DoD’s ‘mystery’ project puzzles Guam officials
17 December 2008
By Beau Hodai
Marianas Variety News Staff
THE Department of Defense is doing environmental assessments on a non-military property in Yigo—the purpose of which remains unclear to Guam officials and to the land’s current occupants.
George Bamba, the governor’s chief of staff, said yesterday the governor is unsure if the military may be looking to expand its operations outside of existing military properties.
“It’s always been the governor’s position, reinforced by his meeting with the Joint Guam Program Office and the Navy that any developments will be within the military’s existing footprint,” said Bamba. “We were told from the beginning that they would stay within their footprint. We have no further information to the contrary.”
Military contractors are currently surveying roughly 250 acres of land being occupied by the Guam International Raceway and another 400 acres of property to the south belonging to the Ancestral Lands Commission.
Raceway general manager Henry Simpson said recent reports about the relocation of military firing ranges have raised concerns on the future of the racetrack and the ancestral lands property.
Sen. Judi Guthertz said that under the revised Draft Master Plan, the firing ranges would face to the northeast, rather than to the west, and would be located near the southern portion of Andersen Air Force Base.
Guthertz raised concerns about such plan in a letter to Major General David Bice (retired), executive director of the Joint Guam Program Office.
Simpson noted that the racetrack location and the adjacent land currently being surveyed seem to fit the bill for the proposed artillery range.
“We’re all sitting here speculating as to why and what they’re going to build and why and what they may need,” said Simpson. “They should be open to people so we can come up with a better idea. Even if they put it where we are, they are going to affect some usage of the water on the other side.”
Simpson said he would appreciate more input from the military as to what their plans are, as the Guam Racing Federation, the not-for-profit group that runs the racetrack, has invested 15 years in the track.
“I think they’re just going to sit on it and not tell us much,” said Simpson. “I don’t think anyone involved in this is antimilitary in any way. But we are people who will be highly affected by what they do and more affected than most by what they do if they take that piece of property away from us. So, it would be nice to know now, rather than five years from now, what their intentions are.”
Captain Neil Ruggiero, spokesman for JGPO, confirmed that DOD has been surveying land in the vicinity of the raceway, but could not comment on whether the military planned to use it, or what the military might use it for.
“We’re just looking at its suitability right now,” said Ruggiero. “I mean, we can’t determine anything until we determine the suitability of the land.”
“It remains our intent to maximize the use of DOD property for the military realignment. However, through the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) and master planning processes, as well as through discussions with the Government of Guam, we have found that certain activities do not fit on DOD properties without adversely affecting the citizens of Guam,” Ruggiero added in a written statement.
“Accordingly, we have been in consultation with GovGuam officials on potential leasing of GovGuam lands. There are surveys currently taking place at various points on the island to determine the suitability of leasing lands for DOD use. The results of the surveys will not be known until sometime in the first quarter of 2009.”
Mike Cruz, manager of the Real Property Division of the Guam Economic Development and Commerce Authority, confirmed that the Navy has been assessing the Ancestral Lands Commission property adjacent to the raceway, but said the Navy has not indicated if they plan on using the land.
“We did give permission to the Navy to conduct environmental studies as well as natural resources studies as part of their Environmental Impact Statement for the relocation of the Marines,” Cruz said.
“They’ve asked our permission to take a look at the characteristics of this property in order for them to include it in the Environmental Impact Statement. Federal law requires that they take a look at all possible alternatives and they’ve indicated to us that that’s what they intend to do, to look at this as a possible alternative for the relocation of the Marines,” he added.
Lorelei Crisostomo, director of the Guam Environmental Protection Agency, said the agency is not sure what the findings or implications of the EIS will be at the time of its expected release in January. However, she said the JGPO Draft Master Plan only addressed properties already under military control.
Oscar Calvo, chairman for the Chamorro Land Trust Commission, said that the commission has not been approached by the military concerning the use of CLTC lands, but confirmed that the military has requested permission to survey the lands.
“They are looking, but nothing concrete. It would be premature for me to say it’s true or not true because they haven’t really come forward to the Chamorro Land Trust,” he said. “We have authorized them to go up there and to survey and that’s about it. Other than that, we don’t have anything concrete on that issue.”
Calvo said he has been involved with several conversations with the governor regarding potential military requests for more land.
“First of all, we don’t really want to give them any more land,” he said. “I’ve posed this to the governor—why don’t they use their own land, like Andersen or there’s a lot of military compound here that is still not being utilized.”