Monday, November 30, 2009

Challenges face air defense task force

Challenges face air defense task force

Posted: Nov 30, 2009 5:08 PM PST
by Janjeera Hail

As part of Guam's planned military buildup, the army is planning on installing an air missile defense task force on Guam - a system that promises to protect our island from enemies of the United States. But with that security comes added costs, as the Army Air Missile Defense Task Force has much work ahead.

In order to support THAAD, Patriot, and Avenger/SLAMRAAM missiles, the Army Air Missile Defense Task Force will need to construct about 28 acres (or more than 21 football fields) worth of facilities, not including munitions storage and weapons storage. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement outlines three possible sites for most of the facilities.

The preferred alternative is to have the headquarters, maintenance facilities, housing, recreational activities and quality of life facilities all co-located with Marine Corps facilities on the eastern portion of NCTS Finegayan. The second alternative is to have all those facilities within Navy Barrigada, next to the NCTS Antenna Farms. And the third alternative would be to have the headquarters and maintenance facilities co-located with Marine Corps facilities at NCTS Finegayan and to put housing, recreational activities and quality of life facilities at Navy Barrigada.

The military is planning on storing the munitions on Andersen Air Force Base, in eight new climate-controlled, earth-covered magazines. The ammunition required for such powerful missiles is highly sensitive which means that, in addition to the actual space that they'll take up, the storage site will also require an explosive safety quantity distance arc - in other words, a space of up to 1,250 feet (nearly a quarter-mile) distance between each magazine and any inhabited building, public assembly area or Department of Defense boundary to minimize the explosive safety hazard.

On the bright side, according to the Draft EIS, all of the proposed sites sit on land that is already military-owned, so DoD won't need to purchase more land.

Guam needs guarantees from the federal government

Guam needs guarantees from the federal government

Posted: Nov 29, 2009 10:38 PM PST
by John Davis

It's been about a week now that the Draft Environmental impact Statement has been released for public digestion and open for comments, but as you read the 11 thousand page document you'll notice that the DEIS is a bunch of bullet points about the upcoming military buildup offering no real solutions or guarantees regarding the impact to Guam residents.

Aside from the federal government relocating 8 thousand marines from Okinawa, Japan to Guam, island residents can look forward to another 72 thousand people making their way to Guam in search of job opportunities and a better life. Island residents can also look forward to the feds taking more land for their use without the consent of the local government or local residents. The Federal government plans to use more Guam land for military training grounds and military housing. The feds will also construct infrastructure to support an Aircraft carrier strike group at Apra harbor. To date, island residents have a better idea of what the federal government plans to do to support military forces with the Guam buildup, but we don't know how much will come out of Guam's pocketbook and how much will come out of the federal governments pocketbook, that's a big problem.

The department of defense is eyeing at least 3 pieces of property to use as training and housing facilities. These properties are located at the old FAA property near NCTAMS, the Marbo Sea Command property in Mangilao. The third and newest piece of property propsed to be used by the federal government disturbs me the most. The property is located near the southern villages of Agat and Umatac known as Mount Jumullong Manglo. You may be familiar with this property considering thousands of island residents come to this area every year to express their catholic faith on a pilgrimage to the top of this mountain on Good Friday.

The feds plan to use the pilgrimage property to train hundreds of Marines at once. Soldiers training on the land will conduct jungle and navigation training for 12 weeks of the year. Does this mean that after 3 months of military training and exercises the land will be opened back up? I don't think so, even if the feds say the road to be built on top of the existing hiking trail will be lined with locked gates and barriers will keep any civilians from traversing the area. Is it good news for residents that these gates and barriers will be unmanned? What about the protection of National Security? If I were planning the use of this land for the federal government, I would keep this training area under lock and key t all times. I would not allow an avenue for a breach of security because the federal government wants to portray a friendly relationship with the Chamorro people.

On the other hand, the property located at the old FAA and Marbo Sea Command are being eyed by residents owed ancestral lands after the Guam International Airport Authority took their Tiyan land for GIAA improvements. There is existing public law that provides an avenue for compensation of Tiyan landowners, so if these two pieces of property are supposed to be given to residents for their use, why would we want to lease it to the federal government? Better yet, if the property is taken by the federal government, will Tiyan landowners be compensated at fair market value or will the federal government use their powers of condemnation? In the past, the feds have taken land without compensation or input from residents, so why would it change?

Lastly, the Department of Defense will be constructing a deep-draft wharf to support aircraft carrier personnel. Projections contained in the DEIS show 63 aircraft carrier visits per year at 21 days of less per visit.

That's an additional 5600 military personnel on Guam every time a CSG anchors down at Apra Harbor. These 5600 military personnel will be granted liberty to see the sights and shores around the island, but who will be protecting local residents from military personnel when they are out and about? I don't think the Navy has enough Shore patrol officers to handle 5600 military personnel on the streets of Guam during liberty. In order to support the aircraft carrier, shore side infrastructure must be upgraded. That means, power, water, wastewater infrastructure will be upgraded, but who will pay for it? GovGuam, DOD, DON? I'm not so sure considering there have not been any guarantees from the federal government regarding cost sharing measures for infrastructure upgrades directly related to the military buildup.

Now that the DEIS is open for comment, all residents should look into it and be prepared to ask for guarantees from the federal government. We know what's about to happen, but we don't know how those affected will be compensated or if there will be any compensation from the federal government at all.

Guam needs guarantees that come with matching federal dollars for every dollar our local government spends. I personally believe that the federal government should fund construction of Haul roads, power and water infrastructure and building new schools because this massive buildup will impact all services provided by our local government. After all they are visitors on our island, Guam is our home and if the feds are going to change our way of life they should foot the bill.

The views and opinions expressed on KUAM Columns do not reflect those of Pacific Telestations, Inc. or its advertisers

Guam News Factor - November 30, 2009

Guam News Factor - November 30, 2009

Guam, Guamnewsfactor, Guam News Factor

Guams best planners: shaken by the Pentagons Buildup Impact Draft. Utilities Chairman Simon Sanchez tells KUAM hes alarmed by population stats that show growth twice what DOD reported before releasing the impact draft ten days ago. Its hard to prep for growth when you dont know whats up the pike.


Public Health can now hire private inspectors. Just signed by Governor Camacho, this new law could open the way for other agencies, too short-staffed to keep pace with buildup-era regulatory inspects, to do the same and could spare taxpayers from bankrolling hundreds more government careers.


The Governor also inscribes a law that bans smoking within 20 feet of public buildings. Good move. Right direction. Changes behavior. But the real test for lawmakers comes with their stance on a bill to up tobacco taxes.


Obamas outreach to East Asia reverses the Guam Doctrine a policy launched by President Nixon on a Guam stop 40 years ago. Nixon then set the stage for East Asian allies to defend themselves with secondary help from the U.S. As Obama renews security commitments to the region, US-Guams military-buildup symbolizes Americas growing resident power in the Pacific.

Guam News Factor

Contributing writers - Jeff Marchesseault, Mike Rudolph, John Dela Rosa and David F. Macaluso.

Camera, editing and research - David F. Macaluso

Sen Eddie Calvo with Ray Gibson

Sen Eddie Calvo with Ray Gibson

Interview between Ray Gibson and Senator Eddie Calvo about the allegations made by Senator Matt Rector that the Calvo-Tenorio campaign and the Calvo businesses are behind the revelations of his misdemeanor burglary conviction. They also talked about the Draft EIS for the military buildup.

If player does not work click here to download entire podcast.

Sen Judi Guthertz with Ray Gibson

Sen Judi Guthertz with Ray Gibson

Interview between Ray Gibson and Senator Judi Guthertz about the Draft EIS.

If player does not work click here to download entire podcast.

Residents not giving up on landfill issue

Residents not giving up on landfill issue

Posted: Nov 29, 2009 9:46 PM PST
by Mindy Aguon

It remains to be seen what impact, of any, a five-year-old civil suit in the Superior Court will have on the Ordot consent decree. The Attorney General's Office submitted a report to the District Court chief judge informing her of efforts in Guam's trial court to put an immediate stop to construction efforts at the new Layon landfill.

A handful of residents, led by former Ordot-Chalan Pago mayor Rossana San Miguel, aren't giving up their efforts to have the government put a landfill at Guatali or Mala'a instead of at Layon. It was something the Attorney General's Office was concerned about two years ago.

"If the Supreme Court should decide that Judge [Katherine] Maraman made a mistake and reverses (her decision) it what that would mean is that the law that said Guatali and Mala'a had to be considered as the landfill was applicable to the governor's action. If he had no authority to enter into the consent decree, the consent decree is null and void," said Alberto Tolentino in July 2007.

And apparently the issue is still a concern as Assistant Attorney General Phil Isaac filed a report with the District Court detailing the latest efforts in a taxpayer lawsuit, led by San Miguel seeking a temporary restraining order for the Layon landfill.

She said, "I'm not asking them to completely stop the project. I'm just asking to really look at it and like I said in the meantime by law there's a place and a company that can take care of it. So it's really up and you know the bottom line it's really up to our lawmakers how they want to handle this."

San Miguel, Jose Chargulaf, Angelo Gombar, Anthony Duenas Leon Guerrero, Lawrence Portela, Tony Quinata, Franklin Taitague and Jose Terlaje have been asking the Superior Court to force the Government of Guam to stop efforts to put a landfill anywhere other than where a public law enacted back in 1997 states it should be. The taxpayer lawsuit filed back in 2004, alleges the government broke the law by failing to work with Guatali and Mala'a as potential sites for the island's next landfill.

