Friday, September 25, 2009

Buildup's start may be late: Completion of environmental study delayed

Buildup's start may be late: Completion of environmental study delayed

By Dionesis Tamondong • Pacific Daily News • September 26, 2009

A draft study of the military buildup's potential environmental impact to the island may be completed by November -- several months later than the date federal officials had previously announced.

While the delay may push back the expected start of military construction projects, they're still scheduled to begin next year, according to federal and local officials. The start of those projects was targeted for early 2010.

The Environmental Impact Statement is a detailed study of the consequences that the projects may have on the environment. It must be approved before any military construction projects can break ground.

The target date for the draft EIS study to be completed is November, Guam Buildup Office Deputy Director Nora Camacho said during a meeting yesterday at the Guam Economic Development Authority.

The draft statement was supposed to be issued in January this year, then it was pushed back to spring, according to Pacific Daily News files. In July, retired Marine Maj. Gen. David Bice, executive director of the Joint Guam Program Office, said more time was needed to prepare the study, which consisted of more than 8,000 pages.

Camacho said JGPO officials continue to work with certain local agencies to reconcile inconsistencies found in the voluminous study.

Sen. Frank Aguon Jr., chairman of the legislative committee on economic development, said large construction projects, particularly those that require significant digging, will likely be affected by delays. But the senator, who was at yesterday's GEDA meeting, said he also believes the buildup shouldn't be rushed.

"I don't think (major delays) bode well for local businesses who are ready to start breaking ground within the next couple of months, but the reality is the EIS is critical so the community knows and understands exactly what the impact will be to Guam's environment," Aguon said.

Aguon said he thinks any major delays to large construction projects might affect the military's goal of relocating 8,000 U.S. Marines and their 9,000 dependents to Guam from Okinawa by 2014.

Guam Contractors Association President James Martinez said it's no big deal if projects are held back by a few months.

"We're all very anxious and excited to start, but there's also a lot of preparations involved and a little more time to do so might help," he said.

Marine Capt. Neil Ruggiero, JGPO public information officer, reiterated yesterday that they are on track with the environmental impact study and the goal for construction to start is still within fiscal 2010. He wouldn't say whether it would be in the early or later part of the year.

After the final EIS study is approved, a record of decision will be issued, detailing which projects will move forward.

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