LIHU‘E — Concerns for native sea birds, infrastructure and cultural resources and practices are among the voiced concerns against the proposed $1.9-billion, Homeland Defense Radar – Hawai‘i project.
Two locations are being considered, one at the U.S. Army Garrison’s Kahuku Training Area on O‘ahu and the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility near Kekaha. There is also a no-action alternative.
Across two discussions last week that were part of the public scoping for the environmental impact statement for the missile-radar system project, residents voiced frustration over the proposal.
As part of the discussion on Thursday evening, Ku‘ulei Perreira-Keawekane imparted that Native Hawaiians have been disproportionately affected by assimilation.
“As you move forward in your environmental impact statement, I hope that you consider the ways that these kinds of projects including the militarization of Hawai‘i, including any kind of infrastructure that’s built on Hawaiian land,” Perreira-Keawekane said. “I really hope that you consider the impact that has on Native Hawaiians, particularly Native Hawaiians who identify with traditional modes of acculturation.”
Perreira-Keawekane also warned of the environmental impact of construction and sustained use of the proposed radar might have.
“If one bird, if one ‘ewa, one Native Hawaiian bird, dies because of this operation, that’s a significant impact,” Perreira-Keawekane said. “Every specific bird is ancestrally relevant to Hawai‘i people.”
Wailua resident Gary Hooser, a former state senator and Kaua‘i councilmember, expressed concern for the PMRF location. PMRF is being considered for its location on federal property, and if chosen, MDA will utilize the southernmost PMRF access gate at Lighthouse Road, according to a distribution statement.
“I’m very concerned about this project, and recommending option three (the no-action alternative). I don’t believe it’s suitable for Kaua‘i,” Hooser said Thursday night.
“They’re in a floodplain, those lands adjacent to that are pumped to 24-7 to keep the water out. Sea-level rise is inevitable. There’s a number of endangered species in critical habitat. There are burials in every component in the area. And I believe that it would be culturally inappropriate and sacrilegious, quite frankly, to build this in those areas.”
Hooser went on to say the social-economic impacts of housing, infrastructure and loss of potential agricultural land need to be considered, too.
Melody Aduja, a former state senator and co-chair of the environmental caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i, is in opposition to the radar for the environmental, social and cultural concerns, as well as toxic-waste disposal and electromagnetic emissions this project would impart.
This project through the Missile Defense Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense is in conjunction with the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy and Federal Aviation Administration.
The HDR-H is proposed as a single-phase array radar that’s about 85 feet tall on a 50-acre complex that 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.
In its public-scoping stage, citizens are able to provide comments on the EIS, which will consider airspace and air quality, cultural resources, land use, wildlife, water, transportation and coastal zones. If the HDR-H is to go through, the FAA will determine air-traffic regulations.
The project was initiated in 2017 by the National Defense Authorization Act, which required the MDA to develop a plan to procure a discrimination radar or equivalent center. In fiscal year 2021, funding continued the efforts with a $133 million appropriation, supported by Hawai‘i delegates.
Sharla Shriver, representing the HDR-H program, explained that the priorities of the HDR-H will be to better protect the island chain and nation against all types of ballistic-missile attacks.
“It’s important to note that today’s missile-defense system protects Hawai‘i from current threats. However, emerging missile threats must be addressed,” Shriver said. This would be part of the government’s layered missile-defense system that includes ground and ship-based radars.
An additional concern the public had dealt with the manner in which the public hearings were taking place.
During Tuesday’s discussion, Lynda Williams with the Ko‘olau Waialua Alliance on O‘ahu, as well as the Global Network Against Missile Defense, raised an issue with the meeting taking place over the telephone.
“When you’re reading off URL and you’re referring to images that we can’t see because we’re only on a phone or it’s absurd, it’s insulting,” Williams said.
Dawn Chang, at the start of Thursday’s meeting, addressed this.
“I realize this telephone public town-hall meeting is not our normal style of engagement,” Chang said. “We’re used to talking story in person. While the COVID pandemic is not an excuse, it is our reality, and we are trying our best in light of the circumstances.”
MDA will give the Kaua‘i County Council a briefing at its next regular meeting on Wednesday, April 7, at 8:30 a.m. This meeting will be held virtually and can be watched at kauai.gov/webcast-meetings.
The MDA open-house comment period runs through Monday, April 12. More information can be found at hdrheis.com.
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.