Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Deadline looms for comments

Deadline looms for comments

By Laura Matthews • Pacific Daily News • February 15, 2010

The 90-day period for the public to comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement is coming to a close.

Residents now have three days left to submit their comments and recommendations on the draft EIS for consideration by the Department of Defense regarding the transfer of Marines from Okinawa to Guam.

The comment period ends at midnight Feb. 17 in the U.S. mainland time, or 3 p.m. Feb. 18 on Guam.

About 8,000 Marines and their 9,000 dependents will be moving from Okinawa to the island by 2015. To prepare for their arrival, numerous construction projects must be completed. The buildup is expected to increase Guam's population by about 80,000, mostly from construction workers and others in jobs related to the buildup.
About 33,000 jobs will be created, the draft EIS said.

The draft EIS gives a detailed account of how Guam's community will change because of the buildup. The Joint Guam Program Office and a team of socioeconomic experts collected feedback from the Guam and CNMI governors, the Chambers of Commerce, other island resources and community experts to assess the impact of the relocation of Marines will have on the island's education, health-care services, employment opportunities, property values, crime, cost of living and other socioeconomic issues.

Hearings on the draft EIS have resulted in many comments from Guam residents about the buildup, including many expressing concern over possible changes.

But still there are some residents who haven't submitted a comment to the Department of Defense and don't intend to.

"The voice of the people here on Guam doesn't matter," said Agana Heights resident Victor Mendiola, 40. "Without the United States monitoring Guam, we would be in chaos."

Mendiola said because Guam has no factories and exports, the military is needed.
"Guam can survive without the buildup, but it can't survive without the military," Mendiola said. "The buildup will do something for us here."

Though he doesn't plan to submit comments on the military's proposed buildup, he has some concerns. Mendiola said the buildup will both benefit Guam and adversely affect it.

"What concerns me is the number of people coming here and the planning of the government," Mendiola said. "They don't plan for the next 10 years, you see. Guam doesn't have the infrastructure to sustain us even now. ... But as for bringing the military here, just consider them tourists -- they switch in and out, and they bring money."

Santa Rita resident Doris Mead, 52, said that's money that could stir Guam's economy. She doesn't plan to submit comments on the buildup either, but said she does support the buildup.

"That's more jobs and stuff like that and it helps out the island, more or less," Mead said. "The only concerns I have are water problems and power. Where I live, water pressure is very low now."

Recently, southern residents were asked to conserve water for six weeks as the Guam Waterworks Authority upgrades its Ugum treatment plant. The agency needs to close half of the plant while contractors install a new membrane filtration system.

'Big adjustment'

For Anabel Takai, a 47-year-old from Yigo, what worries her is what will happen in the job market. As a rooms manager at one of Guam's hotels, she believes new jobs associated with the buildup will snatch away good laborers.

"It's going to be a big adjustment," she said. "(The buildup) will start job openings and it will have an effect on wages. ... The minimum-wage workers will leave for the better-paying jobs."

Takai said she will submit her comments on the buildup before the deadline.

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