Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Team to hear buildup concerns

Team to hear buildup concerns

By Amritha Alladi • Pacific Daily News • October 28, 2009

Culture clash and the availability of resources were two primary concerns expressed by members of local government agencies, nonprofits and the general public on the Guam Compatibility Sustainability Study yesterday.

At a workshop sponsored by the governor's office, members of the governor's Advisory Consulting Team told the public that the study hinges on their voicing of concerns dealing with the compatibility issues caused by the impending military buildup.

"This is your opportunity to provide direction in the development of our roadmap for our children and future generations," Gov. Felix Camacho said. "Your participation at the public workshop is vital."

The compatibility study addresses the public's concern with regard to how to protect existing communities, and provide opportunities for economic development.

The Advisory Consulting Team primarily consists of members from the Matrix Design Group Inc., an interdisciplinary planning and engineering firm specializing in professional engineering consulting for the public and private sectors. The team will hear about issues the public has identified as areas of concern, and will provide a set of recommendations to the military and GovGuam on possible actions to take to ease the transition, the team's project manager and Matrix Design Group Vice President Celeste Werner said.

Dawn Cruz, a residential supervisor at Sanctuary Inc., said members of her nonprofit organization were interested in problems that may arise socially, such as new forms of bullying among youths. Additionally, she wanted to find out how the shift of 8,000 Marines and their families to the island would affect the number of youths that Sanctuary Inc. sees at its shelter.

"Are we going to have a long waiting list?" she asked. "We need to prepare ourselves for the demand."

She added that programs such as those for substance abuse prevention or family counseling may have to be altered to meet the needs of a new group.

Aside from social issues that may arise as a result of cultural differences, Guam residents said that establishing the infrastructure to support the influx of people on the island would be the biggest challenge.

"A lot of the infrastructure is a big problem. Having enough water to provide the number of people living on the island as well as power," Dededo resident Joann Fontenot said. "If we can have all that structured, then, of course, everyone will be living comfortably."

Meanwhile, Tamuning Vice Mayor Louise Rivera added that land use is of concern to her because she has seen several projects approved by the Land Use Commission, but very few that have been enforced in a timely manner.

The team also explained the process of drafting an environmental impact statement, in preparation for the release of a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) projected for Nov. 20.

The EIS is a detailed study of the potential consequences a federal action -- in this case, the buildup -- might have on people or the environment, and potential alternatives that would avoid or reduce those impacts, the One Guam Web site states. Once the draft is released, the public has 45 days to review it before the final EIS is published in the Federal Register.

But on Friday, Sens. Judy Guthertz and Rory Respicio, in a letter to Maj Gen. David Bice of the U.S. Marine Corps, requested an extension of the time needed for the public to review the draft after its release.

Following U.S. Ambassador John Roos' indication that Washington may give the new Japanese leadership more time to review the U.S.-Japan agreement on the realignment of forces, the two senators said that the people of Guam should similarly be granted an extension to review the EIS.

"Japan has announced that their decision may not be forthcoming until next summer," the letter reads. "From our perspective, the extremely restrictive 45-day review period is simply a matter of bureaucratic convenience, unrelated to the broader public purpose that it should serve, and certainly no longer sensible, based on the extension given to Japan."

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