Monday, November 23, 2009

Guam Buildup Impact Statement: The Devil's In The Details

Guam Buildup Impact Statement: The Devil's In The Details

Written by Jeff Marchesseault, Guam News Factor Staff Writer
Monday, 23 November 2009 15:24

GUAM - The recently released Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that spells out U.S. DOD's plans for the buildup of military assets on island and the impact those plans will have on the environment has many on our island speculating as to the value and sacrifices that come with this process.

While much remains speculation, one thing is certain: this buildup is enormous and will bring with it tremendous benefits as well as serious challenges.

Among the first orders of speculation comes a recently published article in the Pacific Daily News. In a Monday article titled "EIS: 33,000 new jobs by 2014," the PDN asserts that "Guam's population is expected to soar -- with 79,178 additional people in 2014. That is approximately half of the current population." While on the surface, statements such as this are accurate, they are not complete. True, Guam's population will reach a peak of 79,178 in 2014. Yet just five years later, according to the Draft EIS, it will shrink by 45, 570.

This drastic spike and subsequent drop in population speaks to one of the major challenges before Guam's leaders. While the island must prepare for the maximum demands that will be placed on our infrastructure, ports, hospital, housing and just about every other aspect of life on Guam, once the surge ends, who will be left with the severe overcapacity? The people of Guam.

Who will pay for too many hospital beds, and more power and water services than we need? Who suffers when the large number of housing vacancies drops the value of housing on island? Who will pay for the excessive expansions required to meet the military's port and roadway demands to accommodate the aggressive construction phase? The people of Guam.

And so far, the federal government has been unresponsive to the request of local officials for some help. In fact, even the General Accountability Office of the U.S. Congress has criticized the slow release of timely and relevant planning information by the military to the local government.

Recently, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Installations and Environment Roger Natsuhara relayed the commitment of the federal government to take a "one Guam concept" approach to the buildup. Yet, to date, very little has been shown of that commitment. Piecemeal funding for an extremely aggressive and highly demanding buildup, 90 days to review, assess and provide comments on an 8,000-page study that is end-to-end filled with critical and mainly newly released information, and little in the way of recommendations on how to alleviate the overcapacity issue on behalf of the people of Guam... all of these fly in the face of the "one Guam concept" commitment. Just a cursory review of the Draft EIS leaves one with the impression that a whole lot has been focused on the mission, and very little on the impact it will have on the local community.

As the 90-day review period progresses, there will be much more speculation and statements of promise as well as skepticism. The most responsible approach to this process is to read the Draft EIS for yourself and understand how you and your family can benefit from the planned buildup, but also appreciate the way the sheer magnitude of this program will change the way of life on island forever. And participate in the comment process, because the future of our island depends upon our engagement today.

Simple promises of new jobs and a better quality of life must be tested against the actual buildup requirements and intentions. And that is the responsibility of each and every one of us who call Guam home.

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