New wharf project
Tuesday, 24 November 2009 02:48
by Jennifer Naylor Gesick and Jude Lizama |
Variety News Staff
Polaris Point identified as site for aircraft carriers
THE Navy has determined that Polaris Point is an ideal location for building a port capable of hosting visiting aircraft carriers. It is preferred over utilization of the former ship repair facility at Apra Harbor, according to the draft environmental impact statement.
Increased carrier operations in the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans mean aircraft carriers could visit Guam 63 days a year. With carrier crew capacity of nearly 6,000 men and women, port of call visits pump millions of dollars into the local economy as crew members can spend upwards of $200 to $300 a day on rental cars, hotel rooms, at restaurants and local shops.
Kilo Wharf has been used in the past, but as the military realignment progresses, but visits by carriers longer than a week would disrupt existing munitions operations at that wharf necessitating a more suitable location for the nuclear-powered floating airfields which need almost 50 feet of depth to safely come into port.
Other requirements planners are looking out for include shoreside infrastructure improvements at a new wharf to include utilities such as power, wastewater management, and potable water supply to minimize and eliminate dependency on shipboard systems while in port.
The draft impact statement further detailed the potential need for such facilities as laundry, recreation, transportation support for shuttle services and food and beverage concessions.
Polaris Point is expected to see a considerable increase in daily activities when aircraft carriers are in port with people transiting the wharf area, more truck traffic from the Navy base and vendors servicing visiting ships.
Cargo movement, the Navy anticipates, will likely require mobile cranes and other materials-handling equipment such as forklifts.
This aspect has raised some eyebrows among local leaders with Sen. Ben Pangelinan already having questioned the implications of the Navy diverting cargo to their facilities and avoiding the Port of Guam.
About 1.1 million cubic yards of dredged material will be excavated from the Inner and Outer Apra Harbor for the proposed Navy and Marine Corps actions.
To reach the depth requirement dredging of the area will have to be done, and there are two methods, mechanical and hydraulic. The impact statement details mechanical dredging, which has historically been used in Apra Harbor, as the most likely way to prepare for a deeper water line at Polaris.
Mechanical dredging uses a bucket and hydraulic uses pipes and pumps to excavate the material. However, the methodology is controversial among some locals and with some environmentalist as well.
The draft study recognizes that mechanical dredging has the greater combined potential for environmental impacts, directly and indirectly, due to sediment redistribution which could destroy the areas valuable coral reefs.
The report additionally cited a need to develop temporary solid and hazardous waste storage areas at a proposed new wharf as well as a building to house on-site port operations for storage and other administrative purposes when a carrier is not in port.
Increased land needs are expected to have a critical impact on the environment as soil compaction and erosion, runoff, soil and subsurface contamination are cautioned against in the report. The U.S. government currently holds nearly one-third of all Guam lands under its aegis.
Buildup activities could further contribute to an ecological crisis on Guam if proper planning does not account for cut-and-fill activities, removal of vegetation and landscaping and the proper use of heavy equipment on projects, according to the study.
The long-term implications of what has been described as the largest military realignment in U.S. history is based upon information included in the report which purportedly studied environmental consequences of ground combat training, air combat and logistics combat training and support as well as the affect of encampment areas, training airfield and waterfront functions.
Vehicle and troop movements, munitions impacts, and explosive detonations were also considered in the report.
While there are proposed alternatives for the main encampment areas, training-firing range, training-ammunition storage, and training-Naval Munitions Site access road initiatives, there are no airfield or waterfront initiative alternatives.
Geological and soils impacts were conducted, in part, by reviewing documentation like previously published National Environmental Policy Act documents for actions in the Mariana Islands Range Complex and surrounding areas.
It is estimated that the proposed transfer of Marines to the island will result in an annual hazardous materials disposal volume of approximately 16,000 lbs.
The projected increase in hazardous waste may create adverse impacts to the environment and human health; however, the study states that best management practices and standard operating procedures will be utilized to ensure that no significant impacts occur.
The study also cited that such increases in the use and transfer of hazardous materials may require local Defense Reuse and Marketing Offices to expand “hazardous materials handling, storage, and disposal capacity.”
Projects cited as having potential impacts on local soil and geology resources include the construction and operation activities at the Andersen Air Force Base , main cantonment construction and operation activities, waterfront and Naval Base improvements at Apra Harbor, range operations at Navy Barrigada and NMS, and training activities at Andersen South and Route 15 Parcel.