HONOLULU - The Marine Corps will not use its latest transport aircraft, the Osprey, to train at Kalaupapa on Molokai as had been earlier proposed, the Department of the Navy said Wednesday.
The Corps will base two squadrons of the new aircraft and one light attack helicopter squadron at Kaneohe Bay, Navy officials said.
The MV-22 Osprey takes off like a helicopter and flies like an airplane. The Marine base will have 24 Osprey aircraft in total.
The decision not to train at Kalaupapa came out of concern that the aircraft could affect archaeological resources next to the airport, the Navy said in the document announcing the decision.
The Navy made the decision after issuing an environmental impact statement.
The National Marine Fisheries Service had expressed concern about how increased training at Kalaupapa would affect endangered Hawaiian monk seals making the peninsula their home. But the Navy said this won't be an issue since it has decided not to boost operations there.
Of the 22 individuals who submitted comments on the move, 14 said noise was an issue. Windward Oahu residents were most concerned about noise, but residents of Honolulu, Molokai and Volcano on the Big Island also submitted comments about noise.
But the Navy said the base, Coconut Island (where the University of Hawaii has a marine laboratory), and a recreational area at Kealohi Point are the only land areas that would experience a day-night average sound level of 65 decibels or higher.
That's the threshold the federal government has identified as the point at which aircraft noise begins to interfere with everyday activities, such as talking on the phone or watching TV.
Critics say the aircraft is dangerous, but the military has used the Osprey extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan and says it has a solid record.
The light attack helicopter squadron the Marine Corps plans to base at Kaneohe Bay will have 15 AH-1 Cobra attack and 12 UH-1 Huey utility helicopters.
H-1 helicopter training will be limited so activity at Kalaupapa doesn't increase from current levels.