Sunday, December 13, 2009

Lack of feedback on military plans worries officials

Lack of feedback on military plans worries officials

By Laura Matthews • Pacific Sunday News • December 13, 2009

Some mayors are concerned that only a handful of residents had shown interest in Department of Defense's draft Environmental Impact Statement since its release.

The draft EIS was released on Nov. 20 for public viewing and contains vital information on how every aspect of life on Guam will change during the military buildup. The draft EIS provides a forum through its comments sheets where the public can voice their concerns over these changes. They have until Feb. 17, 2010, to do so.
"There is about six people who came to actually pick up the CDs and take it home to review. As for the hard copy one person came in and said, 'I don't have all day,' and I said, 'well, if you have a computer I can give you a CD and you can take it home to review it,'" Dededo Mayor Melissa Savares said on Dec. 4.

The mayor said she obtained another hard copy of the document and placed it at the Astumbo Gym for the convenience of the residents, but the effort has been neglected.
"We have given them another opportunity for them to come in the evenings and stay beyond the 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the Astumbo Gym, but nobody has come over to the gym," she said. "And the gym is closer to the area that will be most affected, the Route 3 area."

Savares said she wishes people would be more proactive and look at what may affect their neighborhood.

"I am worried about it because there is a lot of concerns and comments that should come up when the residents review it and of course we are going to hear a lot of complaints when they are implemented if nobody makes any comments."
Other mayors have similar concerns.

"This process involves them and these copies are not souvenirs," said Mangilao Mayor Nonito C. Blas.

Blas said as of Dec. 4, only 16 copies of the draft EIS have been given out at his office. He said he still has eight more waiting to be read and estimates that there are more than 20,000 people in his village who need to be aware of the changes about to affect them.

Of the 23,000 residents living in Yigo, only one had visited Mayor Robert Lizama's office to view the document as of Dec. 4.

"This is a process that is afforded to the community of Guam for public opinion and with the absence of the people it could mean that they are contented with what is going to happen," he said.

Some over at the Guam Legislature think otherwise.

One person visited Sen. Judith Guthertz's office at the Guam Legislature to read the copy there.

Bruce Lloyd, writer and researcher for the senators said because few people are reading the hard copy doesn't mean they are not accessing the information on the Internet.

"I am not surprised they are not reading the hard copy. They can get it on the Internet," he said. "I think people are quite interested. It is just a matter of relevance as there are all sorts of reasons they should be interested in this and that is where the media come in, to stimulate them."

Some residents like Tricia Muna from Mangilao said she depends on the newspaper to tell her what is relevant. She said she can only read it if she finds the time.
"I am just too busy and so I read about it in the newspaper. I will read it if I have time," she said. She was surprised to know it was online.

But even on the Internet the numbers are low.

At the Hagåtña Main Library there have been 22 clicks on the document on the library's Web page, according to Tony Leon Guerrero, the library technician.
"We only have one copy and four people came in to read that. But when they call in we direct them to the (Guam Public Library) Web site," Leon Guerrero said.

The Joint Guam Program Office said it does not have access to the number of hits on its Web site, but it is receiving feedback for some residents and off-island parties.
"The site is being visited by both members of the community and interested parties from Hawaii and the mainland," Capt. Neil Ruggiero said via e-mail. "We encourage all interested parties to review the draft EIS and provide comments via the Web site."

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