LIHU‘E — An estimated 200-400 people may be necessary to construct a proposed $1.9 billion federal Homeland Defense Radar – Hawai‘i, and then more than 100 personnel to work there.
And that’s a concern of councilmembers thinking of the strain that’ll put on the already tight housing market, the infrastructure of the island and overall culture.
A team from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Missile Defence Agency presented information regarding the missile radar defense system to the Kaua‘i County Council yesterday.
Since the project’s proposal in 2018, multiple sites have been considered, but current locations being discussed include the Kahuku Training Area Site 1 on O‘ahu, and the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kaua‘i. There is also a no-action alternative.
The project is in the public scoping phase to prepare a draft Environmental Impact Statement, which will inform decision-makers of the hazards and benefits of the project that is meant to be an added layer to detect missile attacks and defend the United States and its allies. The project received funding from the National Defense Authorization Act in fiscal years 2017 and 2021 to continue these efforts.
PMRF, located west of Kekaha, is on federal property managed by the U.S. Navy as a test and training range.
If chosen as the location, MDA will utilize the southernmost PMRF access gate at Lighthouse Road and will require existing PMRF facilities to be relocated to make room for the HDR-H radar, a data terminal, bulk fuel storage, and various other facilities and storage areas.
The proposed point at PMRF would be at its southern point, near the Kekaha Landfill and shrimp farm.
Councilmember Felicia Cowden, chair of the council’s Public Safety and Human Services committee, suggested that should the decision be to place the radar on Kaua‘i, she’s like to see “significant” contributions to build a new landfill and for public housing.
“We are very likely to lose important housing (for our people),” Cowden said.
Then there’s the physical infrastructure of Kaua‘i roads. Currently, the state’s Department of Transportation is working on major projects, including the Hanapepe Bridge, adding a fourth lane in Wailua to Kuhio Highway and analyzing the damage done by a landslide in Hanalei.
“There’s probably hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure to mitigate the struggle of putting this in place,” Cowden said.
Public access was on the mind of Councilmember Billy DeCosta, who grew up on the Westside.
“It’s a big cry of our local people when they cannot access,” DeCosta said. “We want to see more access. We’re worried about more areas that might be restricted.”
The footprint of the site, MDA HDR-H local representative Charla Schreiber said, would be within the current PMRF restricted areas and would not reach the shoreline, cutting off access.
A traffic study is being contracted out for either May or June.
The EIS will consider biological and cultural resources, access to water, land use, noise and coastal environment.
During this public scoping phase, the MDA is gathering comments and testimony through Monday, April 12.
Dawn Chang, a local consultant on the project, said that past the closing of public comments, discussions with affected communities will continue.
“While the comment period ends on April 12, that does not end appropriate comments coming in from local agencies, government agencies or community organizations including the Section 106 process.”
More information can be found at mda.mil/hdrh.html.