Saturday, February 13, 2010

Big trouble in little Guåhan

Big trouble in little Guåhan

Thursday, 28 January 2010 04:22
by Sen. Judith Guthertz

AS MUCH as I hate to sound like a broken record, recent developments continue to demonstrate that there are huge flaws in the military buildup’s draft environmental impact statement. I know, you’ve heard this before.

Those who date from the iPod era may not know that pre-recorded music once came from flat vinyl discs called records, which had grooves on both sides. A needle and stylus played music from the grooves as the record rotated on a turntable. Dirt or a scratch in the grooves could result in a skip, causing a note or phrase to repeat itself, sometimes endlessly. I guess this translates into a kind of nagging.

But it’s hardly nagging when the Guam Legislature finds land takings in the DEIS completely unacceptable. And emphasizes the point with a unanimous vote. Nor is it nagging when it’s necessary for the legislature to go over the heads of the Joint Guam Program Office to communicate to President Obama, his Cabinet and Congress our burning dissatisfaction with the DEIS. The officials on the front lines of local issues, the Guam Mayors' Council, have backed up our position with Resolution 10-01.

Simply stated, the present circumstances and the callous manner in which the plan is being rammed down our throats, absent military concessions, is a threat to the buildup’s success. And that’s without considering the various problems that are surfacing in Okinawa.

Meanwhile, incredibly, an official says that the testimony of 246 people, of the 1,977 who attended public hearings, is not significant because some parties testified at more than one hearing. JGPO may choose to ignore the obvious fact that their hearings increasingly reflected overwhelming community opposition to elements of the DEIS, especially land takings, but the legislature is paying attention.

JGPO has yet to propose any possible changes to the DEIS, or to discuss publicly any of the ideas for changes put forth by myself and others. It’s time to take this issue to their leaders in Washington who will make the final call. We’re aware that the hard and fast requirements demanded by the military will change very fast if they are so instructed.

I am a realist, and to crank up that broken record again, I continue to support a military buildup that is a “win-win” proposition for the military and Guam. Here’s my precise bottom line as delivered in the session hall during discussion of the resolution:

“Should the military require additional property in the areas as outlined in the DEIS alternative plans, then landowners should have the final say as to whether they would be willing to part with their properties via lease, land exchange or outright purchase. Moreover, should individual property owners decline to sell or give up their properties, that too should be honored without threat of condemnation.”

At the start of the buildup, along with other senators, I pointed out the sensitivity of the land issue in Guam to JGPO and other officials.

The contents of the DEIS have been an unpleasant surprise, and we’ve spent a lot of time figuring out alternatives. It’s our opinion that the original promise to confine the buildup to the one-third of the island owned by DoD is achievable. We’ll continue to press for this.

We’re also going to frequently repeat promises such as this from Assistant Navy Secretary Roger Natsuhara: “[W]e are committed to a one Guam whole government approach…By working together across the federal and local governments, you can be assured that it will be.”

Even if it starts sounding like a broken record.

Senator Judith Paulette Guthertz, DPA, chairs the 30th Guam Legislature’s Committee on the Guam Military Buildup and Homeland Security. Send feedback to Let’s Fix It: By Judith P. Guthertz

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