Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Congressional Delegation Heads Home

Delegation heads back to Washington with specific requests for Guam's military buildup
By Heather Hauswirth

Today marked the final day of the congressional delegation's visit to Guam. The codel began the day by paying tribute to the thousands of Marines who paid the ultimate sacrifice. They then wrapped up their visit by discussing the needs of the island in preparation of the military buildup.

The congressional delegation now leaves the island with what they say is a better understanding of the territory's needs and the impact the military buildup will have not just on our community but infrastructure, as well. Consolidated Commission on Utilities chairperson Simon Sanchez says he would like to implement key infrastructure construction blue prints pertaining to water and power.

The only problem - he's still waiting on funding. Said Sanchez, "We are working on a comprehensive water management program for the northern aquifer. We hope to reach some consensus with JGPO on this plan, and from then be able to determine what has to be built in terms of wells, how do we tie the systems together and most importantly, who pays for it?"

Money allocated for the Fiscal Year 2010 Defense Authorization Bill has not yet been appropriated for construction purposes. However, representative Nick Rahall, chairman of the Natural Resources Committee and leader of the codel's trip to Guam, spoke to these concerns and says this funding will not come over night.

He said, "There will be costs involved all the way around here. It's not something Congress will be able to address over night with a magic wand and magic appropriations bill. It will take a lot of working together and coming up with innovative and perhaps new ways of financing public private partnerships is one of the alternatives we are looking at."

The issue of finances is further complicated with Hawaii representative Neil Abercrombie's controversial provision that would increase the defense authorization by billions of dollars. "It would also initiate a dual wage system here in Guam, which would not be beneficial to our community. This could possibly, if anything like this went through, could derail the Guam buildup," said Guam congressional delegate Madeleine Bordallo.

And while Bordallo's sentiments are shared by many on the island, Senator Matt Rector introduced legislation supporting the Abercrombie amendment, as he said, "I don't think it's controversial at all. The Abercrombie amendment will produce over $10 billion into our economy, a minimum of a billion dollars in revenue just for the public structure. Who in their right mind wouldn't want that?"

While local politics will continue to play out here in the Guam Legislature, the codel returns to Washington with a laundry list of requests that include ensuring the necessary funding for the island's infrastructure needs.

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