Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Talks on impact of Guam buildup moves forward

Representatives of various CNMI environmental agencies are in Guam this week to take part in the sixth round of partnering sessions, in preparation for the impending military buildup.

Approximately 80 people, including officials from the CNMI's Coastal Resources Management Office, Division of Fish and Wildlife and the Tinian Mayor's Office, are taking part in the session, lasting through tomorrow.

“The entire meetings are designed to prepare the environmental activities necessary for the transfer of the Marines from Okinawa to Guam and the CNMI. The primary focus is on environmental issues,” said John Joyner, director of CNMI Coastal Resources Management Office.

Under the proposed Guam military buildup, approximately 8,000 U.S. Marines and 9,000 dependents will be transferred from Okinawa, Japan, to Guam. Construction of new defense facilities is slated to start in 2010, with the relocation to be completed in 2014. The cost of new infrastructure to be built could exceed $10 billion.

Although the focus of the relocation effort is in Guam, the program involves using Tinian and possibly Pagan and other parts of the CNMI’s northern islands, as a military training site.

There are several environmental issues that will arise from such a large-scale move, Joyner said. Concerns about infrastructure, roads, transportation, solid waste disposal, landfill concerns, health care needs and schools are just some of the issues being discussed.

“Whatever takes in moving that large amount of people in that short amount of time, that's what we're discussing,” he said.

The first meeting between the agencies took place two years ago, Joyner said, and it continue to be an ongoing discussion.

“It's a work in progress,” he said. “When we first began it was the whole matter of how do we get to know each other. A move of this nature is an ongoing work. It's probably one of the most humongous activities the U.S. military has gone through. As a result there is no specific plan laid out to follow. So you have to.those of us in the military and non-military, we have to work together and work with this as an unfolding, developing concept.”

Joyner said the next partnering session would probably be in February on Tinian.

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