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Frequently Asked Questions

Pacific Missile Range Facility and Kōkeʻe Park Geophysical Observatory Real Estate Environmental Impact Statement

NEPA/HEPA/NHPA Section 106 Process and EIS

An Environmental Impact Statement (or EIS) is a study prepared by government agencies to take a hard look at the potential environmental impacts that may result from their proposed action. An EIS is required by both federal law (NEPA), and state law (“HEPA”) when federal actions require state agency action regarding state lands. If impacts are identified, an EIS looks at what can be done to reduce those impacts. An EIS also identifies other ways to accomplish the proposed action. With this information, an agency can decide what is the best solution to meet their goal. As an agency develops an EIS, the public has an opportunity to provide input.

The National Environmental Policy Act or “NEPA” is a federal environmental planning law. NEPA requires federal agencies to consider the potential environmental impacts of their proposed action before making a decision. The Navy and NASA are complying with NEPA by preparing this EIS.

HEPA is specific to the state of Hawaiʻi and is similar to and modeled after the National Environmental Policy Act (a federal law). HEPA is Hawaiʻi’s environmental review process for analyzing the potential environmental impacts of a proposed state action. HEPA specifies how an agency should engage the public and other agencies. HEPA is defined in Chapter 343, Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes. Where an action involves both state and federal agencies, HEPA encourages the development of a single EIS.

The NEPA/HEPA process refers to the various steps to be taken during the development of the EIS. It ensures that reasonable alternatives to the proposed action are explored, that potential impacts to the environment are thoroughly analyzed, and there is an opportunity for the public to provide input into the process. As federal agencies, the Navy and NASA are required to comply with NEPA, and will be coordinating with the State of Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources, who is required to comply with HEPA, such that a single environmental impact statement meets both NEPA and HEPA requirements.

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) requires federal agencies to consider the potential effects of their actions on historic properties and look for ways to avoid, minimize, or mitigate them.

To successfully complete NHPA Section 106 review, federal agencies must:

  • Gather information to decide which properties in the Study Area are listed, or are eligible for listing, in the National Register of Historic Places (referred to as “historic properties”), and may be affected by the project.
  • Determine how those historic properties might be affected.
  • Explore measures to avoid or reduce any adverse effect on those historic properties.
  • Reach agreement with the State Historic Preservation Officer/Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation in some cases) on measures to resolve any adverse effects.

Public involvement is an important part of the NHPA Section 106 process. The Navy encourages the public to share information and concerns regarding historic properties.

Historic properties may include archaeological sites, sacred and religious sites, submerged historic resources, traditional cultural properties, or historic buildings, structures, or objects included in or eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

Consulting parties have consultative roles in the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) Section 106 process. Consulting parties, as defined in 36 CFR Part 800.2, may include state historic preservation officers; Indian tribes; Native Hawaiian Organizations; representatives of local governments; applicants for federal assistance, permits, licenses, and other approvals; and organizations and individuals that demonstrate a legal or economic relationship to the project or affected properties, or concern with the project's effects on historic properties.

The public scoping effort for this EIS will support consultation under Section 106 of the NHPA and its implementing regulations at 36 CFR Part 800, as members of the public are invited to participate, provide comments, or raise concerns.

For information about the NHPA Section 106 review process, visit the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation’s website (https://www.achp.gov/) and view their Citizen’s Guide also available on their website (https://www.achp.gov/sites/default/files/documents/2021-01/CitizenGuide2021_011321.pdf).

NEPA and HEPA require a minimum of 30 days for scoping, and 45 days for a Draft EIS. The scoping period for this EIS is 40 days.

After the release of the Final EIS and a 30-day wait period, the Navy and NASA will select an alternative and sign a Record of Decision. The Record of Decision provides a public record of the decision, describes the public involvement and agency decision-making process, and presents the commitments to specific mitigation measures to reduce environmental impacts. Availability of the Record of Decision will be published in the Federal Register, The Environmental Notice, and local newspapers and will be available to the public. For the Department of Land and Natural Resources, the EIS will be used as part of its decision making as to whether and to what extent it should issue the Navy and NASA new real estate agreements for operation of PMRF and KPGO.