"The law says it's Guatali," said San Miguel. "I pushed that from the very beginning and I said it again. I keep saying it time and time again. Why are you inducing all the millions of dollars on the people of Guam, the taxpayers to pay for this project when they shouldn't even have to be the one to do it?"

She continued, "Guatali is in the books. It's local law. This new landfill where it's supposed to be, is not in the books and funding for this new landfill has never been there it's money that is now made that the Government of Guam now has to pay and that's the bottom line."

A hearing on San Miguel's motion for a TRO is scheduled for January 14. Federal receiver Gershman, Bricker & Bratton meanwhile says they are aware of the report filed with the court as well as the taxpayers' litigation. Receiver representative David Manning says, as the receiver it is not their role to ask the court to take any action on a purely legal question.

However he says they are confident that all matters with respect to the consent decree and the construction of the new landfill at Layon have been proper and are being handled in strict compliance with all applicable legal requirements.

Good Friday trail may be paved

Good Friday trail may be paved

By Brett Kelman • Pacific Daily News • November 30, 2009

Frank Reyes has lived in the shadow of a cross for 20 years and says he would fight to keep it that way.

Reyes, 69, was building Christmas decorations with his family in the yard of their Umatac home on Monday. Several wooden crosses stood on the peak of Mount Jumullong Manglo behind Reyes' house, as if watching over the family.

Every year, when thousands of local Catholics return to the peak to pray, their trek starts at Reyes' yard. His family gives out bottles of water and feeds as many people as they can.

"I've been a Catholic all my life and I've followed these old people up the mountain every year," Reyes said. "No matter how old they are, if they still can walk, they'll climb the mountain."

But the coming military buildup may change how those residents reach the mountaintop, where participants hike every Good Friday to remember the sacrifices of Jesus Christ.

The Department of Defense plans to convert the existing hiking trail into a paved access road for military vehicles. The mountain will also be closed one week a month.

According to the Draft Environmental Impact Study released on Nov. 20, the military plans to reserve a large portion of land between Agat and Umatac as a "maneuver training area" for the thousands of Marines that will transfer to Guam in a few years.

Much of the land is already owned by the military, but some landowners will have no choice but to sell or lease their property to the federal government. Some of the landowners will like this and some won't, although everyone will still be "properly compensated," the EIS states.

The Marines need this land so they have space to train with as many as 200 personnel at once, according to the EIS. They would use the space for jungle training and land navigation for 12 weeks a year, day and night.

A comparison of maps in the EIS and the Office of the Governor's Guam MapBook shows that the mountain's peak falls about 500 feet inside the training area.

Victor Torres, a GovGuam geographic information system manager, confirmed the mountaintop is inside the training zone after comparing maps to satellite imagery.

At least one helicopter landing zone will be built very close to the mountain's peak, according to the EIS.

"People have been hiking up there for years and no one has denied access for them or anything," Torres said. "It would be good neighbors of DOD if they let that practice continue."

They will, said Annette Donner, Naval Base Guam spokeswoman.

The Navy has owned the land for years and allowed hikers to climb the mountain, she said. The military buildup won't change that.

As long as the Marines aren't using the land for training, civilians will still be allowed to hike the mountain, Donner said Wednesday.

But how people reach the peak could change.

According to the EIS, the Department of Defense's preferred plan to access their new training area is to build a paved access road that leads close to mountaintop.

That road would be built on top of the existing hiking trail that is used on Good Friday every year. DOD would control the road, the document states.

Locked, unmanned gates and barriers would bar civilian vehicles from using the road, but pedestrians would still be allowed when the military wasn't using the area.

A backup plan would leave the trail as it is and the military would use off-road vehicles to get to the training area, according to the EIS.

"Whether it's a trail or whether they pave it, that's not going to change our policies for access to the crosses," Donner said.

But the trail is meant to be hard, Reyes said.

Currently, when thousands of people hike to the peak on Good Friday, they follow a roughly cut path through the jungle and stop at 14 Stations of the Cross to pray. Participants carry heavy wooden crosses through mud, jungle and fields of sword grass.

They climb to feel some of the hardship Jesus felt when he dragged a cross before he was crucified, Reyes said.

"This is what they want. This kind of trail that is rough," Reyes said. "They don't want to bulldoze the place and put black-top and all that. They won't like that."

But not everyone would object to an easier climb up the mountain.

Cerila Rapadas, executive director of Catholic Social Service, said a paved road may allow some Catholics to make the trek for the first time in years. Catholic Social Service is a local organization that helps the elderly and the disabled.

"Some people might want to make the hike but they are slightly disabled or they have been using a wheelchair and they are unable to do so," she said. "The trail itself is a form of sacrifice."

A compromise would be best, Rapadas said. If the military could build their access road without disturbing the hiking trail, believers could hike to the top however they choose, she said.

This way, more people would reach the crosses together every year, she said.
Plans could change

The plans in the draft EIS aren't set in stone, and feedback from local residents could change the military's plans for the mountainside.

"The military is going to find some opposition to this, that's for sure," said Umatac Mayor Dean Sanchez last week. The mountaintop is in Umatac.

Earlier this month, retired Marine Col. John J. Jackson, director of the Joint Guam Program Office, said residents like Reyes and Sanchez have 90 days to provide comments that could potentially re-write the military's plans.

For example: If the military was planning to erect a building in an area that contained ancient Chamorro ruins it isn't aware of, public comments might convince them to build elsewhere instead.

Donner said objection to a paved access road on a culturally significant trail was a perfect example of a comment on the draft EIS.

Sanchez encouraged the public to rally together and oppose the plans for the mountain. He wasn't certain it would work, but said Guam residents would regret it if they didn't try.

"We are going to need the help of the archbishop, because the faithful will follow him," Sanchez said. "We will make a stand, but as to how effective that is ... it matters to the residents."

22 new wells

22 new wells

Monday, 30 November 2009 04:28
by Mar-Vic Cagurangan | Variety News Staff

DoD urged to seek local permit for water projects

THE Department of Defense plans to install 22 new water wells in Andersen Air Force Base to meet future water requirements resulting from impending military growth, according to the draft environmental impact statement for the Guam military buildup.

The water facility development plan also involves rehabilitation of existing wells and interconnection with the Guam Waterworks Authority’s system.

The proposed new well projects, according to the impact report, would draw water from the Andersen and Agafa-Gumas sub basins, which are currently underdeveloped.

Local control

Senator Ben Pangelinan, meanwhile, reminds the defense department that any water development project to be built anywhere on Guam requires a local permit.

“The law was passed to ensure that, when the military buildup occurs, the water supply for the civilian community is not threatened,” said Pangelinan, author of the water rights protection bill signed as Public Law 29-51.

P.L. 29-51 declares that all ground and underground water resources all over Guam are under local control, with the local civilian population having the first priority use. All water development projects require “expressed authorization” from GWA, according to the law.

Pangelinan said the law also applies to water resources that lie within any military-owned property or any site where DoD, the government of Guam and private landowners have overlapping claims.

“I introduced that law in anticipation of the military’s efforts to claim the water within the aquifer. All the water resources, no matter where they are located, belong to the people of Guam,” Pangelinan told Variety

The senator has asked the Attorney General’s Office to prepare an opinion in defense of the Guam water rights law.

Environmental impact

According to the impact study, the proposed well construction projects would result in the potential temporary increase in storm water runoff, erosion, sedimentation.

“The construction would involve land disturbing activities greater than an acre in size that would trigger the requirement for a construction storm water permit,” the study stated.

The military states assurance that these potential impacts would be minimized through the implementation of “best management practices.”

While the plan to install new water wells is not project to affect the wetlands, the study indicated that increased groundwater withdrawals could potentially impact water levels in caves located along the shorelines of Guam.

“The cave and pool systems may be considered jurisdictional waters of the U.S.,” the impact study said, “thus any potential impacts to the system would be discussed and potentially permitted by the [U.S. Army Corps of Engineers].

Alternative 2

Installing 20 new water wells at AAFB and 11 in Barrigada is another option being considered by DoD, but the first option has been identified in the study as the “preferred alternative.”

Unexploded WWII munitions lurking threats

Unexploded WWII munitions lurking threats

Monday, 30 November 2009 04:22
by Jennifer Naylor Gesick | Variety News Staff

IT IS a concern that island residents have had to contend with for more than six decades: unexploded bombs, grenades and other potentially dangerous munitions left behind by Japanese and American armed forces from as long ago as World War II.

Exposure to unexploded ordinances, discarded military munitions and materials, according to the recently released draft environmental impact report produced by the military, represents an explosive hazard that could result in the death or injury to workers or the public during construction and dredging activities for a new wharf at Polaris Point.

To reduce risk potentials, the Navy plans on conducting a review of historical records and other information. "If there is reason to believe that munitions and explosives of concern may be found in the area, qualified [unexploded ordinance] personnel would perform surveys to identify and remove potential [ munitions and explosives of concern] items prior to the initiation of ground disturbing or dredging activities," states the draft study. Additional safety precautions would include unexploded ordinance personnel supervising earth moving and dredging activities.

These personnel would also provide awareness training to construction personnel involved in excavations and dredging about munitions and explosives of concern prior to and during construction activities. "The identification and removal of [munitions and explosives of concern] prior to initiating construction activities and training construction personnel as to the hazards associated with unexploded military munitions would ensure that potential impacts would be minimized and would be less than significant," states the impact study.

Guam's Draft EIS Forces Power-Water Rethink

Guam's Draft EIS Forces Power-Water Rethink

Written by Guam News Factor Staff Writer
Monday, 30 November 2009 14:13

GUAM - The recently released draft EIS for the Guam military buildup is raising intriguing questions about the island government's capacity to distribute adequate power and water during periods when habitation is expected to rise to all-time highs and then drop precipitously when construction activity winds down. This new document is also compelling a search for answers about who will pay for the extra capacity needed and who will finance its maintenance or resizing once peak periods level off.

