Protective Works – The Cleanup of Kaho’olawe

Protective Works is a documentary video I edited for the U.S. Navy in 1997 on the $400 million cleanup of ordinance from the result of 50 years of artillery target practice on Kahoʻolawe, Hawaii. ~ Ed Ellsworth

On December 8 1941, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Army declared martial law throughout Hawaiʻi and utilized Kahoʻolawe as a place to train Americans headed to war across the Pacific. The use of Kahoʻolawe as a bombing range was believed to be critical to the lives of many young Americans, as the United States was executing a new type of war in the Pacific Islands. Success depended on accurate naval gunfire support that suppressed enemy positions as Marines and soldiers struggled to get ashore. Thousands of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen prepared on Kahoʻolawe for the brutal and costly assaults on islands such as the Gilberts, the Marianas and Iwo Jima.

In 1976, Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana (PKO) filed suit in federal court to stop the Navy’s use of Kahoʻolawe for military training, to require compliance with a number of new environmental laws and to ensure protection of cultural resources on the island. In 1977, the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii allowed the Navy’s use of the island to continue, but the Court directed the Navy to prepare an environmental impact statement and complete an inventory of historic sites on the island. On 9 March 1977, two PKO leaders, George Helm and Kimo Mitchell, were lost at sea during an attempt to occupy Kahoʻolawe in symbolic protest. In 1980, the Navy and the Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana entered into a consent decree which allowed continued military training on the island, monthly access to the island for the PKO, surface clearance of part of the island (10,000 acres), soil conservation, feral goat eradication and an archaeological survey.

On 28 March 1981, the entire island was added to the National Register of Historic Places. At that time, the Kahoʻolawe Archaeological District was noted to contain 544 recorded archaeological or historic sites and over 2,000 individual features. As part of the soil conservation efforts, Mike Ruppe and other workers laid lines of explosive charges, detonating them to break the hardpan so that seedling trees could be planted. Used tires were taken to Kahoʻolawe and placed in miles of deep gullies to slow the washing of red soil from the barren uplands to the surrounding shores. Ordnance and scrap metal was picked up by hand and transported by large trucks to a collection site.

In 1990, President George H. W. Bush ordered an end to live-fire training on the island. The Department of Defense Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 1991 established the Kahoʻolawe Island Conveyance Commission to recommend terms and conditions for the conveyance of Kahoʻolawe by the United States government to the State of Hawaiʻi.

In 1993, Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaiʻi sponsored Title X of the Fiscal Year 1994 Department of Defense Appropriations Act, directing that the United States convey Kahoʻolawe and its surrounding waters to the State of Hawaiʻi. Title X also established the objective of a “clearance or removal of unexploded ordnance (UXO)” and environmental restoration of the island, to provide “meaningful safe use of the island for appropriate cultural, historical, archaeological, and educational purposes, as determined by the State of Hawaii.”  In turn, the State created the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission to exercise policy and management oversight of the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve. As directed by Title X and in accordance with a required United States Navy/State of Hawaiʻi Memorandum of Understanding, the Navy transferred title of Kahoʻolawe to the State of Hawaiʻi on 9 May 1994.

The Navy, from 1998 to 2003, executed a large-scale but limited removal of unexploded ordnance and other environmental hazards from Kahoʻolawe.  Since the removal process did not completely remove all the hazardous and dangerous material from the island, a residual level of danger remains. The Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission developed a plan to manage the residual risk to reserve users and to institute a safety program, and to establish stewardship organizations to work in conjunction with the commission.

In 1993, the Hawaiʻi State Legislature established the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve, consisting of “the entire island and its surrounding ocean waters in a two mile (3 km) radius from the shore”. By State Law, Kahoʻolawe and its waters can only be used for Native Hawaiian cultural, spiritual and subsistence purposes; fishing; environmental restoration; historic preservation; and education.

The Legislature also created the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) to manage the Reserve while it is held in trust for a future Native Hawaiian Sovereignty entity.

Info courtesy of Wikipedia. The complete article is here.