Sasha J. Schorr / The Maui Weekly – 2007-09-09 22:01:28
MAUI (September 06, 2007) — Protests and commotion filled the air as the US Navy prepared to hear public comments for its Hawai’i Range Complex Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for proposed naval training in Hawai’i.
Protestors lined Ka’ahumanu Avenue next to Baldwin High School on Monday, Aug. 27, expressing vehement disapproval of US Navy “war games” in and around Hawaiian land and water, with special concerns about potential harm that military sonar may have on the marine environment. More than 50 people representing themselves and a variety of organizations attended the public hearing to voice their opposition on the Navy’s proposed EIS.
Preceding the hearing, an informational session complete with diagrams and brochures was held by the US Navy and companies contracted by the Navy to provide the public with access to information on environmental impacts of the proposed war training.
“We don’t feel like missile target practice is affecting the environment to a point of harming it,” said Alanzo Lopez, manager at the Kaua’i Test Facility, a company contracted by the Navy. “Nothing goes over the land. Before we launch, we make sure there are no ships.”
When asked about the remnants after launching target missiles, he said, “The aluminum falls into the ocean and all of the remnants burn up and fall away into the exoatmosphere.” According to the Department of Defense, the exoatmosphere is defined as “above 120 kilometers, where atmospheric interaction is minimal.”
“The current draft is successful in the sense that it adequately analyzed environmental impacts for training,” said Karen Waller, a government contractor with Mantech SRS. “Based on the EIS, I don’t feel that the environment will be adversely affected.”
“What we do is not just about technology,” began Capt. Aaron Cudnohufsky, a commanding officer for the Pacific Missile Range Facility. “We recognize our responsibility in environmental stewardship.”
Capt. Cudnohufsky also said that war games conducted in and around Hawai’i are an important part of training for US military personnel who are placed in harm’s way.
A concerned citizen commented that this line of reasoning is an anachronistic concept. “The allure of war as winnable is archaic.”
According to the International Ocean Noise Coalition (IONC), “The international community has recognized the threat that human-generated ocean noise can have on marine life. The Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission, the World Conservation Union, the European Parliament and European Commission and other international fora have all acknowledged the potential harm that ocean noise can have on the marine environment.”
The global level of cooperation on this issue extends to the United Nations (UN), the organization implemented to facilitate international communication and cooperation on an international and legal basis. According to the IONC, “the UN Secretary General has referred to ocean noise as one of five ‘current major threats to some populations of whales and other cetaceans,’ and also included noise as one of the ten ‘main current and foreseeable impacts on marine biodiversity’ on the high seas.”
IONC findings and the UN statement are poignant because they illustrate cooperation and functionality of the world community, seemingly negating the outdated rationale used to justify war games.
“This technology was built to kill human beings in war-the side effect is what happens to marine life,” said a Maui resident.
Opposition among residents of Maui is in accord with the world community as stated by the IONC, UN, European Parliament and other international organizations. Not a single public attendee voiced accord for the current US Navy draft EIS or for war training in and around the Hawaiian islands.
Jeff Pantukhoff, founder of The Whaleman Foundation and a humpback whale researcher for more than 10 years, conveyed his disapproval of US Navy environmental stewardship. “The draft EIS claim that 195 decibels is safe is blatantly false. There is no science to back this up. Whales avoid 120 to 125 decibels, and 150 decibels is deadly. The US Navy admits exposure to sonar can kill mammals.”
He compared it to “tobacco science” when he remarked how the Navy is conducting their own research on potential hazards of their own war games on the environment, just like the tobacco industry that conducts research on itself and its own actions.
Some concluded that preparation for purposes of war has already been enacted to the fullest extent. “I’m totally against Navy games. Our Navy is over-prepared,” said Howard Sharp, a concerned citizen.
“The Navy has no jurisdiction here,” stated Robert Rudgasch, representing the concerns of Native Hawaiians. “This is the Kingdom of Hawai’i. This is Kanaka Maoli country. They should be talking. In 1898, the state rejected annexation.” Rudgash summarized his feelings: “You’re committing a crime against humanity!”
“Previous research shows whales stopped their song off the Kona Coast during military sonar,” said Brooke Porter, community outreach coordinator at Pacific Whale Foundation. In accordance with the foundation, she said, “We are against the use of military sonar.”
“We need to get out the message to protect Papahanaumokuakea,” said Helen Anne Schonwalter, who has fought the effects of Naval sonar on whales for more than 20 years. She expressed how national monuments like Papahanaumokuakea would be adversely affected by proposed war games, despite draft EIS documentation.
“You didn’t touch one ordnance to clean Kaho’olawe,” said war veteran Leslie Kuloloio about actions conducted by the Navy. He received a standing ovation and a cheer of collective disapproval of the Navy’s inaction on Kaho’olawe. “You haven’t cleaned one range, and now you’re starting another. Back off!”
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