In a recent interview with KUAM news, Consolidated Commission on Utilities Chair Simon Sanchez expressed concern about the population numbers estimated for what is termed 'the surge years.'

According to the draft EIS, during 2014 and 2015, Guam can expect as many as 18,300 temporary laborers and 19,500 Marines and their families to be on Guam. Total population increases for this short period will peak at more than 79,000. It is unclear to Sanchez why the laborers who will be building the base and base housing are required to be on island at the same time as the full contingent of Marines and their families. What would these workers be doing, if the Marine base will already be fully populated and operational?

According to Sanchez, discussions to this point have been focused on the long term needs of both the military and the island community and that those discussions have been positive. However, these talks have not specifically addressed these short surge years. The question remains, how does Guam accommodate the power and water needs of this huge population growth for a two-year period and then adjust to meet the needs of a population decrease of as many as 46,000 two years later without being left with an overcapacity of infrastructure that someone will still have to pay for?

Given the extremely aggressive buildup time lines, it is critical that these discussions begin. Sanchez and his team have spent the last two weeks reviewing the EIS and will meet to discuss next steps once the review is completed.

Jeff Marchesseault contributed to this analysis.

Obama: Reversing Nixon's 'Guam Doctrine'

Obama: Reversing Nixon's 'Guam Doctrine'

37th President Reduced America's Presence In Asia; The 44th Is Bringing It Back

Written by Jeff Marchesseault, Guam News Factor Staff Writer
Sunday, 29 November 2009 22:41

GUAM - Wrapping up his tour of Asia with a stopover on the American Territory of Guam in the summer of 1969, U.S. President Richard Nixon announced at an island news conference the makings of a force-reduction policy that would become known alternately as the 'Nixon Doctrine' or 'Guam Doctrine'.

Uncle Sam Does A 180

Fast forward four decades and President Obama's recent overtures to East Asia seem to be a reversal of the United States' longstanding 'Guam Doctrine' – launched by the 37th President on his momentous Territorial stop 40 years ago. Nixon then set the stage for East Asian allies to defend themselves with secondary augmentation, rather than frontline 'primary' trooping, from the U.S.

Didn't Know What We Were Getting Into

It was a different era. The War in Vietnam was increasingly unpopular at home as the American body count piled high. And the 'communist containment' strategy fought by Americans on North Vietnamese terms was looking more and more unwinnable in a booby-trapped realm of terra incognita.

Furthermore, by then America had been embroiled in Asian wars for nearly 30 years -- from the Second World War's Pacific Theater in the '40s to Korea in the '50s to Indochina in the '60s.

Older, Wiser, No Worse For The Wear

But after a generation of active military engagement in the Middle East, 40 years of technological advancement, and years of gradual defense reduction in the Far East, America is reemerging better equipped and more remarkably allied as Protector of the Pacific.

It all comes together (1) at a time when the Air Force in particular and Department of Defense in general are enjoying high public approval ratings in the U.S. and Guam; (2) at a time when the Navy is aggressively pursuing an agenda of carbon reduction; (3) at a time when DOD is increasingly committed to job satisfaction; and (4) at a time when the Pentagon is demonstrating that its commitment to humanitarian assistance trains soldiers while dissolving negative attitudes about the U.S. military worldwide.

Guam At The Cusp

As Obama renews security commitments to the region, buttressed by his whirlwind East Asia tour earlier this month and a state dinner for India's prime minister at the White House last week, US-Guam's military-buildup symbolizes America's growing resident power in the Pacific.

Although invited more than once to visit Guam on his return trip from Asia, Obama didn't have time for his own Presidential stopover to the Territory this go-around. But as the buildup takes hold and Guam's stock rises on the global stage, an Obama visit remains foreseeable, if not imminent.

Perhaps by the time he does visit, an Obama Doctrine will be firm in hand. One that is presaged by diplomacy; driven by active engagement; supported by a strong defensive posture; and prioritized by peace. And instead of announcing a withdrawal from East Asia, he'll instead be celebrating a new era of economic prosperity protecting mutual interests and deterring common foes.

Plan to Shift Marines to Guam Adrift / U.S. Senate Bill Cuts 70% of Funding‏

Plan to Shift Marines to Guam Adrift / U.S. Senate Bill Cuts 70% of Funding‏

Satoshi Ogawa / Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondent

WASHINGTON--In an apparent swipe at the Japanese government over its dithering on the issue of relocating a U.S. military airfield in Okinawa Prefecture, the U.S. Senate on Tuesday voted to slash funding for a plan to transfer 8,000 U.S. marines in the prefecture to Guam.

A plenary session of the Senate passed a fiscal 2010 budget bill related to the construction of military installations that cut 211 million dollars, or about 70 percent, from the 300 million dollars sought by the administration of President Barack Obama to fund the planned transfer of the marines to the U.S. territory.

The transfer of the marines to Guam is one of the key goals of the U.S. military in Japan, along with the relocation of the functions of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Ginowan to Nago, both in Okinawa Prefecture.

The U.S. Congress was in favor of the 300 million dollars allocation for the transfer of the marines in late October when it approved the National Defense Authorization Bill, which stipulates the overall framework of the budget. The House of Representatives passed a bill approving the entire amount.

The Senate's action is believed to represent its displeasure with the fact that the Japanese government has repeatedly changed course on the issue of Futenma's relocation, and that there has been no resolution of the issue.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates had warned the Japanese government that Congress would not allow the allocation of funds to move the marines should the planned relocation of Futenma stall.

A conference committee of both houses is expected to produce a final, unified version of the bill by the middle of December. The adjustments made by this committee will be a focal point in the days to come.

The White House already has sent a letter to the Senate, saying the massive budget cut could adversely affect the Japan-U.S. agreement concluded in February 2009 regarding the relocation of the marines. The White House is expected to work to restore the funding in the final version of the bill.


Time running out

The passing of the bill means there is a real danger that the Japanese government may not be able to reduce the heavy burden Okinawa Prefecture bears in hosting U.S. military facilities if it does not reach a decision on the issue of relocating Futenma within the year.

A U.S. expert on Japan said the Senate appears determined to postpone projects with an uncertain outlook, given the perilous financial situation of the United States due to such factors as the cost of the war in Afghanistan and economic stimulus measures.

The Japanese government hopes the U.S. administration can convince Congress to approve the funding of the troop transfer, but there is increasing dissatisfaction on the U.S. side toward the administration of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, which continues to be indecisive on Futenma despite strong signals from Washington that the U.S. administration wants an early settlement of the issue.
(Nov. 19, 2009)

Senator Blas on EIS

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Infrastructure and population boom questioned

Infrastructure and population boom questioned

Posted: Nov 26, 2009 4:58 PM PST

by Michele Catahay

It's clear the increase in population due to the military buildup will cause issues with power, water and wastewater systems. While it has only been several days since the release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, officials continue to question costs and whether the hefty population loads could be accommodated.

Consolidated Commission on Utilities Chairperson Simon Sanchez says he's been able to read halfway through portions of the DEIS. His personal reaction is that he's quite alarmed by the population figures, as the Department of Defense has projected an increase of an additional 80,000 people.

"In the last 90 days, our conversations with DoD have been focused on much smaller power loads and wastewater loads that reflect much smaller population figures. I think that's the first battlefield for us, to make sure we understand the projections because we're being told much lower loads, which means less power upgrades, less transmission and distribution upgrades, less water and wastewater upgrades that might be needed," said Sanchez.

He says upgrades should be paid for by DoD. In the EIS, the feds outlined a list of proposed long-term alternatives for power. Such include:

1. New power plant at Cabras/Piti location
2. New power plant at Potts Junction
3. Power supplied by the Guam Power Authority

The chairman continued, "It looks like we might be able to get three to five of our existing generators upgraded and paid for by DoD. And that's a benefit to us existing ratepayers because that's an upgrade we would normally have to pay for but we think the buildup can pay for and that would provide more reliable service and more stable power generation for the community."

Sanchez says it's important that transmission and distribution systems are upgraded from Cabras up until Finegayan, to other parts in Barrigada and Mangilao. The same goes for water and wastewater. "On the wastewater side," he explained, "we believe the final decision would be to become a GWA customer. Andersen Air Force Base is a customer, the Marines will also be a customer. They would use our northern wastewater treatment plant. And our contention is that they need to pay for the upgrades necessary to carry the bigger load."

For wastewater, the long-term alternative would be to add a new DoD only standalone primary/secondary treatment facility on DoD land at Finegayan. While for water, alternatives include the development of Lost River, desalination of brackish water, the dredging of sediment from the Navy reservoir to the increase storage capacity.

"The EIS talks about 33 wells. So clearly, they're looking at more population than more recent conversations we've had. We still think it's going to be closer to 22 wells instead of 33 wells for the buildup. We also have civilian needs for wells. Something like 15 wells," he said.

In the meantime, Sanchez says he will be meeting with officials from GPA and GWA in hopes to collectively file questions in light of conversations on the Draft EIS.

Increased sedimentation threatens ecosystem

Increased sedimentation threatens ecosystem

Posted: Nov 28, 2009 1:36 PM Updated: Nov 28, 2009 5:04 PM

by Heather Hauswirth

Constructing a berthing for a nuclear transient aircraft carrier pier slated for either Apra Harbor or the shipping repair facility near Polaris Point does not come without significant environmental consequences. Dredging and other construction related activities increases sedimentation levels in the water.

