Big Island lawsuit claims Pohakuloa dangerous
Some Big Island residents say they worry that the Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island could be a dangerous for future generations.
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They claim the state is not doing enough to assure the land is clear of live munitions and rounds after each military training exercise.
The vast area of land along the Big Island's Saddle Road has been a training ground for the U.S. military for decades.
The State of Hawaii leased 23,000 acres of Pohakuloa to the military to use for live training.
As part of the 65-year lease, the government agreed it would "remove or bury all trash, garbage and other waste materials resulting from government use of said premises."
But some local residents say that's not happening.
"There's evidence that the state knows that the Army left unexploded ordinance and other waste on the ground there," said David Kimo Frankel, of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation. "Yet under the condition of the lease, the Army has to clean this stuff up."
That's why Waimea residents Clarence Ching and Mary Kahaulelio sued the Department of Land and Natural Resources, which oversees the property.
"They have strong ties to the land because their ancestors are from there, because they have been taught the importance of protecting the land. That malama aina is more than just rhetoric. It is a principle by which they live," Frankel said.
Frankel said his clients want to make sure the state holds the military accountable for any live ordinances and ammunition and show proof of the cleanup.
"There's evidence the state has that they have not done any inspection, monitoring or any meetings with the Army to ensure conditions of the lease are complied with," Frankel said.
The state is considering extending its lease beyond its 2029 expiration date, according to Frankel.
A Department of Land and Natural Resources spokesperson said DLNR chairman Bill Aila had no comment on the matter since he has not had a chance to read the lawsuit.
The military leases the land from the state for just a dollar for the entire contract.
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