Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Buildup may use local utilities

Buildup may use local utilities

By Amritha Alladi • Pacific Daily News • November 19, 2009

The financial and logistical strains on labor, land use, water and power resources are among the most pressing military buildup concerns for Guam's industry leaders who attended the Guam Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting yesterday.

As of now, the Department of Defense will continue to be a customer of both the Guam Power Authority and Guam Waterworks Authority, according to Consolidated Commission on Utilities Chairman Simon Sanchez.

After yesterday's Chamber meeting, Frank Campillo, outgoing chairman of the Chamber's board of directors, said Guam's infrastructure is already having trouble with basic maintenance associated with the growth the island faces without the buildup.

"The roads are filled with potholes now," he said. He wants to know how Guam agencies, including the utilities, are going to handle further growth in demand for water and power.

Furthermore, Frank M. Crisostomo-Kaaihue, business developer for G4S Security Services, said he hopes the buildup doesn't deplete Guam's resources to the point where there is nothing left for future generations.

"It's important that our water, lands are not contaminated. That's the biggest concern. I want to make sure that my children's children still have a Guam," he said.

But Retired Marine Maj. Gen. David Bice, executive director of the Joint Guam Program Office, which oversees the buildup readiness for the Defense Department, said Guam will not shoulder the cost of buildup-related upgrades to local utilities alone.

The Defense Department already is discussing with Japan how to share some of the costs to pay for those improvements, Bice said.

He said DOD is a customer of the Guam Power Authority and wants to maintain that status. Plus, Sanchez said the power agency has the capacity to support the extra power needs that will be created by the shift of 8,000 Marines and their dependents from Okinawa to Guam.

Bice added that there is, however, a need to upgrade power facilities, for example, transmission and distribution lines from power plants in Dededo and Piti to the Apra Harbor.

Additionally, Sanchez said the Defense Department already is a customer of Guam Waterworks Authority and will continue to be for wastewater treatment services.

Bice said the Defense Department's preference is to upgrade the existing Northern Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The plant processes only about half of its 12 million-gallon capacity, according to GWA spokeswoman Heidi Ballendorf. But the capacity need will be increased to 18 million gallons once the buildup starts, Sanchez said.

Ballendorf said she expects improvements to the Northern Wastewater Treatment Plant will cost about $50 million, for which GWA does not have the funds.

"That has to come from the agreement with DOD going forward," she said.

According to Sanchez, the Defense Department is willing to cover all costs associated with the direct impact of its actions, but the improvements to GWA facilities will help improve the quality and help reduce the cost of utilities for Guam's civilians as well.

The issue of agreeing on an integrated solution for water still needs to be discussed between DOD and GWA.

GWA officials and some CCU members are scheduled to meet with JGPO officials today to discuss in detail what specific improvements will be needed to accommodate DOD's water and wastewater needs.

However, there is also the option of having stand-alone facilities, Bice added.

"We certainly want to make sure we support the move of Marines to Guam with the least impact on the people of Guam," Bice said.

The "preferred options" and alternatives are discussed extensively in Volume 10 of the draft Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, which will be released on Saturday, Bice said.

The 8,000-page document will be available for public viewing at the public library, the University of Guam Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Library, and mayors' offices in Yigo, Dededo, Barrigada, Agat, and Mangilao, according to Capt. Neil Ruggiero, JGPO public affairs officer. Digital copies will be available online at the EIS, One Guam and Pacific Daily News Web sites.

Sen. Ben Pangelinan said JGPO officials had asked him for suggestions on where to place additional digital and hard copies of the draft EIS for public viewing. He suggested several shopping centers frequented by residents, and for JGPO to provide computers with Internet connection so people can read the report and do research.

"I am also somewhat perplexed that during all the planning and discussions on the (draft EIS) for the past several months which, in my opinion, were an important component to the process, we were never asked for any input. But for simple solutions as to location sites, our suggestions and ideas are valued."

Other residents have expressed similar dissatisfaction over the EIS study.

The Guåhan Coalition for Peace and Justice yesterday announced it would lead a protest at 4 p.m. tomorrow outside the ITC building in response to the release of the environmental report this weekend.

"It was not conducted in a manner that demonstrated a true assessment of the social, cultural, and political implications an increased military presence will have on the island's people," a release from the Coalition stated. "Local residents and their elected officials were largely excluded from the process of gathering information and making recommendations for this study."

Some of these issues the coalition is concerned about will also be addressed during the two-day conference on "The Military Buildup and Beyond" hosted by the Guam Legislature today and tomorrow.

Today, Roger M. Natsuhara, acting assistant secretary of the Navy for installations and environment, will give the keynote address at 9:05 a.m., with a question-and-answer session to follow. The morning session will include a panel discussion on family and community issues regarding public health and building a competent work force. After lunch, the conference will feature a presentation at 1 p.m. by Emanuel Mori, president of the Federated States of Micronesia. A panel discussion on the use of natural resources will follow at 1:30 p.m.

Tomorrow, Philippine Labor Undersecretary Romeo Lagman will present his government's perspective on the buildup. Lagman is expected to talk about how skilled workers from the Philippines could temporarily augment Guam's current labor pool for the buildup, according to a press release from the Guam Legislature.

The Guåhan Coalition's protest and the Legislature's conference are both open to the public.

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