Manny Duenas said, "Apra Harbor is a major lagoon for Guam and lagoons are normally good places for breeding grounds for fish and marine life and with the sediment that will be coming from Apra Harbor, I don't know how you can mitigate fine particles and the turbidity issue. It will affect Guam in itself because we know the fish don't just live in one area." The Fisherman's Co-Op president said biologists agree that the most acceptable paradigm for the natural environment is one where sedimentation is kept to a minimum.

Guam EPA Environmental Monitoring and Analytical Services Administrator Jesse Cruz says it is disruptive to the overall marine environment, saying, "During the dredging process, the sedimentation that could result from dredging has an impact on mainly the corals and the coral reef area where the fine sediments that will be released during the dredging process could be distributed through the larger area with the currents and settle down on top of the coral, which could cause a smothering affect of the corals."

A smothering of the corals would diminish their survivor ship in the area as sedimentation shades out the sunlight, which corals need for survival. Despite strict protocol in place for dredging, the Joint Guam Program Office's asst environmental director on Guam, Randel Sablan says there is no way to avoid it, but there may be a way to mitigate the impact.

He said, "On the compensatory side - what do we do with the coral that were impacted? Well, the army corps permit that the navy needs to obtain in order to do the dredging will require compensatory mitigation and in the DEIS there are four types of compensatory mitigation proposed."

These options include building an artificial reef to replace the services and functions lost, doing water shed enhancements to reduce erosion that impacts coral reefs, coastal mitigation proposals such as increasing waste water treatment, and a mitigation banking program where the Navy would outsource mitigation projects to a third-party.

But Cruz pointed out that isolating construction and dredging as much as possible is actually what's key to mitigation, saying, "Silk curtains or silk screens during the operations to minimize the fines from the area of the dredging, keep the dredging area to as minimal space as possible."

The debate continues about the best way to approach mitigation. As time goes on, fishermen like Duenas say they won't pipe down as long as there are fish that are going to be impacted by dirtier water. "Any fish in Apra Harbor part of the reproductive stage or part of the replenishing of this islands resource that will be removed," he said.

Duenas continued, "I saw the map for dredging of Apra Harbor and they are going to come right down the middle. That is a whole reef area that they are going to impact.

"And that's really sad."

Apathy Creeps Into Guam's Buildup-Impact Review Period

Apathy Creeps Into Guam's Buildup-Impact Review Period

Written by Jeff Marchesseault, Guam News Factor Staff Writer
Friday, 27 November 2009 15:55

Library, Mayor's Office Indicate Low Public Interest

Holiday Stupor Could Cut Into 90-Day Deadline

GUAM - As the clock ticks on the 90-day review and public comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), Senator Judi Guthertz is making every effort to give people the chance to review the categorized, thousands-page, multi-volume document. This week she announced the opening of a reading room for the public.

Her office conference room at the Guam Legislature in Hagatna contains a hard copy of the DEIS for public review.

According to Guthertz, local leaders are becoming concerned that there is public apathy about reviewing the DEIS.

Underlying Reasons For Putting Off Impact Review

Elected officials' concern is well founded, owing to the serious nature of the subject matter and the tight window of opportunity to comment.

Causes for procrastination, aloofness or disinterest may be manyfold: (1) the sheer magnitude of the document; (2) the perhaps misguided sense that the voices of everyday citizens won't matter; and (3) the fact that the holiday season has taken hold of our time and attention.

While the island may be winding down the Thanksgiving holiday, Black Friday has us in the clutches of retail sales for a Christmas season that won't let up until after New Year's.

Urging Participation

But local leaders cannot underscore the imperative of public input enough.

As Governor Camacho reminded attendees during his address at a recent forum in the Legislative Hearing Room called The Military Buildup And Beyond: The Guam Perspective, the public is highly encouraged to read the Draft EIS and to make comments so that the US Department of Defense can enter them on record.

Camacho admonished his audience and news watchers not to think they're voices wouldn't register over the din of Defense Department priorities.

Meanwhile, public libraries, mayors' offices, reading rooms and an official Joint Guam Program Office website are dedicated to getting the information into public hands. At the Legislature's buildup conference last week, the Governor even mentioned having it distributed on compact disk.

Neglected In Hagatna

To take the temperature of library patrons in Hagatna, Guam News Factor caught up with an employee of the Nieves M. Flores Public Library as this individual and their coworkers were closing up for the afternoon. When asked whether they've seen much DEIS traffic, this worker replied, "not really." The worker said that whenever they walk by the section in the library where the DEIS hard copy is stored, they don't see anyone there.

While Guthertz tells Guam News Factor that the opening of the DEIS reading room at her office inside the Guam Legislature building in Hagatna "had nothing to do with any perceived sense of apathy," she doesn't deny that there are signs of it out there.

On Wednesday, Guthtertz told the Factor, "The only thing I have seen is the single comment by the Mayor of Dededo in the newspaper about only one person coming into her office to read the document. So, I have not heard anything or seen anything, other than that single story, which would indicate public apathy."

"The 'reading room' has been open to the public since first thing Monday morning when we placed the binders on the table in the conference room," Guthertz said. "That conference room, along with all of the office rooms, are open to the public during regular business hours."

On Wednesday, Guthertz and Senator Rory Respicio, who share the same office, decided they should publicize the fact that the reading room is open for everyone to use -- "from a sense of public service."

"Our approach has always been that this building is the 'peoples' building'," Guthertz said. "We will never permit any meeting here to be closed to the media or the public. So, following that approach, it fell naturally that the paper copy of the DEIS should be available to the public."

No Excuses - Just Do It!

"The fact remains that the public should, indeed, review the document. The executive summary is not that long. This buildup will forever change the way we live. The public needs to review the document and participate by submitting comments no later than February 17."

John Dela Rosa contributed to this report.

Here is recent the news release announcing the opening of the public reading room at Guthertz' office:

November 25, 2009

Another Reading Room For Reviewers Of Guam Military Buildup Environmental Impact Statement

HAGATNA - In an unusual appeal for citizen involvement, a variety of local officials, ranging from the governor to senators and island mayors have been urging their constituents to crack the books and personally review the recently released draft environmental impact statement on the Guam military buildup.

The idea is those who will have to live with the results of the massive buildup should find out what's in it and have a chance to influence its outcome.

In the latest development, a hard copy of the draft EIS is will be available for public reading in the conference room at the Legislative Building in Hagåtña inside the senatorial offices of Senator Judi Guthertz and Senator Rory Respicio.

The document, which runs many thousands of pages, is available at local libraries and mayor's offices as well as at several websites.

Public needs more time to review draft EIS, group says

Public needs more time to review draft EIS, group says

By Bernice Santiago • Pacific Sunday News • November 29, 2009

The Taotaomo'na Native Rights group met yesterday to discuss the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Guam military buildup, citing concerns about the amount of time available to review the 8,000-page document before the public comment deadline on Feb. 18.

"You'd have to quit your job and stay home and read the thing in order to meet the deadline," said Patria Sablan, a member of the group. Sablan said an additional two months past Feb. 18 would be helpful to digest and comprehend the EIS.

Retired Marine Col. John J. Jackson, director of the Joint Guam Program Office, told the Pacific Daily News on Nov. 17 that the draft itself is a little less than 4,000 pages, and the appendices constitute about another 4,000 pages. The EIS document is designed to be an easy read for the "average citizen," Jackson said, while the appendices contain more technical data.

Jackson suggests residents start with volume one to understand why the Marines are relocating to Guam and to find out in which volume their subjects of interest are encompassed.

The draft EIS details how the transfer of 8,000 Marines and 9,000 dependents from Okinawa to Guam will affect the island's infrastructure, environment, community and quality of life. Plans for an Army missile defense facility and facilities for recurring visits of aircraft carriers are also included in the EIS.

Residents were originally given 45 days to review the draft EIS. The period was extended by an additional 45 days, after local government leaders asked the Department of Defense for a longer review period.

In October, Guam officials -- Sens. Judith Guthertz and Rory Respicio, Gov. Felix Camacho and Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo -- had asked military officials to extend the 45-day period assigned for the public review and comment period for the draft, Pacific Sunday News files state.

Responding to their request, U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told Bordallo during a meeting in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 28 that Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn had approved an extension of 45 days, a press release issued from the Joint Guam Program Office stated.

In a letter to Maj. Gen. David Bice of the U.S. Marine Corps, Camacho had asked for an extension of 75 days, but the 45-day extension "balances the need for additional time to review a complex document with the Department's requirement to complete the military buildup on Guam on a tight schedule," the press release stated.

Camacho and members of the Guam Legislature were notified of the extension by acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Installations and Environment Roger Natsuhara, who visited Guam this month.

Sablan was also concerned that the structural changes and installations that come with the buildup would do permanent damage to the island. "We need to get someone to help us out, like an environmental lawyer," Sablan said.

Trini Torres, the Pilong Maga' Haga, or chief leader, for the rights group, said she didn't believe that public comments would be heeded in the final publication of the EIS.

"They don't pay attention," Torres said. "It's a formality."

Despite the activists' concerns, the local and federal environmental protection agencies are part of the review process toward the military expansions on Guam, government officials have said.

Torres plans to submit comments, which she said will be similar to her response to the draft EIS for the Mariana Islands Range Complex, she said. Torres said that the group plans to attend the public hearings on the buildup EIS in January, and that they will be splitting up sections of the EIS among them.

At a press conference on Nov. 21, Jackson said the public comments, especially legitimate concerns, do carry a lot of weight in the final decision-making process.

According to a timeline in the draft EIS, the final statement is scheduled to be available by June 30.

