RIMPAC to Expand Activities

SUBHEAD: The U.S. Navy proposes an EIS in order to expand RIMPAC training activities in Hawaii. Lihue hearing 8/24.

By Nancy Cook Lauer on 29 July 2010 in West Hawaii Today - 

Image above: 2nd Royal Australian Regiment, 5th platoon, secures the beachhead for an amphibious assault on Pyramid Rock Beach on Oahu during RIMPAC 2010. From article.

As the biennial Rim of the Pacific exercise wraps up this weekend, the U.S. Navy is already preparing for expanded exercises in the future. The Navy has filed notice of an Environmental Impact Statement to "adjust baseline training and testing activities from current levels to match levels required to support Navy training and testing requirements" beginning in 2014.

A Navy spokesman said the EIS is for an expansion of training activities, but only a minor expansion of the training area, which currently takes in a wide swath of the Pacific around the islands as well as waters off San Diego. The new area will include a transit route between the two training-areas and also expand the Hawaii waters 60 miles west to the International Dateline. The Navy has scheduled a series of public meetings on the EIS in California and on the major Hawaiian Islands, including one Aug. 26 in Hilo.

 RIMPAC, the world's largest multinational maritime exercise, takes place from June 23 through Aug. 1 in the waters around the Hawaiian Islands. This year's event brought 14 nations, 32 ships, five submarines, more than 170 aircraft and 20,000 personnel to Hawaii. U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman Mark Matsunaga said the EIS is needed by 2014 because of a five-year renewal required by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The last EIS took effect in 2008. In addition, according to the Navy's July 14 notice, it needs to "accommodate evolving mission requirements associated with force structure changes," including those resulting from the development, testing and introduction of new vessels, aircraft and weapons systems into the fleet.

The military can't go into a lot of detail about that. "There are all kinds of potential responses that we here in the Pacific could be called upon for," Matsunaga said. The Hilo meeting is scheduled for 4 to 8 p.m. Aug. 26 at Hilo High School. The public can also comment on the EIS in writing by Sept. 14. More information is at HSTTEIS.com. The EIS covers oceanography, air quality, airplane noise, biological resources, cultural resources, regional economy, recreation, and public health and safety.

Cory Harden, a Big Island Sierra Club member who has been active in marine environment issues, said she plans to attend the Hilo scoping session. "Of course the Sierra Club is very concerned about the effect of noise on marine life, not to mention all the junk they're dropping in the ocean," Harden said. Matsunaga said he's ready for the discussion. "Come to the public meetings and help us define the issues," Matsunaga said. "We welcome public input."  

Tuesday, August 24, 2010 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Kauai Community College Cafeteria 3-1901 Kaumualii Highway Lihue, Hawaii  

Wednesday, August 25, 2010 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Keehi Lagoon – Disabled American Veterans Hall - Weinberg Hall 2685 North Nimitz Highway Honolulu, Hawaii  

Thursday, August 26, 2010 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Hilo High School Cafeteria 556 Waianuenue Ave. Hilo, Hawaii  

Friday, August 27, 2010 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Maui Waena Intermediate School Cafeteria 795 Onehee Ave. Kahului, Hawaii .

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