Emotions Run High During Military Buildup Public Hearing
Guam - Residents filled the Southern High School gymnasium Thursday night to testify during the Joint Guam Program Office's public hearing on the draft environmental impact statement.
Speaker after speaker raised concerns about the buildup ranging from the dredging of the Apra harbor, to land acquisition. Taotaomona Native Rights Magahaga Trini Torres called Guam a US colony and called on fellow Chamorros to stand up to the federal government saying "...it's not a done deal" in reference to the military buildup.
Senator BJ Cruz spoke about the need to test soil dredged from the harbor for nuclear contaminants. According to the senator although extensive tests were done for the presence of metals none has been conducted for the presence of nuclear waste. According to Cruz the Prodius spilled nuclear material into the harbor back in 1975 and since then there have been rumors of other spills. In fact the navy confirmed a leak in one of it's nuclear subs just a couple years ago.
Others like Chamorro Tribe Chairman Frank Schacher spoke about his prior service with the US military and how he now feels betrayed by the very country he once helped defend. Schacher spoke about the changes to the island and the negative impacts an influx of non-native people would have on the Chamorro language, culture and customs. Schacher said "we're very disappointed in this DEIS..." He also said he wished he could've had more than the three minutes that were allotted to each speaker as he has "...spent the last two months reading the 11 thousand plus pages."
Other concerns brought up by various speakers included concerns about the limited water resources, contamination of the island and it's aquifer, salinization of the aquifer, the acquisition of land, the access to hiking trails and traditional fishing and hunting grounds, and the overall environmental impacts to the island. Not all spoke against the military buildup. Some like Chamber of Commerce President Dave Leddy spoke in favor of it. Leddy touted among other things the economic impacts and the improvements to Guam's infrastructure. In fact the Chamber of Commerce has submitted fourteen points in support of the military buildup.
JGPO D.C. Chief of Staff Colonel Paul Pohn assured the audience that no final decisions will be made until the record of decision is signed in July. He encouraged Guamanians to show up and provide public comments as they will all be included in the DEIS and factored into the Department of Defenses final decision.
Island residents did indeed show up to comment filling the southern high's gymnasium. Most of the comments given were either against the buildup as a whole or against specific sections of the DEIS.
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