an element of “spoon-feeding” to it, and considering that many had come to supply public testimony, made things run a little later than they may have otherwise. Nonetheless, I found this segue to be a nice opportunity to bring some of my major gripes with the plan directly to the folks who had put it together.

Over the course of this experience, I have been amazed at the bizarre nature of this top-down “public” process.

When asked: “Why was the citizen’s advisory council removed from the plan?”

A rep responded: “Actually, we do want one. We left it out because we wanted to see what the public would come up with during the review period.”

I’d suggest that a proper, engaged public process wouldn’t have waited until the review period to see what the “the public would come up with.” It all reminded me of the hide the ball game my law professors sometimes like to play. Except this is not law school. Why intentionally leave something as important as public oversight and advisory committees out of the plan, on purpose? Something as important as the Monument surely deserves better!

All told, the nine public meetings yielded about 250 total attendees and 70 testifiers. Not exactly up to par with the 100,000+ comments that helped create the Monument. Essentially, there was very little public at in these public meetings.

It is the job of the government managers to engage the public in this process–to bring the place and the process to the people. The length of time since the Co-Trustees have seen daylight, coupled with the sheer magnitude of the plan are likely culprits for this erosion of public engagement. I simply cannot accept that after previous outpourings of energy, suddenly nobody cares enough about this place to speak out. Another likely reality involves the seventy five day open period for submitting comments, which is rapidly coming to a close on July 8th. Compared to the two years it took countless full time staff to develop the plan, 75 days is simply too short a time to garner the effective and real public involvement needed to protect this special place.

This is one of the truly intact Hawaiian reef ecosystems left on earth–precious cultural and natural heritage that deserves our attention and voices. You can learn more about problems with the current plan, and how to ask for a better process and more time to get the “public” involved at: www.kahea.org.


enforcement means everybody, folks.

Posted by kahea at Jun 30, 2008 08:55 PM |

From Miwa:

On June 13, the Hawai`i Board of Land and Natural Resources quietly denied the permit of HIMB disease researcher Greta Aeby, in the closing chapter of a historic enforcement action for the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Aeby was reported in 2006 by fellow researchers to be transporting potentially diseased coral shipboard in an open-flow system–a clear violation of her research permit.

After initially contesting the violation, she and HIMB finally accepted the enforcement action earlier this year. (But only after third-party legal intervention by us at KAHEA!) She remains under investigation for other violations related to illegal disease cultivation and importation.

We have taken some heat for standing up and urging the full enforcement of the law for this HIMB researcher. Do we hate HIMB? Do we hate researchers? Absolutely not. There are plenty of good people who work at HIMB, many of whom are our friends.

What we ARE saying is that no matter who you are, the rules apply. HIMB researchers, commercial and recreational fishers–all the same. The protective rules are in place for good reason, rules for which many people fought incredibly hard. Through many years, and sometimes at great personal expense, they fought to protect this place as an intact natural and cultural legacy for future generations. This is about responsibility and it is about respect. Responsible research is about respect for the resource and respect for the people to whom the resource ultimately belongs.

reef fish, french frigate shoals

Thanks to the participation of over 100,000 members of the public, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are today protected as the largest no-take marine reserve on the planet. Permits are required to access the area, and research permits in particular, are considered a privilege for those researchers who are contributing directly to conservation of the area and can conduct their activities responsibly–with little to no impact. This is because our policies and rules in Hawai`i recognize that irresponsibly conducted research poses serious risks and can cause serious harms.

We commend the BLNR for upholding the rules in place to protect the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Through strong rules and strong enforcement, we can continue to keep this place as a true pu`uohonua. Forever.

We live in the endangered species capitol of the planet, islands impacted heavily by the onslaught of invasive species and the impacts of climate change on our Hawaiian reefs. In the face of all this, we believe that for this one, last intact and pristine Hawaiian place, we can act together to do the right thing.

conservation plan = more impacts? we don't get it.

A short video we put together on the new draft of a 15-year plan for the future of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.* We’ve read all 1,200 pages of it, and reviewed it with experts everywhere from Sierra Club to Environmental Defense. Our conclusion? We can do much, much better.

Now, we’re seeking signatures on a petition asking for a better, stronger Plan for this fragile wahi pana.

The current draft is a plan for conservation which, inexplicably, actually expands the footprint of human activity in this pristine and uniquely Hawaiian coral reef ecosystem.

In the largest no-take marine reserve on the planet, this draft of the Federal/State plan is proposing the construction of a “small municipality” on Midway, new cruise ships, more tourists, increases in extractive research, new risks of invasive species introductions, exemptions for fishing, and opening of the area to bioprospecting. An expansion of military activities–including sonar, ballistic missile interceptions, and chemical warfare simulations–would be allowed to go forward with no mitigations. The plan also disbands the existing citizen advisory council, which is pretty much the only opportunity for members of the public (non-government scientists, advocates, cultural practitioners, and resource experts) to participate in decision-making. Yeesh.

