Navy Cleans Up Hawaiian Island

The Navy has launched an unprecedented data-gathering and management effort to help coordinate restoration of a Hawaiian island rich in archaeological and cultural treasures that was ravaged by nearly 50 years of bombing and shelling carried out in U.S. target practice.

The Navy is required by the fiscal 1994 Defense appropriations bill to turn Kaho'olawe over to Hawaii for "appropriate cultural, archaeological and educational purposes." To comply with the law, the Navy and contractor Parsons-UXB Joint Venture plan to create a massive database to coordinate the cleanup and collect detailed information on unexploded ordnance, historical, cultural, archaeological and natural-resources data.

The project is just part of the six-year, $260 million cleanup project, the largest contract the Defense Department has ever awarded for unexploded ordnance cleanup. Don Baker, data and geographical information systems (GIS) manager for Parsons-UXB, said that by the time the team finishes the cleanup in 2003, "this island will be one of the most documented places on Earth."

The uninhabited, 11-mile-long, 7-mile-wide island, located 94 miles southwest of Honolulu, holds special significance for native Hawaiians, who consider it a wahi pana, or a sacred place, and a pu'uhonua, a place of refuge and spiritual regeneration, said James Putnam, director of the Pacific Contracts Division for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command and the Navy's Kaho'olawe project director.

The island, which takes its name from Kanaloa, the god of the ocean and the foundations of Earth, also features more than 500 archaeological sites as well as rare plant life and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Baker said the Navy and Parson-UXB will manage cleanup of the island in 100-by-100-meter grids, with all the pertinent information on each of those grids occupying an "electronic folder" in the Oracle Corp. database developed for the project by Parsons-UXB.

Baker estimated that the database, running on powerful Intergraph Corp. servers and workstations with Microsoft Corp. Windows NT, eventually will store almost 12,000 highly detailed electronic folders, with the database approaching 1 terabyte in size. Still relatively unpopulated as the cleanup effort kicks off, the database holds about 8G of data. By the time the project is finished, Baker estimated that "we will end up with 100 times more [data] than we have."

Some of that data will be entered automatically, such as survey points recorded on data-loggers attached to Global Positioning System receivers used by crews who will precisely map the island, Baker said. Historical- and natural-resources personnel will manually enter other information, including data from preliminary surveys conducted by Hawaii and the Navy.

Data already gathered indicates the rich record that the Navy and Parsons-UXB may generate in the cleanup and restoration process. When mapping vegetation, the Navy has unearthed a rare plant called the Kanaloa Kaho'olawensis, which was discovered by surveyors rappelling down a cliff. Benton Pang, a Parsons-UXB natural-resources specialist, said the plant — a member of the legume family — was determined by experts at the Smithsonian Institution to be a new species but related to similar plants found on the island of Oahu.

Baker said the Kaho'olawe database will also include a raft of information lumped under the heading of "range control" that will help the Navy and Parsons-UXB manage the cleanup effort. This information includes details on the training of workers as well as the daily flight schedules of aircraft transporting them to the island.

The database will allow managers to check whether workers have received the requisite safety training before boarding a flight, and if they have not, the system will "flag" them. The database also will allow for an interactive review process, which will ensure that all the proper natural resource, archaeological and historical factors have been considered before conducting ordnance removal or destruction, Baker said. "If the review board has not given permission to do a surface sweep in a particular area, the data management system will say, 'You can't do that.... We don't have authorization.' "

Parsons-UXB plans to integrate its database with the Kaho'olawe GIS developed by the Navy, Baker said. KGIS allows senior managers to easily look at the relevant data in the 100-meter grid squares.

Developed by the Navy during a trial cleanup of 2,100 acres on the island, KGIS "provides a viewing tool for all the data with the database behind it...[and] allows us to look at ordnance density, vegetation, plant growth and archaeological site," said Joel Pai, an engineer with the Naval Facilities Engineering Command.

Once the database is integrated with KGIS, users will be able to zoom in on a grid square and click on icons representing ordnance, archaeological or other types of data and pull up details of findings recorded for that site. For example, a user clicking on an archaeological symbol might pull up textual information on that site as well as a drawing of the site done by an archaeologist in the field.

Pai said the Navy also intends to use KGIS to automatically calculate cost estimates on munitions clearance, tapping into information overlays on topography of the grid to be cleared as well as the depth of clearance required for that site, and then produce a rough cost estimate.

Because the database will serve as the key information management tool for the cleanup, Putnam wants it networked not only to the Navy and to the Kaho'olawe Island Reserve Commission but also to the Hawaii agency designated to manage the island, to hold it "in trust for a future native-Hawaiian sovereign entity," according to the legislation creating the commission.

Putnam said this requires the creation of a wide-area network (WAN) linking the Navy, the state and Parsons-UXB offices in Honolulu with the Parsons-UXB technical management office in Maui and Kaho'olawe. Bill Batt, the Parsons-UXB program manager, said the ability to provide quick access to hundreds of megabytes of data has been limited by the fact that the island has been served by a GTE Hawaiian Telephone Co. wireless microwave circuit capable of handling only 24 phone calls at a time rather than by a traditional network.

Parson-UXB completed installation of the 384 kilobits/sec frame-relay WAN for the cleanup project just last week, according to Michael Brown, the network system engineer. Brown, who works for Technology Integration Group, a Parson-UXB subcontractor, said the network spans four islands — Oahu, Maui, Kaho'olawe and Lanai, terminus for the microwave link from Kaho'olawe.

Lanai serves as the repeater for the entire network, feeding signals to and from the Kaho'olawe base camp into the statewide commercial network operated by GTE Hawaiian Telephone. The local-area network on Kaho'olawe serves a network of Compaq Computer Corp. Pentium workstations running Windows NT.

Installation of the LAN on the uninhabited island required careful planning "because if you forgot something, you could not exactly walk down to the local computer store for a replacement," said Brown, who commuted daily by helicopter from Maui during the network installation.

The LAN provides 30 connections at the technical center in Maui and 25 connections for the program management office in Pearl Harbor, Brown said. These LANs are also equipped with Compaq desktops running Windows NT.


  • Government Innovation Awards
    Government Innovation Awards -

    Congratulations to the 2021 Rising Stars

    These early-career leaders already are having an outsized impact on government IT.

  • Acquisition
    Shutterstock ID 169474442 By Maxx-Studio

    The growing importance of GWACs

    One of the government's most popular methods for buying emerging technologies and critical IT services faces significant challenges in an ever-changing marketplace

Stay Connected