LIHUE — The United States military is working on increasing training by air, land and sea in 2019 and Kauai is on the list for places where training would occur.
On Kauai, training would occur in nearshore waters, bays and harbors, with naval forces as well as Army, Air Force, and U.S. Marine Corps special ops forces.
A draft environmental assessment was published Thursday on the military training and calls for training exercises to start in 2019.
On the water, training will be directed at swimming and diving, launching and recovering submersible small vehicles and inserting and extracting special ops personnel using watercraft.
Land-based training will include crossing the beach on foot, simulating building clearance activities using simulated munitions, engaging in high angle climbing and using observation techniques in special reconnaissance role-playing scenarios.
Air-based training includes unmanned aircraft systems or aircraft using drop zones or landing zones for parachute or rope suspension training activities.
Oahu, Hawaii Island Maui, Molokai and Lanai are also on the list for increased training.
Jim Albertini, founder of the Malu Aina Center for non-violent education and action, was contacted by West Hawaii Today for a comment, said he hadn’t yet read the full 249-page draft environmental assessment
But some of the land-based activities described in the executive summary used the exact language to that in another notice he had just received about special reconnaissance role-playing scenarios to be conducted near Maunakea county park, he said.
“It’s outrageous. It appears the Navy now wants to expand operations and conduct armed covert Special Ops in our Maunakea county park and on the slopes of Maunakea,” Albertini told West Hawaii Today. “I say no way. The military needs to clean up the toxic messes all over Hawaii, not expand their training into our parks and on the slopes of sacred Maunakea.”
The training activities would not restrict the ability of individuals to use or access recreational areas. Nor are the activities expected to cause harassment or taking of marine mammals, the EA says.
The activities “may affect but would not adversely affect” five Endangered Species Act-listed plant species and associated critical habitat for two of the species including orangeblack damselfly, two yellow-faced bee species, Hawaiian coot, Hawaiian common gallinule, Hawaiian duck, Hawaiian stilt, Hawaiian goose, Hawaiian hawk, band-rumped storm petrel, Hawaiian petrel, Newell’s Townsend’s shearwater, Hawaiian hoary bat, oceanic whitetip shark, giant manta ray, green turtle, hawksbill turtle, olive ridley turtle, Hawaiian monk seal and associated critical habitat, blue whale (Central North Pacific Stock), Main Hawaiian Islands Insular false killer whale and associated critical habitat, fin whale, sei whale and sperm whale, according to the EA.
The draft environmental assessment contemplates two alternatives as well as a no-action alternative.
Under the preferred alternative, each non-federal training site would be used for a maximum of 10 events per year, pending receipt of real estate agreements or right-of-entry permits, within the training study area. The maximum number of events across all non-federal land training sites would not exceed 330 events. For federal property, up to 265 events would occur per year.
The other alternative would decrease the activity on each non-federal property training site to a maximum of six events per year. The maximum number of events across all non-federal land training sites would not exceed 198 events. Federal property within the training study area would see up to 52 events per year.
The EA may be viewed online at https://go.usa.gov/xUnDC (click on Environmental Assessment Open for Public Review at left side of page) and at some public libraries, including the Kailua-Kona Public Library.
Comments may be submitted by email to NFPAC-Receive@navy.mil, or by mail to: Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific, Attention: Project Manager, EV21.JZ, 258 Makalapa Drive, Ste 100 Pearl Harbor, HI 96860-3134
••• West Hawaii Today contributed to this report.