For the Navy, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment approves the EIS by signing a Record of Decision. For NASA, the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Strategic Infrastructure will approve the EIS by signing a Record of Decision.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources will be the accepting authority for the EIS to meet its HEPA requirements.

A Record of Decision documents the Navy and NASA’s decision after careful evaluation of the EIS findings and input received from agencies, organizations, and the public. The Record of Decision (1) explains the Navy and NASA’s decision and alternative selected for implementation, (2) describes the alternatives the Navy and NASA considered, and (3) discusses the Navy and NASA’s plans for mitigation and monitoring to reduce any potential impacts from the project.

The Navy and NASA propose to evaluate the following 13 resources: SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT: archaeological and historic resources, cultural practices, visual resources, public health and safety, land use, socioeconomics, environmental justice; PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT: air quality and greenhouse gases, water resources; BIOLOGICAL ENVIRONMENT: biological resources; and the BUILT ENVIRONMENT: utilities, transportation, hazardous materials and solid waste. The public is encouraged to comment on these or others it would like to see discussed in the EIS.

DLNR is the state agency responsible for issuing real estate agreements and a Conservation District Use Permit to the Navy and NASA for PMRF and KPGO. Pursuant to HEPA, DLNR has responsibilities to identify the potential environmental and cultural impacts of the proposed real estate agreements in deciding whether and to what extent to issue any new real estate agreements.

NEPA and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) are two separate federal laws. The EIS is being developed to comply with NEPA and, among other resources, looks at potential impacts to historic properties. NHPA is a separate law that requires federal agencies to consider the effects of their actions on listed and eligible for listing cultural resources. These can be archaeological or architectural sites.  This review process is called a Section 106 process and follows a similar timeline to the development of the EIS. It is typically completed in conjunction with the Final EIS. As a practical matter, the NEPA and NHPA analysis are very similar, with only slightly different procedures. The NEPA/HEPA scoping meetings will also serve as an opportunity to obtain public input concerning potential effects to historic properties pursuant to Section 106 of the NHPA and Hawai‘i Revised Statutes Section 6E-42.

The Navy and NASA are conducting a Cultural Impact Assessment as part of the environmental impact analysis as required by Chapter 343, Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes. A Cultural Impact Assessment includes information relating to the practices and beliefs of a particular cultural or ethnic group or groups. Such information may be obtained through scoping, community meetings, ethnographic interviews and oral histories. Information provided by knowledgeable informants, including traditional cultural practitioners, can be applied to the analysis of cultural impacts in conjunction with information concerning cultural practices and features obtained through consultation and from documentary research. (Reference: https://files.hawaii.gov/dbedt/erp/OEQC_Guidance/1997-Cultural-Impacts-Guidance.pdf)

Real Estate Questions

The various real estate agreements expire between 2027 and 2030, with the bulk of expirations happening in 2029 and 2030.

Yes, preserving long-term use of the land is essential for PMRF to continue to meet its mission. At sites in the areas of the leased real estate, PMRF has critical facilities, instrumentation, and systems that are mandatory to safely employ assets and conduct operations on the range. These capabilities cannot be relocated to alternate sites.

Yes. Without KPGO, NASA cannot conduct its critical geodetic data collection mission that contributes to daily measurements of the Earth’s orientation in space and rotation. This data is used for scientific studies and a wide variety of positioning and navigation applications, including spacecraft navigation and the geolocation of Earth observations. The geodetic data from KPGO used by NASA and the scientific community enables and supports studies of ecosystems, water cycles, geological hazards, sea-level change, crustal-dynamics, and many other areas of Earth science. The data is particularly valuable for studying the land motion of Kauaʻi. Finally, the KPGO data is used to tie the Hawaiian Islands into the International Terrestrial Reference Frame (ITRF), which is used to locate measurements on the Earth’s surface and for various societal applications such as precision farming. Many of these applications rely on the long history and continuity of the geodetic data collected from the current KPGO location. Preserving long-term access to the land is critical for ongoing operation of KPGO and its importance to the collection of this data used by scientists around the world.

Yes. PMRF provides training and testing services to other U.S. military services, allied partners, and Department of Defense agencies. This includes the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Allied partners (Japan, Australia, Korea, Canada, etc.), the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The majority of PMRF’s training and testing operations would cease with severe impact to the defense mission.

