Sunday, November 22, 2009

DOD wants to acquire 2,200 acres

DOD wants to acquire 2,200 acres

By Dionesis Tamondong • Pacific Daily News • November 23, 2009

The Department of Defense is interested in acquiring at least 2,200 acres of non-federal land for the military buildup, according to the draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The report lists four main parcels the military is looking at, the largest of which is for a firing range along the island's northeast coast.

Between 1,100 acres and 1,800 acres along Route 15 in Mangilao and Yigo are needed for the proposed firing range. That would require the condemnation or leasing of those properties, which are owned by the local government, private owners and ancestral land claimants.

Sen. Judith Guthertz, chairwoman of the legislative committee overseeing buildup issues, said the military acquisition of land is going to be the most sensitive issue.

"They'd have to negotiate with the landowners, and it's really entirely up to the private landowners what they will want to do," Guthertz said. "With reference to the government land, we're talking about Chamorro Land Trust property and ancestral land. Those are very sensitive issues."

The EIS report lists three other main parcels of interest:

# Former Federal Aviation Administration housing in south Finegayan, Dededo, is owned by private landowners and GovGuam. The 680-acre parcel is currently vacant.

# In Harmon, there are 326 acres of land claimed by multiple ancestral land claimants, as well as private owners and GovGuam. This area is vacant but for a few abandoned buildings.

The Dededo and Harmon parcels are part of the planned Marine Corps base headquarters. About 8,600 Marines and their 9,000 dependents are being relocated from Okinawa to Guam.

# About 105 acres of GovGuam land in the Cabras area of Piti is being looked at as part of a wharf and related facilities. The site is generally vacant with a few abandoned buildings.

The Defense Department is also looking to acquire small pockets of non-federal land, and some road projects may also require land acquisitions.

"There may be some owners who are interested in selling or leasing land to the federal government and would perceive the federal acquisition or the lease of their property as a beneficial impact," the EIS report states. "Other owners who do not want to sell their property (or relocate) are likely to consider the forced sale or relocation as an adverse impact, even though they are properly compensated."

A bill sponsored by Guthertz in the last Legislature requires that any GovGuam land transactions for federal purposes require the approval of the Guam Legislature. The bill is now law.

"That means that no GovGuam land can be sold or leased on a long-term basis without the approval of the Legislature," she said. "Any such request will have to undergo the normal process of public input and testimony and due diligence from the senators."

Guthertz said military officials have assured her and other lawmakers they would not condemn any private land.

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