Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Make your voices heard: Dededo, Yigo mayors urge residents to testify on buildup

Make your voices heard: Dededo, Yigo mayors urge residents to testify on buildup

By Erin Thompson • Northern Weekly • January 6, 2010

Fears of condemnation of private property, inaccessible hiking trails, a proposed firing range and the relocation of Route 15 are some of the buildup issues worrying residents in the northern part of Guam, according to Dededo Mayor Melissa Savares and Yigo Mayor Robert Lizama.

Residents in the northern part of the island will have an opportunity to voice concerns about how the buildup will affect their community at two public hearings next week. The first will happen on Monday at the Yigo Gymnasium, the second at Dededo's Okkodo High School on Jan. 12.

The hearings are a part of an island-wide process allowing residents to make comments in response to the draft Environmental Impact Statement released in November. The 11,000-page EIS, which is available for review at the University of Guam Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Library in Mangilao and the mayors' offices in Yigo, Dededo, Barrigada, Agat and Mangilao, provides a break-down of the social and environmental impact of the buildup.

Yigo Mayor Robert Lizama says that while only four people to date have come by to browse the EIS and take home a copy of the available CD, he has heard many residents express "frustration" over some of the proposed changes to the area, which include the construction of a firing range along the island's northeast coast. The range would require the leasing or condemnation between 1,100 and 1,800 acres along Route 15 in Mangilao and Yigo, according to the Northern Weekly files.

Dededo resident Anthony Artero, who is planning on attending the hearing next week, told Northern Weekly that he is concerned about how the increased population could strain water and power infrastructure and increase traffic flow on the island. He also pointed to fears about how the rights of property owners would be affected, citing his family's own personal experience.

According to Artero, whose family owns land at Urunao in the Ritidian area, prior to World War II the family owned the land at Anderson Air Force Base, only to see it condemned after the war and bought for a fraction of its value.

"The U.S. military on this island has a track record of treating the people locally unfairly, in terms of taking their land away," says Artero, who says he fear islanders could face land condemnations or restrictions on land development following the buildup.

His biggest concern, however, was that the U.S. military was "not giving the local people an opportunity to be part of the buildup," he says.

As one of the key opportunities for islanders to get their voices on the record about the buildup, Savares says that the Dededo's mayor's office is working hard to get the word out about the hearings.

"We're trying aggressively," says Savares, who says her office is reaching out through media, at public events and by word of mouth, and even sending home messages through school children to get parents to attend.

"It's important that individuals, that residents come out to these hearings, and be heard and see what the EIS -- the findings, the draft studies -- are," says Savares.

"Because it's in draft form now and all comments will really be taken into consideration once final decision is made," she says.

"We want our residents who live here to be heard, make a difference making comments."

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