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Monday, January 08, 2024

Kaʻū News Briefs Jan. 7, 2024

The Navy's permit to conduct war games in Hawaiian and California waters is up for renewal. The exercises involve use of sonar and explosives. Environmental groups attempt to mitigate the impact on whales, dolphins and other marine life.
Photo from Natural Resources Defense Council

A DEADLINE FOR PUBLIC COMMENTS ON THE NAVY'S WAR GAMES PERMIT FOR HAWAIIAN WATERS is Jan. 29. The military training exercises hosted by the U.S. Navy and involving military vessels and crews from other countries, include use of sonar and testing weapons, such as mines and underwater missiles that sometimes injure and kill marine animals. The Navy must renew its permit for the activities every five years. The renewal will be in 2025 but the environmental review is underway. The Navy is cooperating with the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army, and U.S. Air Force for the environmental review. All of these branches of the military join in the war games.
    The Navy is hosting a virtual open house presentation on the project website during the scoping period through Jan. 29. The presentation provides information about the Proposed Action, its purpose and need, environmental resource areas to be analyzed in the EIS/OEIS, the NEPA process, the NHPA Section 106 process, and public involvement opportunities. The public can view the virtual open house presentation and submit comments at www.nepa.navy.mil/hctteis/ anytime during the scoping period.

Military war games in Hawaiian and California waters are up for
environmental review and the public can weigh in. U.S. Navy photo
  The Navy's operating permit allows it to unintentionally kill up to three whales a year in the training area covering waters in Hawai‘i and California. The limit was reached in 2023 and in other years. The "incidental take" is reviewed to determine how to reduce the number of marine animals killed and injured during the war games. Sometimes an incidental take can go unnoticed by crews on a Navy ship. That happened in 2022 when dead fin whales were found attached to the hull of an Australian navy vessel participating in the war games. The discovery was made after the ship sailed into port. Another consideration is the effect of sonar on whales, and the impact of the Navy sinking decommissioned ships during its training exercises.
    The Navy states that the training area is important for the following reasons: "Navy training and testing areas within the Study Area provide a safe and realistic environment for training sailors and testing systems. The proximity of these areas to naval homeports allows for: Greater efficiencies during training and testing; shorter transit times; reduced fuel use, cost, and emissions; reduced wear and tear on vessels, submarines, and aircraft; increased safety with closer proximity to airfields and medical facilities on land; access to established at-sea and shore training and testing infrastructure, such as instrumented range; and maximizing sailors' training time and reducing time away from their families."
    The Conservation Council for Hawai‘i has sued the Navy and National Marine Fisheries Service to reduce the impact of the naval exercises on marine life. Conservation Council contended that "The U.S. Navy’s use of sonar and explosives can kill, injure, and disturb whales and other marine mammals that rely on
Navy war games in Hawaiian waters. Image from Stars & Stripes

their hearing to survive." In 2015, when the Navy planned "to substantially increase its activities and projected an unprecedented level of harm to marine mammals: 155 deaths, more than 2,000 permanent injuries, and nearly 9.6 million instances of temporary hearing loss and significant disruptions of vital behaviors," according to Conservation Council, the organization sued. It noted that National Marine Fisheries Service concluded that the navy’s activities would have a “negligible impact” on marine mammal species and stocks.
    In 2015, U.S. District Court for the District of Hawai‘i ruled for Conservation Council, saying the Fisheries Service’s analysis was flawed. "Following the ruling, Natural Resources Defense Council and our partners achieved a landmark settlement with the navy that placed important habitat for vulnerable whale and other marine mammal species off-limits to dangerous activities, like the use of midfrequency active sonar and explosives," reported Conservation Council for Hawai‘i.
    See more on the issue pertaining to the renewal of the Navy's permits at the U.S. Navy NEPA Projects website at https://www.nepa.navy.mil/Completed-Projects/At-Sea-Ranges/Hawaii-Southern-California-Training-and-Testing-Environmental-Planning/Training-and-Testing/. See more and the portal for delivering public testimony at www.nepa.navy.mil/hctteis/.

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HPD DETECTIVES AND HFD INVESTIGATORS ARE ON THE CASE OF A "SEVERELY BURNT BODY" found in a home that went up in flames in the 92-1600 block of Ocean View on Saturday morning. Hawai‘i Police Department and Hawai‘i Fire Department arrived at 2:13 a.m. after the dwelling was reported on fire and engulfed in flames. The resident, an elderly man, was missing but later found in the remains of the house. Officials have ordered an autopsy to confirm the identity of the victim. They reported the building as a total loss with a value of $150,000.
    Anyone with info is asked to contact Detective Donovan Kohara at 808-960-3118 or donovan.kohara@hawaiicounty.gov, or call HPD’s non-emergency number at 808-935-3311.
    Citizens who wish to remain anonymous can make an anonymous tip through Crime Stoppers at (808) 961-8300 and be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. Crime Stoppers does not record any calls or subscribe to caller ID.

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AN EVENING OF OPERA & SONG, featuring students of the Garcia School, will be presented to the public at Pāhala Plantation Managers House at 96-3209 Maile Street at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 9. Students, who are also music professors and performers from as far away as China, Mexico and New York will perform. The event is organized by Hawai‘i International Music Festival. See more at https://www.himusicfestival.com/.