Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Land conflict

Land conflict

Tuesday, 15 December 2009 00:42
by Therese Hart | Variety News Staff

Guthertz proposes alternative sites for military use

MOST of the conflicts between Guam and the federal government historically center on land issues as exemplified in the draft environmental impact statement, Sen. Judi Guthertz said yesterday.

In a speech before the Rotary Club of Northern Guam at the Hyatt Regency Guam, Guthertz discussed the military buildup and the possible taking of lands along with Resolution 258, which addresses the land issue.

“All the information we’ve been looking over in the [draft study] tells us that, once again, our limited land on this small island is the root of our difficulties with the federal government,” said Guthertz, chair of the legislative committee on military buildup.

A promise broken is not easily forgotten and retired Maj. Gen. David Bice has yet to respond to Guthertz’s letter regarding his former remarks stating that nonmilitary lands will not be condemned.

When Bice first visited Guam in April 2007 for the initial scoping meetings, he announced that the military would remain within its current land holdings and would not need any additional land for the buildup.

Additional lands

Now, the draft study states that the military wants additional lands including the former Federal Aviation Authority housing area of 680 acres and a large amount of land, either 1,129 or 921 acres in two alternatives, east of the back road to Andersen in the Marbo area.

One alternative involves both private and public lands while the other alternative appears to avoid private land.

“Major General Bice also reassured me personally that condemnation, a.k.a eminent domain, would not be used as an option for acquiring any additional land. Now, the draft EIS declares that it will be obtained by ‘longterm lease or condemnation,’” Guthertz said.

“The general’s assistant, Col. John Jackson, played coy with Ray Gibson about this matter, saying, ‘everything is on the table.’ Several weeks ago, we wrote to General Bice asking for clarification, but there’s been no response to date,” Guthertz said, warning that “the federal government’s power of eminent domain is absolute.”


Guthertz proposed some alternatives that do not require acquisition of additional land and would allow the military to remain within its current footprint.

“What about the former FAA housing area? In my opinion this is merely catering to the military desire to be tidy, filling in a separation gap between the main area at NCTS and South Finegayan,” Guthertz said.

“There is no national security need for that land. Why not merely give them access to a roadway through that area to connect the two base areas, without having to go out onto the main road? In doing so, we can demand that access is finally settled for the Castro family on the northern coast,” she added.

Guthertz said the military could transport the Marines back and forth to Tinian. “The federal government in the covenant, back in 1976, obtained two-thirds of Tinian, 21,000 acres under a longterm lease to be a fallback for our bases further west in the Philippines or Okinawa. Of course, I do not want to second guess the good people of Tinian and the CNMI. This is an option that the military would have to negotiate with them,” said Guthertz.

Wildlife protection

“The military can protect the wildlife at Ritidian while firing out toward the ocean along the north coast of our island. For both the Ritidian and Tarague locations, no one fishes in the Rota channel. The currents are just too rough,” said Guthertz.

Guthertz said the military does not need to take or condemn any more land and can fulfill its national security needs without having another land grab.

“Our only course as a community is to voice as strong an opposition as possible to such land takings. We have to have a united effort to get the military to realize that it will significantly damage or eliminate its welcome mat if they exercise eminent domain,” Guthertz said.

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