After a 30-day waiting period -- July 6 to Aug. 6, 2010 -- the Record of Decision is scheduled to be issued by July 30, 2010. This allows buildup-related construction to begin.

But those dates are tentative.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Chamorro rights group to talk about DEIS

Chamorro rights group to talk about DEIS

Posted: Nov 26, 2009 9:44 PM PST
by Nick Delgado

The Taotaomona Native Rights Group will hold another meeting tomorrow afternoon to discuss their concerns with the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The group is also expected to discuss the Self-Determination Registry as they attempt to recruit registrants and begin setting up training and registering residents for that vote.

The meeting will be held tomorrow afternoon beginning at 2:30 at the Plasan Maga'lahi Hurao in Anigua across Pigo Cemetery.

Judge stops DHS from implementing interim final rule

Judge stops DHS from implementing interim final rule

Friday, November 27, 2009

Agency told to come up with regs for alien workers to travel in, out of NMI
By Ferdie de la Torre

The federal government's interim final rule on the CNMI transitional worker program will not go into effect tomorrow, Saturday, after the judge handling the CNMI government's lawsuit against federalization issued a preliminary injunction yesterday to prevent the rule from going into effect pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Paul L. Friedman agreed with the CNMI government that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had no reasonable basis for publishing the interim rule without giving the CNMI and other stakeholders time to comment, as required under the Administrative Procedures Act.

To help alien workers leave and re-enter the CNMI or for employers to hire needed off-island workers, Friedman suggested that DHS promulgate a narrowly focused and temporary emergency regulation that addresses these issues.

Labor special counsel Deanne Siemer said this is virtually a command for DHS to come up with an emergency regulation that would allow aliens in the CNMI to travel in and out.

Also, since no U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' regulations on CW status or business permits will come into effect tomorrow, the CNMI will continue to operate under its existing labor system except for entry and exit, Siemer said.

The interim rule defines the types of businesses that will be eligible to receive permits for alien workers. It sets a numerical limit on the number of permits that will be granted between Nov. 28, 2009 and Sept. 30, 2010. It also outlines requirements that must be met by employers seeking to obtain a permit.

The CNMI, through the Block and Jenner law firm, asked the court to bar the implementation of the regulations, citing that DHS violated the APA in promulgating them. The CNMI argued that DHS wrongfully dispensed with the notice-and-comment procedures required by the law.

The federal government countered that DHS' action does not violate the APA because it had “good cause” to dispense with the requirement.

In granting the CNMI's motion, Friedman said DHS first provided public notice of the rule when it published the rule in the Federal Register on Oct. 27, 2009.

“Since the interim rule was already in its final form on that date, it is undisputed that DHS failed to provide the notice and opportunity for comment typically required by the APA,” Friedman said.

The judge concluded that upon consideration of the totality of the circumstances surrounding the issue, the CNMI is likely to succeed on its claim that DHS did not have “good cause” to dispense with the notice-and-comment procedures and thus violated the APA.

The federal government suggested that providing notice and an opportunity to comment prior to promulgating the rule was impracticable because Congress, in passing the Consolidated Natural Resources Act (federalization law), imposed several burdensome administrative duties on DHS and only allowed the agency 18 months in which to fulfill them.

Friedman found this argument unpersuasive. He said the interim rule will dramatically alter the CNMI's current system for admitting guest workers, who constitute two-thirds of the CNMI's private workforce.

In short, the judge said, the rule will enact far-reaching changes that likely will have significant effects on the CNMI labor market, and it will do so despite the fact that it has not “been tested via exposure to diverse public comment.”

Friedman found convincing the CNMI's arguments that residents and government have meaningful concerns about the rule.

Friedman cited that the criteria established by the rule for issuance of permits for new guest workers to employers may be inadequate.

As written, the judge pointed out, the rule requires employers seeking permits to “consider all available U.S. workers for the position” that is to be filled by a new guest worker, but does not require those employers to consider guest workers already present in the Commonwealth for the position.

To ensure that employers have “considered available U.S. workers,” the rule only asks that employers attest that they have done so, Friedman said.

“The CNMI posits that such attestations may 'be prone to fraud and leave qualified U.S. citizens unemployed,' a matter it would have raised and documented if it had been given the opportunity to comment,” he said.

The judge added that if he ultimately decides the merits of the CNMI's APA claim in the Commonwealth's favor, the damage done by DHS' violation of the APA cannot be fully cured by later remedial action.

He noted that once the program structured by the rule has begun operation as scheduled on Nov. 28, 2009, DHS is far less likely to be receptive to comments.

“If the interim permit rule is not enjoined prior to its effective date, the CNMI will never have an equivalent opportunity to influence the rule's contents,” Friedman said.

The federal government has provided no evidence to show how many workers and businesses will be affected by a temporary delay in the implementation of the rule, and the court is aware of none.

Friedman said it is unclear that foreign workers otherwise eligible under the Immigration and Nationality Act will be able to leave the CNMI and re-enter it within the first several weeks after Nov. 28, 2009, even if the rule is in place.

“Similarly, while the interim permit rule creates a mechanism whereby a CNMI employer may arrange to hire foreign workers from outside the Commonwealth, it is difficult to know whether employers will have much need for that mechanism in the weeks immediately following Nov. 28, 2009.”

Friedman said the emergency rules to address the problem of foreign workers seeking to leave and return to the CNMI or employers in need of workers from outside the CNMI may be promulgated without notice and comment, since they fall within the APA's “good cause” exception.

“It is unfortunate that DHS may have to issue such ad hoc emergency rules. The court emphasizes, however, that this is a problem of the agency's own making,” he said.

Had DHS released the rule earlier in the year and provided the public with notice and an opportunity for comment, the current problem would never have arisen, he said.

“DHS should not now expect to excuse its violation of the APA by pointing to the problems created by its own delay,” Friedman said.

By failing to meet even the minimum standards set by the APA, DHS has also failed to comply fully with Congress' intent to secure the meaningful involvement of the Commonwealth in the transformation of the CNMI's immigration law, he said.

Friedman said the transitional work permitting program “is of great importance to the CNMI, since it has the potential to transform the nature of the Commonwealth's workforce.”

“That program also involves an area-the regulation of immigration into the CNMI-about which the Commonwealth has significant expertise, having knowledge of the needs of its own economy and having operated its own immigration program for decades,” he said.

The judge said the public interest will be best served if the rule is temporarily stopped so that it may be revised as necessary by DHS upon receipt of comments and advice from the CNMI and other parties.

Fitial, workers welcome ruling

Fitial, workers welcome ruling

Friday, November 27, 2009

Federal takeover excludes labor-for now
By Haidee V. Eugenio

The federal government will only be able to implement border control at the stroke of midnight on Nov. 28, but not the existing CNMI labor program, at least for now.

This is because of a federal judge's order dated Nov. 25 preventing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from implementing in its current form the interim final rule on the CNMI transitional worker program, which takes effect on Saturday.

Gov. Benigno R. Fitial and the United Workers Movement-NMI separately welcomed yesterday U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Paul L. Friedman's ruling granting the CNMI government's motion for a preliminary injunction preventing DHS from implementing its CNMI transitional worker (CW) classification rule.

“I am very pleased with this favorable decision by Judge Friedman. The interim final rule fails to comply with Public Law 110-229 and will be very damaging to the Commonwealth if it goes into effect in its present form,” Fitial said in a statement yesterday.

Fitial, who turns 64 today, sued the federal government over federalization.

He urged DHS to consider the over 100 comments that have so far been filed on its transitional worker program rule.

In an interview with Saipan Tribune on Wednesday, Fitial reiterated that a federal takeover of local labor is “unnecessary.”

“We don't have any problem having the federal government take over immigration. Let them control our border because we don't have the capabilities to do that, but we have a strong enforcement mechanism to control our labor. Why do they have to remove labor from us? It doesn't make sense and we're the only one. All the other [U.S.] territories, they control their own labor,” he said.

'Green card'

Ronnie Doca and Rabby Syed, leaders of the workers group, hope that latest court ruling will give DHS more time to consider their concerns.

Workers groups in the CNMI want the federal government to grant “green cards” or legal permanent resident status to certain classes of nonresidents in the CNMI, including long-term foreign workers.

“We are happy with the ruling so DHS will have more time to look into our concerns. Among the most important things we are asking [for] is a better immigration for long-time nonresident workers, and a blanket authority for those with valid CNMI permits to re-enter the CNMI after a vacation or emergency exit,” said Doca, board chairman of the group, which comprises thousands of foreign workers in the CNMI.

Worker groups have started a signature campaign asking President Obama and the U.S. Congress to grant “green cards” to certain foreigners in the CNMI, ahead of the May 10, 2010, deadline for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to recommend to Congress whether a grant of permanent immigration status to nonresidents in the CNMI is necessary.

'Exit, entry'

DHS' interim final rule, which is supposed to take effect Saturday, prohibits foreign workers from re-entering the islands using only their valid CNMI work and entry permit.

Friedman said DHS could “promulgate a narrowly focused and temporary emergency regulation” that addresses only the “exit and entry” problems presented in the department's interim final rule.

Regulations by DHS' U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would have required foreign workers to secure a CW-1 visa from a U.S. embassy for them to re-enter the CNMI, but only after they first secure a CNMI-only transitional worker status, which may take up to 60 days to acquire.

This means foreign workers can exit but not re-enter the CNMI up to at least early 2010, in order to secure a CW status and a CW-1 visa to comply with the DHS interim final rule.

DHS, however, repeatedly said that nonresident workers can exit the CNMI any time during the transition period from Nov. 28, 2009 to Dec. 31, 2014, but they cannot re-enter the islands without a CW-1 visa obtained from a U.S. embassy.

