LIHU‘E — A federal project to secure a location for a radar capable of detecting and classifying missile threats is seeking a spot close to home.
The Missile Defense Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense reopened its public-scoping period for the Homeland Defense Radar in Hawai‘i, with two sites in mind: Kahuku Training Area Site 1 on O‘ahu and the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility near Kekaha. There is also a no-action alternative.
The $1.9-billion, missile-radar system project got the green light in 2018. In the past year, two sites on O‘ahu were removed from consideration, and PMRF was added as an alternative site.
The 50-acre complex needs about 100 additional acres for temporary construction, according to the MDA. The proposed layout includes a maintenance facility, power plant, equipment shelter, radar face, data terminal and bulk-fuel-storage area.
While there is opposition, state Rep. Dee Morikawa, who represents Kaua‘i’s Westside, portions of the South Shore and Ni‘ihau, said the project is “very necessary” for both the state and nation.
“Some will say that the radar will make Hawai‘i a target. However, Hawai‘i is already a target because of our key location in the middle of the Pacific,” Morikawa said Tuesday. “No matter how much we care about protecting our culture and the environment, none of that matters if we are open to foreign missile attacks.”
The project was jumpstarted in 2018 after a false missile alert was issued in the state.
“It was an indescribable panic and a realization that it could happen,” Morikawa said.”The threats from North Korea and beyond are real, and America must be able to defend itself, its deployed forces, allies and friends from missile attacks.”
Morikawa suggested that PMRF is being considered since it’s already on federal property. If chosen as the location, MDA will utilize the southernmost PMRF access gate at Lighthouse Road, according to a distribution statement.
“I know there will be many people opposed to this project, but we need to wait and see what comes out of the environmental statement,” Morikawa said, noting that environmental, cultural and historic concerns will be respected. “The opportunity for future generations to have access to high-tech employment is a great benefit.”
Kip Goodwin of the Democratic Party Environmental Caucus believes that the proposed site at the southern tip of PMRF is vulnerable to weather events.
“The proposed site for the HDR-H is at the southern tip …. the western edge of the Mana Plain, so very-low elevation,” Goodwin said. “In other words, the facility would be close to the ocean and vulnerable to tsunami, hurricane, sea-level rise.”
Goodwin expressed concerns for the proposed specifications of the project, and remains hesitant.
“This is simply like nothing Kaua‘i and PMRF have ever seen before,” Goodwin said in an email.
The project is in its fourth stage: public scoping and preparing a draft environmental study, which requires public comment. According to a distribution statement, a telephone public meeting for participants to ask questions of MDA representatives and provide comments is Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m., accessible by calling 855-756-7520 and using access code 70114.
Comments to be considered for the draft environmental study for a layered missile defense system are being taken through Monday, April 12. More information on the project can be found at hdrheis.com.
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.