A blessing ceremony held Feb. 26 in Kalaupapa marked the beginning of the Makanalua Bombing Range Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study.
The Malama Aina Joint Venture Team, made up of contractor USA Environmental Inc. and Native Hawaiian Veterans, gathered for the pre-project blessing.
Makanalua Bombing Range, also known as Kalaupapa Bombing Target and Kalaupapa Naval Bombing Range, is located southeast of the Kalaupapa Airport and east of the Molokai Lighthouse within Kalaupapa National Historical Park on the Makanalua Peninsula.
The Makanalua Bombing Range is a nearly square parcel of approximately 160 acres. Inclusion of bombing and rocket range buffers increased the project area to a total of 937 acres (718 land, 219 tidal water acres). In 1941, the Territory of Hawaii issued a permit to the U.S. Navy to use the area for aerial bombing. Typical aircraft involved in the training were Hellcats, Wildcats, Dauntless, and Corsairs. Active bombing took place between 1942 and 1945.
In 1946, the land was returned to the Territory of Hawaii. The land is currently owned by the Department of Hawaiian Homelands, and managed by the National Park Service, State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, and State of Hawaii Department of Health.
The Army Corps of Engineers is the lead agency involved in the continuing effort to clean up unexploded military ordnance that still exists in many areas of Molokai and around Hawaii. In 1986, the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act was passed, a legislation that gives authority for certain cleanup activities at Formerly Used Defense Sites, or FUDS in the United States.
A preliminary assessment in 1999 revealed the presence of three to five-pound practice bombs in the area. Soil samples detected metals like lead, zinc and copper, but in levels well below that of human risk. Prior to last year, a series of meetings with stakeholders including DHHL and the NPS led to a plan to remove munitions.
The plan scheduled work crews to remove munitions from September through November of 2012. Health problems with the project manager led to the delay in the project, said Kalaupapa NHP Cultural Resource Program Manager Erika Stein.
According to Stein, the current project is an investigation, not a clean up, though dangerous munitions will be removed if found. Stein’s job is to make sure that all cultural and natural resources are protected during the project. Stein has been involved with reviewing the technical plans and so far is, “comfortable with how it’s been going.”
A crew of around 20 people is on the ground in Kalaupapa, including two archeologists and a botanist who are on site every day. Munition specialists from USA Environmental Inc. are also involved. Stein said they investigation is scheduled to be completed around the end of March.
The project group has “kept Kalaupapa in the loop,” said Stein, with regular community meetings. A meeting on this project is scheduled for tomorrow, March 13, at noon at McVeigh Hall in Kalaupapa. Anyone interested in attending the meeting must first be sponsored by a patient in Kalaupapa or one of the stakeholders.