Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mangilao JGPO Meeting

JGPO updates residents on status of military buildup
Thursday, 15 January 2009
by Zita Y. Taitano
Marianas Variety News Staff

RESIDENTS who live in the central part of Guam got a chance to voice their concerns on the impending military buildup last night at the Mangilao Senior Citizens Center.

John Jackson, director of the Joint Guam Program Office, provided an update on the plans to move 8,000 Marines in addition to their families and other military personnel from Okinawa to Guam by 2014.

"This is program is not just a Marine Corps program but it's a program that involves all the services and all of the services are looking at adding additional people, service members and dependents, to the numbers that are already on the island," Jackson said.

He said there are areas that are already being assessed as possible sites for the transfer such as firing ranges in a section of NCTAMS.

He said the military wanted to look at those places with a clean slate and what they learned is that areas on Andersen Air Force Base are being used by the Air Force whereas down south, projects have already begun for the Navy. Other obstacles they came across included the wildlife refuge.

"This planning has been continuing more and more over the past year and is getting more and more detailed," he said. "And as we begin to get more and more details, that's where we start getting to points where decisions have to be made and some of those decisions will be made possible in the 60 days or so. Once decisions are made in the form of a draft environmental impact statement, for instance, then the public, by law, will have 110 days to come up with questions and we would answer those questions."

Jackson also said that the military is not planning within a vacuum, so to speak.

"We're planning with the government of Guam," he said, adding that they are conducting land surveys with the assistance and permission of the Chamorro Land trust Commission.

"The end result of all of this is that we anticipate the citizens of Guam being happy. We're not looking at condemning land. That was something that was done in the past. We're not looking at doing that. And if we should lease lands, then that's a steady income of money for the CLTC that will go into the pockets of the people of Guam."

Jackson also addressed the matter of the preliminary draft of the EIS, which is expected to be released to the public around April or May, which is also when the 110 days of questions will go into effect. The final draft of the EIS should be done by January of 2010.

Meanwhile, Henry Simpson, president of the Guam Raceway Federation, went up to a map of the proposed area on the east side of Guam and pointed out to the site the raceway track is located.

Simpson asked Jackson that if the military were to lease the properties, how would it replace the opportunities available to the race track and the plans to build a municipal airport based on a study done in 1989?

Jackson informed him that they haven't made any decisions as of yet because they are still looking at properties.

But he did say that the military has already looked at the impact of a firing range if it is situated in Andy South, which is near the raceway park and the municipal airport project.

"We have to look at what is not only on the ground today but may also be planned on the ground in the future and we look at that. We also have to look at what we're planning on DOD property such as Andy South," Jackson said. "We looked at some of the federal rules and we discovered there's an FAA rule that we cannot have a firing range within three nautical miles of a municipal airport," he added.

Concerns about the military buildup on Guam were also brought forth to Jackson by Trini Torres, Maga Haga of the Taotaomona Native Rights Group.

Torres told Jackson there is no need for the Marines because there is already enough military, adding that she is not happy with the thought of leasing Chamorro land.

"This island is so small and we keep bringing in so many people. This place is for a Chamorro person. Every outsider that comes to our island displaces a Chamorro," she lamented.

Meanwhile, Eric Untalan of Barrigada held a different perspective from Torres, assuring Jackson that there are others like himself who share a different point of view. Untalan did want to know, however, the chronology of hurdles that JGPO has to clear.

Jackson said the first hurdle is the financing, the program being a $10 billion project that has 60 percent being covered by the Japanese Diet and the remaining amount coming from the U.S. government.

The second hurdle, he said, is that the two governments have two different fiscal years. Japan starts on April 1 while the U.S. is on Oct. 1. Jackson did point out that the Japanese Diet is currently debating the first installment payment of about $335 million.

"They are debating that as we speak. We have monthly discussions with the government of Japan and all indications are that the Japanese Diet will approve that $335 million," he said, with the money going to coffers for next year's construction.

The final hurdle is the EIS document when it's officially finalized.

"And when that's finalized, that also has to go through the different regulators such as Fish and Wildlife, NOAA, all the other environmental agencies here on Guam and the federal level. When those pieces and parts all come together, the draft will be finalized and signed," he said.

Then there's the master plan that will contain where utilities will go and where roads and buildings will be built.

"Those are the kind of hurdles we're looking at prior to 2010," he said.

The JGPO meetings will continue on Jan. 20 at the Yigo Gymnasium.

On the next day, Jan. 21, the meeting is at the Dededo Senior Citizen Center, and on Jan. 22 at the Agat Community Center. All the meetings start from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

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