There is also a possibility that an applicant may be denied a CW-1 visa and therefore won't be able to re-enter the CNMI and continue working on the islands despite possessing a valid CNMI work and entry permit.

The Form I-29CW is a modified form of the Form I-29, but it is specifically used for the Commonwealth-only Transitional Worker, or CW, program.

A “transitional worker” under P.L. 110-229 is defined as an alien worker who is currently ineligible for another classification under the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Act and who performs services or labor for an employer in the CNMI.

Most of the foreign workers in the CNMI are from the Philippines and China, while others are from Korea, Thailand and Bangladesh.

Florida-based human rights activist and former Rota teacher Wendy Doromal expressed hope that the comments so far submitted on the DHS interim final rule “should now be considered by DHS.”

Many relate to travel restrictions and the requirement for a visa for a foreign worker to return to the CNMI after traveling for personal or medical reasons.

Friedman agreed with the CNMI that DHS had no reasonable basis for publishing the interim final rule without complying with the notice and comment provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act.

The judge also made clear that he was denying any possible effort by the U.S. Department of Justice representing DHS to obtain a stay of his order pending appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.

Border control

The DHS transitional worker rule is supposed to take effect Saturday, when DHS' U.S. Customs and Border Protection takes over border control.

Edward H. Low, public affairs liaison at CBP's San Francisco office, earlier said that between 40 and 50 CBP officers will be on Saipan to take over immigration control at the Saipan International Airport at the stroke of midnight on Nov. 28.

But as of press time yesterday, Low said he's still checking to see what, if any, impact the court ruling will have on CBP operations.

Among other things, the federal takeover of local immigration means U.S. visas will be required of foreigners to enter the CNMI, just like Guam, Hawaii, and the rest of the United States, except for nationals of countries that are included in visa waiver programs.

The CNMI is the last U.S. territory that controls its own borders.

Fingerprinting and eye scan will also become main fixtures at the airport, just like anywhere in the U.S.

P.L. 110-229 or the Consolidated Natural Resources Act, signed by President George Bush in May 2008, not only applies federal immigration control in the CNMI but also gave the CNMI its first non-voting delegate to the U.S. Congress.

As a result of the federalization law, the CNMI held its first delegate election in November 2008, won by Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan, a former executive director of the Commonwealth Election Commission.

'Federalization law is legal'

'Federalization law is legal'

Friday, November 27, 2009

NMI arguments 'unpersuasive, plain wrong'
By Ferdie de la Torre

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Paul L. Friedman has upheld the constitutionality of the law that applies federal immigration laws to the CNMI.

In explaining his order dismissing counts 1 and 2 of the CNMI government's amended lawsuit against federalization, Friedman described the Commonwealth's arguments “unpersuasive, unavailing, and just plain wrong.”

Friedman said that Congress was authorized to enact the Consolidated Natural Resources Act by the plain and unambiguous terms of Section 503 of the Covenant. CNRA, the federalization law, is also known as Public Law 110-229.

The judge also ruled that the challenged provisions of the CNRA comply with the mutual consent provision of Section 105 and the “self-government” guarantee of Section 103 of the Covenant.

“No doubt the CNMI would prefer that federal legislation never affect any matters of local concern, no matter how inextricably intertwined they may be with federal affairs. But it cannot rely on the Covenant to ensure that result,” said Friedman in a 39-page opinion that explained his Tuesday order dismissing two of the CNMI government's three-count lawsuit.

The CNMI, through the Jenner and Block law firm, had asked the court to prevent the federal government from acting in violation of the Covenant and urged the court to issue a permanent ban against the implementation of the federalization law in the Commonwealth.

In Count 1, the CNMI claimed that federalization is in violation of the Covenant in that it infringes on the right of the CNMI to self-government and abrogates that right without the CNMI's consent.

The CNMI argued, among other things, that the federalization of immigration and foreign worker-related labor matters in the CNMI violates sections of the Covenant which call for local control over local matters and require mutual consent for any changes to the Covenant.

The CNMI insists that Congress acted in excess of its authority in passing some provisions of the CNRA, and that those provisions must be stopped.

Friedman disagreed. He concluded that under the express and unambiguous language of Section 503 of the Covenant, Congress was free after Nov. 3, 1986, to apply immigration and naturalization laws of the U.S. to the CNMI.

“As a result, the CNRA is a legitimate exercise of federal congressional authority so long as its challenged provisions qualify as being among 'the immigration and naturalization laws of the United States.'”

Friedman said so long as the CNRA qualifies as an “immigration and naturalization law,” it does not infringe upon the “internal affairs” of the CNMI within the meaning of Section 103.

He said the CNMI's argument that the CNRA cannot be viewed as an “immigration law” is unpersuasive.

The judge said the CNMI is just plain wrong when it asserts that nothing in federal immigration and naturalization law permits an “employer-by-employer, worker-by-worker local labor permitting scheme.”

“The fact that the application of federal immigration laws to the CNMI through the CNRA may have a dramatic impact upon the CNMI's labor force does not convert an immigration law into a labor law,” he said.

Friedman said even if the court were to agree with the CNMI that the CNRA is not an immigration and naturalization law that Congress is specifically authorized by the Covenant to enact, the court will still find the CNRA valid under the Covenant.

The CNMI had argued that the provisions of the CNRA dealing with foreign workers already in the CNMI “have nothing whatever to do with border security” but are internal labor matters.

Friedman rejected this argument, saying this appears to be based on the assumption that “border security” is achieved only at the border and nowhere else.

“That assumption makes little sense here. Thousands of individuals who would have been ineligible to enter the CNMI under federal immigration law already reside in the CNMI,” he said.

Obviously, Friedman said, the U.S. could not simply ignore these individuals and at the same time regard the CNMI's borders as “secure,” because one of the principal ways the U.S. secures its borders is by requiring compliance with its immigration laws.

He said the CNMI wishes to characterize the regulation of foreign workers already admitted to the CNMI as a local matter because the CNMI's economy is dependent on the labor of foreign workers.

“In addition to being circular, that argument fails to recognize that the presence of thousands of foreign workers in the CNMI, few of whom would qualify to enter the CNMI under federal immigration laws, raises legitimate foreign policy and security concerns-concerns solely within the province of the federal government,” Friedman said.

Sea turtles in peril

Sea turtles in peril

Friday, 27 November 2009 04:04 by Jennifer Naylor Gesick | Variety News Staff

THE Navy is still doing a marine resources biological assessment to address the potential affects of the proposed creation of a new wharf at Polaris Point to house an aircraft carrier on threatened and endangered species, according to the draft environmental impact statement.

There are three special status species associated with Apra Harbor. The green sea turtle is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, the Hawksbill sea turtle listed as endangered and the Spinner dolphin which is protected under the Endangered Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The Navy expects the potential impacts to sea turtles to be "temporary disruption of normal behavior patterns (swimming, resting or foraging behaviors at Sasa Bay and Big Blue Reef)," states the study.

The temporary activities include dredging for the wharf and turning basin anticipated to last four to 78 months. The entire dredging process is expected to last eight to 18 months, but the Navy does not anticipate work to widen and deepen the existing channels to affect sea turtles.

Pile-driving and wharf construction is expected to last from six to 18 months with a total of 3.5 year duration to be estimated for all in-water construction activities. The draft study does expect the sea turtle nesting activities to be impacted by the lights from the barges used for dredging activities.

The work is expected to go on 24 hours per day for up to 18 months. Sea Turtles have been observed nesting during all months of the year on Guam with peak activity from April to July. Dangkolo, Dikiki and Kilo Wharf are the most active locations. "In general sea turtles nest and hatch at night.

They use natural light cues to orient toward the ocean. However, bright lights from the dredging platforms may confuse nesting turtles and hatchlings and result in them orienting away from the ocean," says the statement. The Navy promises that the final impact study will contain a revised sea turtle impact analysis based on ongoing and recent past studies of potential noise exposures to sea turtles and other marine species from pile driving actions.

GDOE needs $5M for textbooks

GDOE needs $5M for textbooks

Friday, 27 November 2009 03:29 by Therese Hart | Variety News Staff

IT IS a persistent and expensive problem that won’t go away. The Guam Department of Education has yet to take control of its textbook management and expenditures even after former deputy superintendent Dr. Geri James said that the textbook issues have been resolved.

During Wednesday's regular policy board meeting, the issue of textbooks arose, with Dr. Eva San Nicolas, James’ successor, informing the board that GDOE will need supplemental funds of $4.9 million for new textbooks and $500,000 to pay vendors for prior year obligations.

Even with the $2 million appropriated by Public Law 30-55, the department still needs $4.9 million to purchase kindergarten through grade 12 books for content areas in social studies, health, physical education, music and art. Textbook orders for the 25 private schools will need to be addressed as well.

GDOE will also request that the legislature place a moratorium on textbook adoption for two years. As it stands, textbooks are adopted for seven years and are in circulation at all the 40 schools for continued use for the duration of its adoptive lifespan.

If the legislature is unwilling, GDOE will need to adopt new science textbooks by March 2010 and the estimated cost will be $5 million.

This was not included in the supplemental budget request that GDOE will possibly send to the legislature in early December.

Lose some, win some

Lose some, win some

Friday, 27 November 2009 03:33 by Jennifer Naylor Gesick | Variety News Staff

Military activity affect water tourism

THE Navy expects some negative economic impacts on ocean-based tourism as a result of the construction and operation of a new port to berth an aircraft carrier at Polaris Point, according to the environmental impact statement for the military buildup.

