Development of a public shooting range at Puuanahulu has slowed while organizers work out noise concerns with some of the neighbors.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources has formed a working group to create another round of sound assessments to supplement previous sound assessments that were already completed as the group prepares its environmental assessment for public comment.
“It is our intent that this group would acknowledge stakeholder interests together with the need for a technically legitimate and financially feasible supplemental assessment,” said DLNR Chief Engineer Carty Chang, in a Dec. 31 letter responding to a request by Gerard Gibson, area vice president for Hilton Hawaii and Southern California, to be part of the working group.
The Kohala Coast Resort Association, which represents 60 percent of the island’s hotel rooms and vacation rentals, has objected to the project, saying the project location is unsuitable because noise from the shooting can be heard at area resorts. The association wants the state to consider other locations.
“There is a place for a shooting range on our island, but this proposed location is not appropriate,” Administrative Director Sharon Sakai said in a Feb. 27 letter. “Given all of the other available land, a large-scale shooting range should not be developed right next door to one of the island’s major commerce and employment centers, where tens of thousands of visitors come every year to enjoy Hawaii’s peaceful beauty.”
A master plan and environmental assessment for the project was originally planned to be released in early 2013. The public shooting range, in concept, was approved by the Board of Land and Natural Resources in February 2007.
The working group, which includes stakeholders, neighbors and representatives from Waikoloa resorts, will hold its first meeting next month. The meetings are limited in size and not open to the public, said Chang.
Gibson and other representatives of Hilton Waikoloa Village could not be contacted by press time Wednesday. Efforts to reach representatives at Waikoloa Resort Association, which is also on the mailing list for Chang’s letter, were also unsuccessful.
Project planners are settling for a less optimistic time frame for the shooting range to be complete, following earlier forecasts that construction could begin this year.
At a 2012 scoping meeting, PBR Hawaii Project Manager Catie Cullison kicked off the public discussion of the long-sought shooting range with the optimistic forecast based on a preliminary archaeological report showing no burials or lava tubes.
The only archaeological features appear to be trail remnants, Cullison said, and biological surveys showed no threatened or endangered species.
DLNR retained the consulting firm to create a master plan and environmental assessment for the shooting range. She said the project, which would locate the range on 1 square mile of state land mauka of Queen Kaahumanu Highway and adjacent to the West Hawaii landfill, will likely receive a finding of no significant impact.
“So far, so good,” Cullison said at the time, when asked what major concerns island residents might raise about the project. “So far those deal breakers haven’t come to my attention.”
Cullison said Thursday that a conceptual master plan for the project has been prepared and the firm is continuing to work on the development of an environmental assessment.
“We’re trying to work through and understand these concerns and the public impacts,” she said.
A nonprofit organization, On Target Inc. was formed in 2010 to build and run a public shooting range, but Hawaii Island residents have been working to get approvals and traction for a range for more than two decades. Starting in 2003, several people began coordinating their efforts to get funding and those approvals.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s proposed budget has included $3.25 million for the project spread out over several years.
The first phase, as presented during a 2012 public meeting, calls for general-purpose rifle, pistol, 3-D bow hunting and archery ranges and a sporting clay course. The second phase includes a 1,000-yard rifle, 100-yard airgun, action pistol, and pistol, rifle and shotgun ranges, as well as a trap and skeet area.
Supporting facilities are expected to include structures to house management and operations, as well as a hunter education center, rest rooms, picnic areas and parking.