Former Maui Bombing Target, Site of Army Corps Study
By Wendy Osher
The US Army Corps of Engineers begins work later this month to survey and sample the Kanahena Point area of South Maui that was used as a former bombing target and defense site.
Investigation activities include geophysical work, as well as visual surveying and sampling of the site.
The USACE plans to use the information obtained from the Feasibility Study to help in determining the type, quantity, and concentration of munitions, as well as the most appropriate action to address any ordnance or contamination identified at the site.
Kanahena is located within the ʻĀhihi-Kīnaʻu Natural Area Reserve, an area characterized by a coastal lava field that is protected because of its cultural and historic sites, as well as natural resources.
Crews found munitions at Kanahena during a site visit in 1996. When they returned in November of 2007, more munitions were found including a 50 caliber round, two 155mm shrapnel pieces, and a variety of other ordnance debris.
The earlier reports from the USACE indicate that Kanahena was used by the US Navy as a mining drill area, a naval shelling target, and for practice bombing between 1945 and 1946. The site visit and inspection prompted the request for a feasibility study, and a public meeting was held last week to explain the plans further.
Earlier this year, the governor signed an emergency proclamation that allows the USACE rights of entry to conduct work that ensures public health and safety.
“I want you to understand that even though the exemption or emergency proclamation gives the Army Corps of Engineers some exemptions from laws, we still have personnel that are on the ground with them, and they still have the requirement to follow all of the federal laws with regards to health, safety, environmental protection, and the protection of cultural sites,” said Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Chair William Aila Jr., who supported the emergency action.
Both Aila and the governor were criticized when the proclamation was signed, but not posted on the DLNR website until August.
Alia explained that there was a miscommunication between the governor’s office, the DLNR and the state attorney general’s office. He said there was “no desire to hide the issue” from the public.
“This administration was in its infancy stages, we were still figuring out what we needed to do. We were trying to save every federal dollar because of the economic impacts to the state of Hawai’i, because of the recession that we were in. It was in line with the governor’s early plan to make sure that we didn’t let any federal dollars go by unused,” said Aila.
Aila called the proclamation a “practical application” that has the potential of saving lives.
In the last week and a half, crews were able to take action to remove a WWII Japanese grenade and 51mm Japanese mortar found at a state park on the Big Island. Both pieces of munition, Aila said, were active with high explosives–one was located in an area used by campers. The items were moved and detonated, eliminating the safety hazard.
“The health and safety issues would have continued to have occurred had we not locked down that money,” said Aila.