The Navy leaseholds (684 acres) are adjacent to the Main Base, Mānā Well, and at both Kamokalā Ridge and Mākaha Ridge. The 684 acres is comprised of:

  • 392 acres of land at the Main Base, 89 acres at Kamokalā Ridge, 0.29 acre at the Mānā Water Well, 0.015 acre at Miloli‘i Ridge, 203 acres at Mākaha Ridge

The 7,664 acres of easements are directly outside the fence line and are used for utility, agriculture, and buffer areas.

The NASA leaseholds and easements consist of 23 acres on five separate sites along a one mile stretch of access road at Kōke‘e State Park.

Any changes to how PMRF is utilized by all services would have to be analyzed in separate NEPA analyses.

That will be up to the Department of Land and Natural Resources. The Navy and NASA are seeking long-term leases. Long-term means over 25 years.

PMRF is the world's largest instrumented multi-domain training and testing facility capable of supporting subsurface, surface, air, and space operations simultaneously. This premier facility supports training events that vary from small, single-unit exercises up to large-scale, multi-national exercises like Rim of the Pacific. The primary utilization of State lands adjacent to PMRF’s Main Base is encroachment mitigation, maintenance of Force Protection setback distances, storage and handling of ordnance, and road and utility access easements. The primary use of the State lands at PMRF’s Mākaha Ridge is to house radar and communications equipment critical to support the PMRF Range mission as well as road and utility access easements.

NASA’s KPGO is located on a remote ridge within Kōke‘e State Park. NASA operates the observatory to collect geodetic data that contributes to daily measurements of the Earth’s orientation in space and rotation. This data is used for scientific studies and a wide variety of positioning and navigation applications. NASA and the scientific community use the data collected by KPGO to study ecosystems, water cycles, geological hazards, sea-level change, crustal-dynamics, and many other Earth science topics. Many of these applications rely on the long history and continuity of the geodetic data collected from the current KPGO location. KPGO is in Kōke‘e State Park at an elevation of 3,600 feet near the Waimea Canyon, isolated from radio broadcasts that would interfere with the sensitive measurements made by the Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) system. The location on the island of Kaua‘i is also critical for tying the Hawaiian Islands into the International Terrestrial Reference Frame (ITRF) that contributes towards improving positioning and navigation accuracy on and around Hawai‘i.

Environmental Stewardship

PMRF follows stringent procedures, in accordance with federal, state and local laws, for protection of natural, historical, and cultural resources. PMRF has established and regularly updates an Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan (INRMP) and an Integrated Cultural Resources Management Plan (ICRMP) to ensure the best management strategies are in place for these resources. Those resources include Native Hawaiian cultural sites; military sites from World War II and the Cold War; a sugar plantation-era Japanese cemetery; dune and coastal areas to include the culturally significant Nohili Dunes; and endangered and threatened wildlife such as sea turtles, monk seals, and protected bird species. While accomplishing the mission, PMRF is sensitive to protecting these resources. PMRF is actively engaged with the Native Hawaiian community, and consults with community leaders on issues including stewardship, access, and educational outreach. PMRF is an engaged and active member of the community of Kaua‘i, and takes great pride in serving as a caretaker to the resources on the installation.

Public Involvement

Yes, the Navy and NASA will conduct comprehensive community outreach on the effort to obtain new land leases and easements. The Navy and NASA are proud and contributing members to the local community, and value and welcome input from the community, as well as the chance to share, communicate and inform the community about the priorities of the Navy at PMRF and NASA at KPGO. Most importantly, community outreach and engagement will focus on listening to the community of Kaua‘i.

The public can participate in multiple ways. During the start of the environmental planning process, the public can provide formal input during the 40-day public “scoping” period and attend public meetings. The formal public scoping period will begin on May 8, 2024 and end on June 17, 2024. When the Draft Environmental Impact Statement has been drafted and released for public review (anticipated in 2025), the public can review the document, provide formal comments, and participate in public meetings. In addition to the formal processes, the public can remain apprised of and engaged in the progress through community meetings, and, for those who have a special interest in potential impacts to historic properties, cultural resources, and cultural practices, feedback can be provided through the National Historic Preservation Act Section 106 and Cultural Impact Assessment processes.