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Supreme Court Says State Failed at PTA

August 26, 2019, 11:57 AM HST
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U.S. Marine Corps. file photo.

The Hawai‘i Supreme Court ruled unanimously last week that the state has failed to appropriately manage Pōhakuloa Training Area (PTA) land occupied by the US Army.

By a vote of 5-0, the court found the state of Hawai‘i remiss in its obligation to regularly monitor and inspect land at (PTA) and ensure the land doesn’t “(fall) to ruin.”

The decision was a win for Native Hawaiians. Clarence Ching and Maxine Kahaulelio, Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners, filed the lawsuit. But the legal battle stretches back to 2014 when Kahaulelio sued the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources.

She asserted then the DLNR didn’t appropriately monitor Army activities on nearly 23,000 acres of ceded land, for which the government has a 65-year lease at the price of $1.

The Army conducts live-fire training on the land. Stipulations of the lease include the Army “make every effort” to clear or disarm any ammunition after training concludes. The Army is also responsible for the removal or burial of all trash it accumulates, according to the agreement.

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Honolulu Circuit Court ruled in favor of Kahaulelio and Ching back in 2015, after lawyers proved military debris, including potentially volatile unexploded ordnance, was present at PTA. Friday’s Supreme Court decision upheld the original ruling.

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The state will now be mandated to “develop and execute a plan to conduct regular, periodic monitoring and inspection,” according to the ruling.

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