KITV4: Bill to remove military from Makua

“Citing ‘serious damage to ‘aina,’ native Hawaiians, Kahele introduces bill to remove military from Makua”

By ‘A’ali’i Dukelow, KITV4, 17 March 2022

HONOLULU (KITV4) — For decades, Makua Valley has been the center of forced evictions and mass protests as the United States military conducted training on 782 of its acres. 

A 65-year land lease between the Board of Land and Natural Resources and the army is set to expire in 2029. However, Congressman Kai Kahele introduced legislation on Thursday proposing to return the Leeward O’ahu valley to the state of Hawai’i. 

The United States military has used Makua Valley as a practice arena since the 1920s, including live fire training that, “inflicted serious damage to this ‘aina and the people whom Makua is so important,” Kahele argued. 

Named the Leandra Wai Act, after one of the many Native Hawaiian activists who fought against military use of Makua, the measure also calls on the Secretary of Defense to survey the land for unexploded ordnance and other contaminants — as well as determine clean up costs. 

“Let me be clear, the United States military does not need this land. They do not need Makua, just like they do not need Red Hill,” Kahele addded. 

“They have not fired a single round in Makua in almost 20 years.”

If passed, the legislation calls for the army to convey the land back to the state no later than 6 months after enactment. 

The goal is to eventually establish a management body similar to that of the commission for the island of Kaho’olawe. 

“So the commission will be set up representing various entities that have interest in Makua that can make a collective decision about the best path forward upon return to the state,” said Sen. Maile Shimabukuro, who represents the area. 

In 2016, the army settled with advocacy group Malama Makua to allow access to culturally significant sites in the valley. 

Sparky Rodrigues, a member of Malama Makua and Leandra Wai’s husband, shared his vision for the future of Makua. 

“No development, no hotels, no golf courses, no tourists,” Rodrigues said. 

“This is a special place for us to heal, learn, and to move forward.”

Kahele expects the endeavor will cost at least the amount it took to clean up Kaho’olawe — $400 million. 

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