- Associated Press - Monday, September 28, 2015

HILO, Hawaii (AP) - The trial is set to start this week in a lawsuit claiming Hawaii failed to protect former kingdom lands at Pohakuloa that are now being used for live-fire exercises by the U.S. military.

Two Big Island residents filed the lawsuit naming the Department of Land and Natural Resources as well as its chairman at the time, William Aila. The claimants say there is unexploded ordnance on the land despite a requirement in the Army’s Pohakuloa lease that live ammunition be removed or deactivated after training exercises.

The lawsuit says the military’s actions are negatively impacting the plaintiffs as they engage in traditional practices around the area.

Oahu Circuit Court Judge Gary Chang will start hearing arguments Tuesday. Plaintiffs want Chang to compel the DLNR to act and block a future lease until the current agreement is met, according to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald (https://bit.ly/1KOcu2A).

Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. is representing plaintiffs Clarence Ching and Mary Kahaulelio. Litigation director Sharla Manley says she expects the trial to last about a week.

The lawsuit doesn’t name the United States as a defendant or claim the government is in violation of the lease. It does say that Hawaii has a responsibility to investigate and take any other needed action to ensure lease compliance.

“The way we see it, at the end of the day, who is the trustee of these lands?” Manley said.

A DLNR spokesman said there have been internal discussions about the Army’s request to seek a new lease for Pohakuloa Training Area, but nothing is pending before the Land Board.

Both the Army and DLNR declined to comment on the ongoing litigation. The state denied the lawsuit’s assertions in a September 2014 response.

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Information from: Hawaii Tribune-Herald, https://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/


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