\

Over 100,000 people from all over the world helped establish the Papahanaumokuakea National Marine Monument and the Hawaii State NWHI Refuge–perhaps the most visionary legal marine area protections in history. We need to ask government managers for a plan which upholds these strong protections. We should be working towards full conservation, NOT creating and formalizing exceptions to the rules. That’s our position, anyway.

If you agree, please take a few seconds to add your name to the petition. This last intact, endangered and uniquely Hawaiian coral reef ecosystem deserves a plan for its FULL conservation. Unless we show broad public support, protections we fought so hard for will be paper, not practice.

*The hearings mentioned in the video are over, but there is still one week left to make your voice heard. More information at www.kahea.org. Deadline is July 8, 2008.

coral at midway


grassroots up and down.

Posted by kahea at Jun 27, 2008 05:07 PM |
Filed under:


From Miwa:

It’s no secret that we’re a small organization. We like to think of ourselves as “scrappy.” In the best possible ways. Grassroots up and down. It’s four of us, a little office in Chinatown, and a fridge covered in stickers. Together, we staff a membership of well over 5,000 people and campaigns ranging from the fight against military expansion in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, to protecting the poi we like to eat from genetic modification.

So, with this blog–we do our best! Our amazing graduate outreach and Hawaiian Language intern, Marion, finished up in late April, and, erm. We haven’t posted since. (We MISS you, Marion!) And yet, despite the lack of new posts, more and more people have been visiting this blog every day.

So, kala mai for the gap in posting. We’re back! This summer is going to be one of some incredible action! From court actions on Navy Sonar to amazing turns in upholding protections for the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands!

We appreciate everyone who takes the time to read this blog, and read every comment and every email you send. Mahalo piha!

And we’ll see you around!

Last Wild Shoreline on Oahu's North Shore

From our friends at the Trust for Public Land, an opportunity to participate in efforts to protect forever some of the last wild shoreline on Oahu’s North Shore. KAHEA continues to support the efforts of TPL and others, as a member of the Ko’olauloa-North Shore Alliance. We are one of a broad network of community and non-profit groups joining their voices and efforts together to protect this shoreline forever:

On the North Shore of O’ahu, the scenic property surrounding the secluded Turtle Bay Resort includes over 850 acres along the coast and 400+ acres mauka (mountain side) of the highway. The undeveloped areas feature some of O’ahu’s last slice of “country” — wild coastal beaches, surfing breaks, dramatic landscapes, traditional fishing areas, threatened green sea turtle and endangered monk seal habitat, small local agricultural lots, and Hawaiian ancestral burial grounds. The area is a natural treasure valued by residents and visitors alike as a rural refuge. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to save this slice of the real Hawai’i for today and future generations.

For more information, check out www.tpl.org/turtlebay

Kuilima Resort Company (KRC) and its parent company Los Angeles- based Oaktree Capital Management are pressing forward with plans to expand the footprint of the resort by building five new hotels and additional condominiums, adding over 3500 units (2,500 hotel rooms and 1,000 condos). The project has sparked broad concern from community, business, and governmental leaders.

However, the owner’s own financial difficulties and the recent downturn of U.S. financial markets has produced a “green lining.” Beginning last year, KRC failed to pay its creditors, resulting in a foreclosure lawsuit filed by Credit Suisse, representing dozens of U.S. and foreign lenders. Debt for the resort is currently being traded at a fraction of its face value.

In her January 2008 State of the State address, Hawai’i Governor Linda Lingle announced a bold initiative to acquire the property for the public, stating:

“(W)e can’t speculate or sell ourselves into prosperity, but I do believe we have an opportunity to purchase a piece of our future. I am proposing that we buy the 850-acre Turtle Bay property on O’ahu’s North Shore.”

The Trust for Public Land is part of a community, government, private working group formed by Governor Lingle to explore creative ways of financing such a purchase, and to form public-private partnerships to protect the property. More information on the Governor’s initiative including updates on the progress of her advisory working group is available.

The goal of the working group is to negotiate a voluntary conservation sale and acquisition, plan for the enhancement and long-term financial stability of the existing resort, seek innovative ways to create high-quality jobs with low environmental impact, and create a sustainable future for the North Shore. The Trust for Public Land is also part of the Ko’olauloa North Shore Alliance, a network of community and non-profit organizations supporting the initiative to protect this country “forever.”

You can help. Your donations and ideas are welcome. Please donate now to provide essential financial support to the acquisition initiative — and feel free to contact the Governor’s Advisory Working Group at TurtleBayAWG@gmail.com to contribute your ideas.

(photo from Keep the North Shore Country)


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