Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Buildup team urges more questions

Buildup team urges more questions

By Laura Matthews • Pacific Daily News • January 21, 2010

The last round of Gov. Felix Camacho's presentations on the draft Environmental Impact Statement attracted a number of young people seeking to learn more about the changes to affect the island.

Thousands of pages from the draft EIS were summarized by the governor's Advisory Consultant Team in just a few hours yesterday at the Mangilao Senior Citizens Center.

Residents have until Feb. 17 to submit comments on the draft EIS, which will reshape Guam in the coming years. Their comments on the document could affect the actions the military carries out on the island, as public comments will be taken into consideration as the Defense Department moves forward.

"I think it is good for young people to come so that we can be a little more informed," said Tiara San Augustin, 19.

The Agana Heights resident said she decided to show up after her friends told her about a history class they took at the University of Guam. She said the teacher invited her friends to pay attention to these hearings and listen for the consequences of the military moving to the island.

"I don't see the big picture, and that is why I am here," San Augustin said.

Tamuning resident Gina De Guzman, 20, also wants to see the big picture.

"I don't know much about what's going on," she said. "I feel like the culture might change a lot. It is different from America and a lot of people coming here will change the localized things."

The coming military buildup will bring approximately 80,000 people to Guam by 2014. The influx of people would affect every sector on Guam ranging from public safety to utilities.

Celeste Werner, the program manager for the governor's Advisory Consultant Team, reminded residents who have questions on the draft EIS to provide an effective comment that generates action. Comments should be specific -- residents should explain how the proposed action would affect them and should provide solutions, she said.

The draft EIS was released Nov. 20 for public viewing and contains vital information on how every aspect of life on Guam will change during the military buildup.

The Department of the Navy is preparing the draft to assess the potential environmental effects associated with the proposed military activities. The Navy is the lead agency for preparation of the draft EIS.

The proposed actions are complex, multiservice projects involving components of the U.S. Marine Corps, Navy and Army, according to the Department of Defense. Each volume in the nine-volume draft EIS evaluates a discrete portion of the proposed actions.

Residents have until Feb. 17 to comment, but Guam's delegate and the legislative vice speaker say Guam needs more time to provide input.

Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz and Delegate Madeleine Bordallo both have written letters in support of extending the amount of time residents can comment. Bordallo sent a letter to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus asking for a 45-day extension. The Navy has yet to respond to the request.

Generally, federal rules provide the public 45 days to review a draft EIS before a final statement is published as a Record of Decision in the Federal Register. However, the Navy department, at the request of Guam officials, extended the public comment period for the Guam draft EIS an additional 45 days.

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