“However, these economic impacts on tourism would be somewhat mitigated or compensated for by increased tourism from military personnel,” the study says.

Apra Harbor is the single most popular site for recreational divers and commercial diving operations.

Economic impacts on ocean-based tourism within Apra Harbor correlate to degradation of the environment, according to the impact study.

"Siltation from dredging already affects visibility and has diving business operators concerned about possible permanent coral loss,” the study states.

Even though 25 acres of coral is expected to be completely removed, the impact report states that disturbance from construction activities would be short-term and localized. Long-term operational effects on tourism would include force protection restrictions during carrier arrival and departure, hence restricting diving and tourist operations.

Despite the impact on water tourism, a survey of hoteliers concluded that they welcome the prospect of more carrier operations, because past carrier visits have always contributed positively to their occupancy levels. The study also states that historically there have been positive impacts on ocean based tourism because dive companies fly instructors out to carriers to initiate basic instruction for open-water certifications. Positive effects on ocean-based tourism volume would be countered by the prospect of increased congestion in the Apra Harbor area, the study says.

“Guam’s two major dive companies, as well as many of the smaller ones, launch their boats out of Apra Harbor and dock at Port Authority of Guam small boat basin. Military and tourist operations have conflicted in the past. Increases in military operations may increase this conflict,” states the impact report.

US gears up for CNMI takeover

US gears up for CNMI takeover

Friday, 27 November 2009 03:31 by Gemma Q. Casas | Variety News Staff

(SAIPAN)--An official of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said his office is ready to administer and operate the immigration system of the Northern Marianas, which will be placed under federal control starting tomorrow.

Edward Low, chief CBP officer, said some of the permanently assigned personnel for the Saipan international airport have arrived on island and more will come in the next few days.

Part of the contingent are armed CBP officers.

“CBP officers are armed. That is the function of their duty. That weapon is part of who they are,” said Low who arrived on Saipan on Friday. He is scheduled to leave on Dec. 4.

“We’re scheduled to take over immigration on Nov. 28. With any luck it would be relatively seamless,” he said in an interview on Monday.

According to its Web site, CBP is one of the most complex components of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with a priority mission of keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the country.

It is also responsible for securing and facilitating trade and travel while enforcing hundreds of U.S. regulations, including immigration and drug laws.

Local customs, however, will remain under the jurisdiction of the local government.

Low said CBP will enforce the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Act by screening passengers entering all points of entries in the CNMI.

“As it stands now, when CBP takes over immigration on the 28th, anybody who wants to enter the CNMI must have a U.S. passport, a U.S. permanent card or green card, a U.S. visa or they have to be a member of the visa-waiver country or Chinese or Russian nationals who are seeking to visit the CNMI. But those two countries will be dealt with a little bit differently. But you know I can’t speak about anything else,” he said.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, another agency of DHS, deals with people who have already entered the nation and its territories. It is expected to bring in a contingent as part of the federalization law’s implementation.

The USCIS is in-charge of collecting biometrics and processing the Commonwealth Worker or CW-1 status that will be offered to foreign workers on the islands who are otherwise ineligible for other U.S. employment-based programs.

5 sites studied for ‘contamination’

5 sites studied for ‘contamination’

Friday, 27 November 2009 03:26 by Jude Lizama | Variety News Staff

THE draft environmental impact statement for the Guam military buildup identifies at least five active and inactive military training grounds that are being assessed for potential contamination.

As part of the inventory process, the Department of Defense is coordinating with Guam Environmental Protection Agency to conduct preliminary assessments and site inspections of “areas of concern” on Guam.

Currently identified munitions response areas include Naval Magazine Small Arms Range, Spanish Steps Skeet and Trap Ranges, Orote Point Rifle and Pistol Range, Naval Computer and Telecommunications Main Station Finegayan Skeet Range, and Naval Computer and Telecommunications Main Station Small Arms Range.

The Environmental Data Resources, Inc.’s report used to identify local hazardous substance waste sites was also used to locate munitions response areas.

“Since the EDR database reports did not provide exact addresses of sites, only zip codes, the identification of potential contamination sites heavily relied on the field review” conducted in March and April of 2008 and March of 2009 by Parsons Brinckerhoff, according to the draft impact study.

Field review

The field review was conducted “to verify locations of potential contamination sites identified in previous reports, and to identify other potential contamination sites not included in previous studies,” according to the impact report.

Parsons Brinckerhoff project team surveyed accessible properties to identify potential contamination and possible contamination risks to roadway right-of-way and potential construction activities.

Response team

The draft study made references to the Military Munitions Response Program, established in 2001 under the 1986 Defense Environmental Restoration Program.

The draft environmental impact statement explained processes for its own “Munitions Response Program” for the island’s military buildup.

The impact study cited that the response program was designed to “address hazards associated with munitions and explosives of concern within areas no longer used for operational range activities.”


The 2001 National Defense Authorization Act requires DOD to develop a primary inventory of areas not located within operational ranges, regardless if they are active or inactive, known or suspected to contain “munitions or explosives of concern.”

Additionally, potential contamination sites at DOD lands adjacent to the proposed improvements were “observed and documented from the roadway ROW,” and aside from sites within or near DOD lands, “site photographs were obtained from potential petroleum and hazardous material sites that would be adjacent to proposed roadway improvements.”

Diet Considers Allocation For Okinawa-Guam Transfer

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Says Coalition Government May Make 'Temporary Allocation'

Japan's Parliament Still Waiting On Prime Minister To Make Up His Mind On Where To Put U.S. Marines

Written by Jeff Marchesseault, Guam News Factor Staff Writer
Thursday, 26 November 2009 09:56

GUAM - Japan's parliament is currently pondering allocation, now that Japan's Defense Ministry has requested the yen equivalent of $1 billion in FY2010 dollars to help cover the cost of (1) reclaiming land in Nago, Okinawa for a new base there and (2) transferring thousands of U.S. Marines to Guam.

It's a sign that the disagreement between Japan's new coalition government and the Obama Administration on where to relocate the Marines may soon get traction and help ensure the timely transfer of as many as 8,600 American troops and their 9,000 dependents from Okinawa to Guam.

The allocation's serious consideration is off to a running start, as Japan's fiscal year starts in April. But there are no guarantees of funding for the current plan, since Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has yet to offer an alternative to a 2006 bilateral accord to move the functions of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Nago. The accord faces stiff opposition from coalition partners and Okinawans, including pacifists, environmentalists, and those who just plain oppose any new U.S. military footprints across an Okinawa that already hosts the vast majority of American forces in Japan.

According to an Kyodo News service story appearing in today's edition of The Japan Times:

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano said Wednesday the government will decide whether to allocate funds for the replacement facility, which, under the bilateral accord, would be built in Nago, Okinawa, after deliberating the issue at a ministerial committee consisting of the leaders of the three coalition parties.

"The allocation in the budget for the next fiscal year will be decided after policies are set at the ministerial committee on basic policy among the three parties," Hirano said at a news conference.

Hirano left open the possibility that the government may do the allocation on a temporary basis, given that Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has yet to make a final decision on the relocation.

While the Diet mulls funding for the plan spelled out in the original accord, leaders and constituents on Guam are reviewing an 8,000-page Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the military's installation expansion here -- a $15 billion project designed, in part, to reduce the civilian burden of hosting American armed forces in Okinawa.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Budget may cover part of Futenma accord

Budget may cover part of Futenma accord

Thursday, Nov. 26, 2009
Kyodo News

The government may allocate funds for the relocation of a U.S. Marine base in the fiscal 2010 national budget before finalizing its stance on where the base should eventually be relocated, a high-ranking government official said Wednesday.

The possible budgeting for a new facility that would replace the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa reflects Tokyo's concerns that the United States may perceive Japan as having reneged on the bilateral accord stipulating the relocation.

"The budget and the conclusion on a relocation facility are separate issues," the official said on condition of anonymity.

The government plans to compile by year's end the budget for the new fiscal year starting in April.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano said Wednesday the government will decide whether to allocate funds for the replacement facility, which, under the bilateral accord, would be built in Nago, Okinawa, after deliberating the issue at a ministerial committee consisting of the leaders of the three coalition parties.

"The allocation in the budget for the next fiscal year will be decided after policies are set at the ministerial committee on basic policy among the three parties," Hirano said at a news conference.

Hirano left open the possibility that the government may do the allocation on a temporary basis, given that Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has yet to make a final decision on the relocation.

"We have yet to decide what kind of political judgment we should make," Hirano said.

The revisiting of the proposed relocation under the 2006 bilateral accord has strained Japan-U.S. relations, with Hatoyama entertaining the idea of moving the base out of Okinawa or out of the country.

Washington wants Tokyo to stick to the accord, under which the Futenma base in Ginowan will be moved to a new airstrip to be built in Nago by 2014, while moving 8,000 marines to Guam once the new base is operational, as part of the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan at that time.

The Defense Ministry has requested about ¥89 billion for the cost of land reclamation in Nago and transferring marines from Okinawa to Guam in accordance with the accord.

Will review unravel ’06 U.S.-Japan troop relocation pact?

Will review unravel ’06 U.S.-Japan troop relocation pact?

Home :: News
Bookmark and Share
Listen to this article. Powered by
Will review unravel ’06 U.S.-Japan troop relocation pact?
By David Allen, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Friday, November 27, 2009


YOMITAN, Okinawa — Ever since the United States and Japan signed a pact in 2006 to realign U.S. forces in Japan, the plan has been to close Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, located in urban Okinawa, and relocate its air operations to rural Camp Schwab, where a new airfield would be built to accommodate the move.

