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Getting to Green: U.S. Navy Building Strength Through Stewardship in Hawaii

By Rear Adm. John Fuller
Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific

April is Earth Month, which makes this the perfect opportunity to reflect on the mutually beneficial and strong relationships we share in Hawaii. We are all part of the ohana (family), and we all care about the environment and protecting and strengthening it through cooperative stewardship.

Let’s look at some tangible examples where the ohana delivered and let’s start with a really cool initiative, Loko Pa‘aiau fishpond. Located at McGrew Point Navy housing, this ancient fishpond is one of three fishponds in the Pearl Harbor area which is still relatively intact. Our volunteers work closely with Hawaiian civic clubs and school groups to periodically conduct cleanups, removing invasive mangrove and pickleweed. Ultimately, this partnership will re-create a fully functional restored fishpond available for educational opportunities for future generations.

Here are some other examples of good neighbors working together to protect the environment:

Adopt a Stream: Navy’s Afloat Training Group Middle Pacific adopted Kalauao Stream through the City and County of Honolulu’s Adopt-a-Stream program, cleaning and managing areas around the stream. With our neighbors, we clean beaches and roadways as part of a network of partners in the community.

Pearl Harbor Bike Path cleanup: Speaking of being good neighbors, for the past 10 years the Navy partnered with the City and County of Honolulu to clean up the bike path twice, annually. Last month, Mayor Caldwell’s office awarded our volunteers – service members, civilians and family members – with another Good Neighbor and Environmental Hero award.

Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam: At the Joint Base, Air Force Airmen and Navy Sailors and their families join together to mālama ‘aina (protecting the land). Last year JBPHH closed Fort Kamehameha Beach and Ahua Reef to all domestic animals in an effort to protect endangered birds and sensitive plant species and restore the reef and important wetland sites. Each fall, JBPHH invites our Native Hawaiian friends and partners on base to conduct the wonderful Makahiki celebration. Cultural and environmental sustainability go hand in hand.

Pacific Missile Range Facility:  We believe PMRF – our installation at Barking Sands, Kauai – is the Navy’s pound-for-pound environmental stewardship champion. Officials including from Hawaii House of Representatives (“Stewardship of the Land and Strong Community Involvement”), National Military Fish & Wildlife Association and the Kauai County Council – presented 11 environmental awards in  seven years to PMRF. Achievements include albatross relocation project, shearwater fallout prevention, honeybee and hive protection, and sea turtle nesting and hatching monitoring.

Accountability: Several years ago, during excavation at Radford High School’s track and football field, workers discovered debris that our military left there many decades ago. U.S. Navy partnered with the Department of Education and the Department of Health to study, safeguard and remove debris. The Navy spent $9.2 million to help restore the track and field area. In another example, we recently closed legacy cesspools that predated joint-basing in order to comply with state law.

We remain committed to confronting and being accountable for our actions and we are equally committed to presenting science-based evidence to enhance understanding and highlight solutions.

Those were just a few examples that highlight our environmental stewardship and strong partnerships in the community. However, there are many more including mammal protection; energy security initiatives and our proven track record with solar energy, biofuels and other renewables; Red Hill and our commitment to keeping the drinking water safe; and our key partnership with the state to combat the invasive Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle.

As part of the ohana, we will continue to do our part to protect and preserve our Hawaii Nei (beloved Hawaii) – and not just during Earth Month, but always. candacewilliams