By U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public Affairs, News ReleaseMarch 29, 2011
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii will be conducting research on aviation noise and potential natural and cultural resource impacts, March 21-April 1, at the Pohakuloa Training Area and three proposed landing zones in the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve, on the Big Island.
As manager and executor of all Army facilities and lands in Hawaii, USAG-HI is conducting the research as an additional measure to further assess potential impacts of proposed High-Altitude Mountainous Environmental Training, or HAMET.
"Our goal is to gather the most complete environmental data possible," said Col. Douglas Mulbury, commander, USAG-HI.
The garrison is undertaking this effort in coordination with 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division helicopter pilots and support crews.
"We also want to reassure the community that we are taking their concerns very seriously." Mulbury said. "In the comments they shared with us during the HAMET environmental assessment comment period, community members were concerned about potential training impacts to natural and cultural resources, as well as noise. The study we're conducting will supplement the (environmental assessment), and we will be able to show the community the results of our live research."
In December 2010, the Army released an environmental assessment for the proposed HAMET training that analyzed potential environmental impacts.
The objective of this new research is to collect data from real-world scenarios to provide the Army with additional information on which to base its analysis.
Noise-monitoring equipment will be staged at select locations within a five-mile radius of the three proposed landing zones on the western slope of Mauna Kea. The equipment will continuously record background levels of noise and Army aircraft noise levels as they fly from PTA to briefly touch down at these landing zones and then return to PTA.
Army scientists on the ground will visually monitor rotor wash and dust patterns at the landing zones. These observations are part of expanded environmental surveys and will assess generation of dust and potential impacts to natural and cultural resources.
All flights will depend on weather and aircraft availability, and no flights will be conducted on holidays or weekends.
The Army will take precautions to protect areas of concern, such as the Mauna Kea Ice Age Natural Area Reserve, while conducting the research.
Modern GPS equipment will be used to navigate to landing zones, and flight routes will be designed to avoid critical habitats and known natural and cultural resources. The Army will also brief its personnel on Mauna Kea's natural and cultural resources, including their locations and significance.
"We will be closely monitoring the aircraft, and if at any time, we detect any harmful impacts to natural or cultural resources, we will stop the activities," Mulbury said. "It's important for the community to know that we do not take our environmental stewardship responsibility lightly."
The garrison will analyze the collected data and use it to determine the next steps in the environmental planning process.