Now, however, with a new Japanese government in place that promised Okinawans it would review the U.S. military footprint on Okinawa, Japanese officials want to revisit a formerly discarded plan to move the Marine operation to Kadena Air Base. Or move the base operations outside Okinawa altogether.

At stake is the possible unraveling of the overall pact, painstakingly negotiated over 15 years with the former, more military friendly Japanese government. A key element of the pact was the relocation of more than 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam — but only after Futenma is relocated.

A working group of U.S. and Japanese officials began meetings this month to reconsider all options.

According to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman after the first meeting, the U.S. side took the position that the existing plan is the only feasible one. Further, any delay in going forward with the Camp Schwab plan could erode U.S. congressional support for the whole realignment plan, which also includes changes for U.S. troops on the Japanese mainland, the spokesman said.

Japanese officials, however, demanded a full examination of the process in which the Camp Schwab plan was selected. Prior to the meeting, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said he was still looking into why the Marines can’t move to Kadena Air Base. "As for the argument that the Marine Corps and Air Force cannot share the same base," Okada said, "I am not yet fully able to understand it."

In the end, the working group agreed only to set a year-end deadline for some kind of resolution to the fractious dispute.
Realignment in Japan

Here’s what the U.S. and Japan "Roadmap to Realignment" agreement signed in 2006 called for:

* Relocating air operations from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to a new facility at Camp Schwab.
* Relocating the headquarters of the III Marine Expeditionary Force to Guam and realigning remaining Marine units on Okinawa into a Marine Expeditionary Brigade. The move would include the transfer of 8,000 Marines and their dependents to Guam.
* Japan contributing to the cost of the move of the Marines to Guam. U.S. officials have pegged the cost at $10.6 billion and asked Japan to cover 75 percent.
* Marine Corps units remaining on Okinawa would be consolidated into a smaller total land area, enabling the "return of significant land in the densely populated areas south of Kadena Air Base." The returned base properties are to include the U.S. Army’s Naha Military Port, Camp Kinser, MCAS Futenma and parts of Camp Foster.
* Providing facilities at mainland Japan Air and Maritime Self-Defense Force bases for Marine KC-130 refueling aircraft.
* A U.S. Navy carrier air wing would be transferred from Naval Air Facility Atsugi to MCAS Iwakuni.
* Moving elements of the U.S. Army’s I Corps from Fort Lewis, Wash., to Camp Zama, adding about 300 personnel.
* Transferring Japan’s Air Defense Command to Yokota Air Base, west of Tokyo.
* Deploying X-band radar to Japan as part of a joint anti-ballistic missile defense program.
* Relocating some fighter jet training from U.S. air bases to Japan Air Self-Defense Force bases to lessen the impact of training activities on host communities, particularly Kadena Air Base.

Futenma questions and answers

Futenma questions and answers

Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Friday, November 27, 2009

The increasingly knotty issue of the U.S. base presence in Japan has deep roots tangled in history and ongoing changes in the social fabric and political landscape. Stars and Stripes reporter David Allen, who has been covering Okinawa issues since 1994, offers the following answers to frequently asked questions about the debate swirling around Futenma:

What’s the big deal with Futenma? Is this just political maneuvering, or is it a serious threat to the U.S.-Japan military alliance?

Prior to the landslide victory of his Democratic Party of Japan in August, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s platform was to move the Futenma operations outside Okinawa, if not outside Japan. He has since said he just wants to revisit the agreement, and the issue now is seen in Japan as a test of his leadership. His left-center party is part of the ruling coalition with the Social Democratic Party, which is staunchly anti-military and opposed both to the presence of U.S. forces and the existence of the Japanese Self-Defense Force. If he fails in his bid to renegotiate the Futenma relocation plan and move the Marine air operations elsewhere, he could face serious opposition in elections next year.

Why do they have to move the air station at all?

It’s noisy and dangerous, and a symbol of what the Okinawans claim is their "unfair burden."

The rape and abduction of a 12-year-old Okinawa schoolgirl in 1995 by two Marines and a Navy Corpsman sparked massive anti-base demonstrations on the island and renewed calls for reducing the U.S. military footprint. Bowing to those demands, a bilateral U.S.-Japan committee was formed, devising a plan in 1996 to return about 20 percent of the base property to the prefecture and private landowners. A major component of the plan was to close Futenma, located in urban heart of the city of Ginowan, and build a new base in a more remote location.

In 2003, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld visited Okinawa and flew over the Futenma airfield. He commented that it was amazing there had not been any accidents. A year later, a Marine helicopter crashed on the campus of a university adjacent to the base, and the calls to close MCAS Futenma increased.

Why are the Okinawans upset about the relocation/realignment of U.S. bases on the island?

They don’t trust Tokyo and Washington on the issue. There’s a saying on Okinawa that the U.S. bases are the best deal for Japan and the U.S. and the worst for Okinawa. Japan gets to spend less on defense — one of the reasons why it has the second-largest economy in the world — and have almost half the U.S. troops based on Okinawa, an island far from the other larger, more populated Japanese territories. The U.S. gets bases close to potential trouble spots in the Western Pacific. And Japan picks up a hefty part of the bill. That leaves Okinawa hosting bases that cover a fifth of the island.

Also, there’s always been a strong independent streak on Okinawa. A large segment of the population believes the U.S. took their land at the end of World War II at the point of "bayonets and bulldozers," costing many families their homes and farms. During the 27 years of U.S. military occupation, there was a vibrant movement demanding a "military free" island.

When the prefecture was returned to Japan in 1972, many Okinawans felt betrayed because many U.S. military bases remained, and the Japan Self-Defense Force took other bases given up by the Americans. Some Okinawan critics continue to argue that they bear an unfair burden by hosting 75 percent of the land solely used for U.S. bases in all of Japan.

Supporters of the bases point out that the U.S. military is the second largest source of income on Okinawa, after tourism. Opponents argue that the bases hinder economic development.

Is the new Japanese government’s real agenda to expel all U.S. forces from Japan?

Definitely not. The Hatoyama administration, as well as the majority of the Japanese people, support the present security alliance with the United States, in place to aid in the defense of Japan should the country be attacked.

Hatoyama and his Cabinet members have repeatedly made it clear that the security arrangement is one of the core policies of the country.

Do the Okinawan critics of the realignment offer any alternatives? If so, why are they unacceptable to the U.S.?

During years of negotiations, many alternate sites for Futenma were proposed, including Iwo-to (formerly Iwo Jima), Guam, Hawaii, Japan Self-Defense Force bases on the mainland, Kadena Air Base, and two more remote islands in Okinawa prefecture. They were all rejected. The U.S. contends the Marine flight operations need to remain on Okinawa because of its close proximity to amphibious fleet units in Sasebo, for training on Okinawa and because of its proximity to China and North Korea. Moving the base to more isolated islands would be too costly and there is no room at Kadena Air Base for both Marine and Air Force operations. A plan to build a sea-based Marine air station some two miles off the coast of the Henoko peninsula, on which Camp Schwab is located, was scrapped after intense opposition by anti-base and environmental groups, who used small motorboats and kayaks to disrupt an environmental study of the area.

U.S. officials maintain Okinawa remains the best location, both in terms of cost, with Japan picking up the tab, and its strategic geographical location in the Western Pacific.

Why does the U.S. appear so resistant to any changes in the 2006 agreement?

U.S. officials insist the many years of negotiations leading up to the 2006 "Roadmap to Realignment" resulted in the best deal for both countries. The troop level on Okinawa would be reduced by more than 8,000 Marines plus their families, and Japan agreed to pay most of the tab for building the necessary infrastructure to support them on Guam.

How many U.S. troops are on Okinawa and how much does the Japanese government pay to have them there?

Today there are 43,400 status of forces personnel on Okinawa. They include 22,300 active-duty servicemembers, 2,100 Department of Defense civilians and 19,000 dependents. That number does not include Marines who are temporarily deployed to Okinawa from time to time from U.S. bases for training.

The Japanese government paid more than $5.2 billion for funding the stationing of U.S. troops in Japan in 2009. That includes facilities maintenance and improvements, Japanese support employee salaries, and other needs. Of that funding, $1.6 billion is for military support on Okinawa.

And there is indirect support, which includes waivers of taxes, road tolls and port fees for military operations, and SOFA personnel pay less tax on their cars than Japanese citizens.

What does moving 8,000-plus Marines from Okinawa to Guam have to do with moving a Marine air station on Okinawa?

It is seen as a way to sell the plan to move air operations to Camp Schwab. Sweetening the deal for the Okinawans, besides millions of dollars in subsidies for public projects from Tokyo, was the promise to also shut down Camp Kinser, the Naha Military Port, the rest of Camp Lester, part of Camp Foster and the transfer of major Marine commands to Guam.

While the conservative Liberal Democratic Party ruled, the project seemed inevitable and, except for a small protest group that’s been camped out at the Henoko port for the past five years, most people on Okinawa grudgingly accepted it.

Why can’t the Futenma issue be de-coupled from the Guam issue?

Without the new base development on Camp Schwab, there would be nowhere to put many of the Marines who would remain on the island. U.S officials from the start have said replacing Futenma was the key to the agreement.

Why can’t the U.S. on its own just move the Marines to Guam, where the U.S. territorial government would welcome them and the related economic development?

Under the realignment plan, the Japanese government has pledged to spend $6.1 billion on building up Guam to accommodate the influx of troops. Of that, $2.8 billion is expected in cash. The remaining would come in Japanese investments that the country may recoup over time. But should the realignment plan unravel, the entire cost of building installations, housing and infrastructure — projected at $10.6 billion — might have to be borne by U.S. taxpayers.

Stars and Stripes reporter Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this story.