Us navy 100718-m-2339l-443 a rainbow arches over falling over the pohakuloa training area during a during rim of the pacific (rimpac) 2010 training exercise
(July 18, 2010) A rainbow arches over the Pohakuloa Training Area during a during 2010 RIMPAC exercise. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Reece E. Lodder/Wikimedia)

Exclusive: State in negotiations to renew Pohakuloa lease to Army

The State of Hawaii is in negotiations with the US Army for a new lease for Pohakuloa Training Area, according to a staff memo obtained by The Hawaii Independent.

PTA is the major Army training facility for the Pacific region, consisting of a massive 108,863 acre parcel in the saddle of Hawaii Island. About one quarter of PTA – 24,048 – was leased from the State of Hawaii in 1964 for a 65-year period. That’s the area that is being re-negotiated right now.

One question is why the renegotiation is taking place 14 years prior to the end of the lease. According to the staff memo, the Army sent a letter in October of 2012, requesting that the 1964 lease be terminated.

The reason for the request is to relocate the base camp at the east end of Bradshaw Airfield to safeguard personnel and facilities, which will require significant capital improvements. The General Accounting Office advised Applicant that it would need to secure a long-term interest in the premises to justify the investment in such improvements.

That statement doesn’t correspond with our interview with a key Bradshaw Airfield staffer, who said that he wasn’t aware of plans to relocate the base camp, which is primarily kwansit huts and a few conventional structures built in the 1950s.

Changes from the previous lease

The new lease makes some additional changes to the previous 1964 agreement.

Endangered species habitat. 1,065 acres taken out for palila habitat on the Mauna Kea side of the new Saddle Road alignment.

Unexploded ordnance. State land department officials are also recommending that the U.S. Army be held responsible for the cleanup of unexploded ordnance on the leased land. The old lease stated that the government will “remove weapons and shells used in connection with its training activities to the extent that technical and economic capability exists and provided that expenditures for removal of shells will not exceed the fair market value of the land.”

DLNR staff, according to the memo received, are arguing that “those requirements should survive the cancellation of the lease and be incorporated into the new lease.”

Decision-making on new lease

DLNR Chair William Aila said Friday that the lease will not come to the land board for a vote within the next three or four months. But one thing is certain: it won’t be subject to a new EIS, because it qualifies for Exemption Class No.1, “involving negligible or no expansion or change of use beyond that previously existing.”