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A soldier with the 25th Infantry Division looks down the sight of an M240B machine gun during a joint artillery mission at Makua Military Reservation, Hawaii, Aug. 11, 2020.
A soldier with the 25th Infantry Division looks down the sight of an M240B machine gun during a joint artillery mission at Makua Military Reservation, Hawaii, Aug. 11, 2020. (Effie Mahugh/U.S. Army)

FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii — The Army is taking the first steps to renew leases for roughly 6,300 acres of state land in Hawaii it considers essential to training soldiers and Marines on the islands.

The Army intends to prepare an environmental impact statement for the leases, which will expire in 2029, according to a news release Friday. It has held these leases since 1964.

The Army is now soliciting oral or written public comments through Sept. 1 on the proposed renewal of leases for three sites.

The largest is 4,370 acres at Poamoho Training Area in the Ko’olau Mountains in north-central Oahu. The area’s deep ravines and jungle vegetation are used for helicopter training, the Army said.

In northeast Oahu, the Army leases 1,170 acres of state land called the Kahuku Training Area that has been used by the military since the mid-1950s. It is used for company-level helicopter training, large-scale ground maneuvers and air support training, the Army said.

Makua Military Reservation in northwest Oahu has been used for military training for almost a century, and the Army has leased 760 acres from the state for the past 57 years.

Among the training activities there is the use of restricted airspace for aerial drone training.

The proposed renewal of leases “does not involve new training, construction, or resource management activities,” the Army said. That will likely be key to overcoming any public opposition to the continued use of the sites.

The Missile Defense Agency had been considering two spots within Kahuku Training Area for building a new missile defense radar, but it dropped that plan last year after community opposition about overdevelopment in the area.

If the leases are renewed, the Army “would continue to conduct current levels and types of military training; facility, utility and infrastructure maintenance and repair activities; and natural and cultural resources stewardship and mitigation on the State-owned lands,” the news release said.

The Army likely faces some opposition to renewing its leases on the massive, state-owned Pohakuloa Training Area on the big island of Hawaii. The roughly 109,000-acre site is used by both soldiers and Marines for the kinds of heavy live-fire training that were discontinued years ago on Oahu over local opposition.

The local activist group Malu ‘Aina is urging the state to not renew its lease in 2029 for 23,000 acres of Pohakuloa.

In 2018, a Hawaii judge ruled against the state in a lawsuit filed by the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation on behalf of a pair of Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners, finding that state officials had not ensured proper cleanup by the military on the range.

The Army’s planned environmental study of the Oahu sites will evaluate potential impacts under various scenarios, including the full retention of the leases, modified leasing and abandoning all leases.

The Army is providing both online and in-person options for the public to obtain more information and provide comments on the leases.

Video presentations are posted on the Army's website.

Comments can be mailed to Oahu ATLR EIS Comments, P.O. Box 3444, Honolulu, HI 96801-3444 or emailed to usarmy.hawaii.nepa@mail.mil.

The Army will also host two identical meetings open to the public from 6-9 p.m. on Aug. 10 and 11 at Leilehua Golf Course, 199 Leilehua Golf Course Rd., Wahiawa, Hawaii.

The meetings will be live-streamed via U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii's YouTube account.

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