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Marine Corps Will Not Increase Flights to Kalaupapa

Ho`olehua Airport still on the table as refueling station

After receiving opposition from residents as well as state and federal agencies, the U.S. Marine Corps says it won’t increase training activity in the Kalaupapa settlement. The proposed actions were part of an expansion of Marine Corps presence in Hawaii, which still includes a possible refueling station and training at the Ho`olehua Airport.

According to the Programmatic Agreement (PA) for Hawaii operations, activity in Kalaupapa will now remain at the current level of 112 operations annually, performed by H-1 helicopters. The originally-proposed action would have added training of MV-22 Osprey tiltorotar aircraft, which would have approximately doubled current activity.

“[We] want to thank the military for eliminating any increased landings of these helicopters at Kalaupapa, which we consider to be a sacred place where the quiet is essential for the reverent atmosphere,” wrote Ka `Ohana O Kalaupapa, a patient advocacy group, in a letter to the Marine Corps.

But the group did not sign the PA because “we realize that other communities did not get the same results that we did.”

Approximately 40 organizations and agencies have been considered consulting parties to the PA that would give the Marine Corps the green light to move forward with proposed activities throughout the state. Many consulting parties, such as State Historic Preservation Officer William Aila, already signed the PA.

“All mandatory and invited signatories signed, as well as some concurring parties,” said Lt. Diann Olson, deputy public affairs officer for Hawaii’s Marine Corps, via email. Mandatory parties included Marine Corps Bases Hawaii, the Hawaii State Historic Preservation Office, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, according to Olson.

But some other state and national agencies chose to decline signing the PA, such as the Historic Hawaii Foundation and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, indicating concerns with the Marine Corps’ plan.

“Despite the… review process, the undertaking is still anticipated to include significant levels of demolition of historic properties,” wrote Historic Hawaii Foundation Executive Director Kiersten Faulkner.

The Kaneohe Neighborhood Board on Oahu passed a resolution against the increased Marine Corps activity at the nearby base, citing aircraft noise and safety concerns in the community.

On Molokai, community member Lori Buchanan and her ohana built an ahu, or stone alter, in protest to the proposed refueling site near the Ho`olehua Airport.

“Marine Corps Base Hawaii…and all others who continue to move forward in support of this PA have left us here on Molokai with no recourse but to erect a visible and tangible representation of our cultural significance to these lands,” said Buchanan.

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