One concern with the potential expansion of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument is the possibility of interference with military operations.
At a recent Lihue community meeting where the Obama Administration was gathering comments on the expansion from Kauai residents, Keith Robinson voiced his concerns.
“I’m against the expansion of the reserve because I don’t want environmentalists to have an excuse to cripple Navy operations,” Robinson said in the meeting. “The Navy has never caused any environmental problems.”
Robinson, who owns the island of Ni’ihau with his brother Bruce, also operates a private botanical garden on Kauai.
Robert Purdy, spokesman for Kauai’s Pacific Missile Range Facility, said the facility is still evaluating the potential expansion.
“The remarks are those of interested parties who were voicing their personal opinions and/or views at a public meeting, and though PMRF will not speculate on their comments, we welcome the feedback of concerned individuals and encourage public engagement while we work with the local community on this issue,” Purdy said.
He continued: “The subject of expansion is currently being discussed at various government and community levels, and speculating on the subject or its impact on current or future PMRF and/or military operations would also be inappropriate at this time.”
In his Tuesday public comments at the Kauai Community College forum, however, Robinson offered a glimpse of insight into further reasons for his concern about the military’s activities.
“My family was informed by the U.S. military very secretly about the coming attack on Pearl Harbor eight years before it happened. We tried to prepare very secretly,” Robinson said. “History seems to be repeating itself now and Russia and China are becoming quite aggressive in the Western Pacific.”
Purdy did not offer comments on Chinese and Russian activity in the Pacific, but he did say that the training operations at PMRF ensure that military personnel are ready to defend the nation if the need arises.
“The key to ensuring national security, maintaining freedom of the seas, and avoiding tragic loss of life is to ensure that sailors receive realistic training that fully prepares them to be prepared to fight, and that the equipment they rely on is thoroughly tested prior to use,” Purdy said.
Written for The Garden Island Newspaper, published August 6, 2016. Photo by Jessica Else.