By David Corrigan
The US Army is looking to extend its lease of state lands at Pohakuloa, well before the end of the current 65 year agreement which began in 1964.
In an exclusive story by Ikaika M Hussey on The Hawaii Independent website, an October 2012 staff memo reveals the State of Hawaii is in negotiations with the U.S. Army for a new lease for Pohakuloa Training Area.
The lease is for a 24,000 acre parcel that makes up a quarter of the size of the Army training facility on Hawaii Island’s Humu’ula Saddle between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, the website reports. Currently, the land is being leased by the Army for $1.00, with an expiration date of 2029.
Activists are already springing into action.
Peace activist Jim Albertini reports that he and Isaac Harp met military leaders “to discuss a range of concerns” on Wednesday. March 20. Albertini wrote in an email that the military’s delegation included the PTA base commander, Lt. Col. Eric Shwedo, the Command’s Sgt Maj. Alan Higgs, and PTA Safety Officer, Tim Keller.
Albertini, who runs the Malu `Aina Center for Non-violent Education & Action, has been a vocal critic of the military in Hawaii for years, and he has often demonstrated outside the gates of Pohakuloa. In his email – which demands “Don’t Renew — Cancel the Unlawful PTA Lease!” – Albertini wrote about the meeting.
Albertini and Harp also wanted to know “by what authority are Hawaiian Kingdom Crown lands being leased?”
The Hawaii Independent reported that DLNR chair William Aila said the land board wont be taking up the lease within the next three or four months.
Meanwhile, its unclear how much money will even be available for “significant capital improvements” at Pohakuloa these days, since the federal sequestration cutbacks are still being figured. Major General Roger Mathews of U.S. Army Pacific told state lawmakers during a March 5th special briefing before the Hawaii State House Committee on Veterans, Military, & International Affairs that they are bracing for lost civilian jobs due to decreased military construction.
In a media release issued on Thursday, March 21, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said the Department of Defense decided to delay the issuance of civilian employee furlough notices for approximately two weeks. “This delay,” Little wrote, “will allow the department to carefully analyze the impact of pending continuing resolution legislation on the department’s resources. We have not made any decisions on whether or not the total number of planned furlough days for fiscal 2013 will change as a result of this delay.”