Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Draft Environmental Impact Statement not the final say, Bordallo says

Draft Environmental Impact Statement not the final say, Bordallo says

By Laura Matthews • Pacific Daily News • February 1, 2010

Southern residents submitted recommendations to Delegate Madeleine Bordallo yesterday on how they said the military could lessen the adverse impact of the buildup on Guam.

From impact on culture to health care, environment and water, residents who attended the town hall meeting at the Agat Community Center covered areas of the draft Environmental Impact Statement some of them believe should be improved for a successful buildup.

The community has until Feb. 17 to respond to the draft EIS before it is finalized.
Santa Rita resident and war survivor Tom Barcinas told Bordallo that if all the major players in the buildup demonstrate efforts to work on the people's concerns, then residents and the additional population can "coexist and live harmoniously" on Guam.

"America needs Guam and Guam needs America -- this we all agree," Barcinas said.
About 8,000 Marines and their 9,000 dependents will be transferred from Okinawa in Japan to Guam. In order to prepare for their arrival, construction and other buildup jobs will attract a civilian population of nearly 80,000 in 2014, which is half of the island's current population.

The Joint Guam Program Office, along with 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 the relocation of Marines to Guam will have on the island's education, health care services, employment opportunities, property values, crime, cost of living and other socioeconomic issues.
Barcinas said the buildup will definitely impact the culture, values and customs, even the language.

"This is indeed a very high price to pay," he said. "The Chamorros are once again called upon to endure the burden of patriotism as a loyalty to America."

He proposed that the federal government consider that all non-military, buildup-related personnel should utilize the Naval Hospital since Guam Memorial Hospital can't accommodate them.

Barcinas added that the military should pay for each gallon of water taken from the new wells to be installed.

Consolidated Commission on Utilities Chairman Simon Sanchez has said the Defense Department already is a customer of Guam Waterworks Authority and will continue to be for wastewater treatment services, Pacific Daily News files state. According to Sanchez, the Defense Department is willing to cover all costs associated with the direct impact of its actions, but the improvements to GWA facilities will help improve the quality and help reduce the cost of utilities for Guam's civilians as well.

The military could install as many as 22 wells on the island, on existing military property over the northern aquifer, the draft EIS states.

"The military will pay 10 cents, 5 cents -- I don't care -- per gallon for water from any additional water wells," Barcinas said. "Pay for all upgrades of the island's infrastructure related to the buildup -- power, water, sewer and so on. Toxic contamination on Guam, clean them all up ASAP. No land excavation, dredging that will alter ... the ecosystem of the island."

Should anyone get sick as a result of the military's dredging, he said, they should be compensated.

Agat Mayor Carol Tayama said her main concern as the buildup period inches closer is the availability of water.

"We are always in trouble with water," she said. "And I do want the people to talk about it. Are we going to have adequate supply in the buildup?"

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

While that upgrade will affect residents in Talofofo, Inarajan, Merizo and Umatac, those in Santa Rita, Agat and Nimitz Hill have problems of their own, as the latter gets their water from the Fena Lake treatment plant.

That plant is owned and privately operated by the Navy and GWA buys water from the Navy to provide for the water needs of residents in Santa Rita, Agat and Nimitz Hill, according to Pacific Daily News files.

"There are some days -- and it goes into two weeks -- where some areas have low water pressure to no water pressure," Tayama said. "Or they have to shut it off at a certain time as the lake gets dry and they don't have enough to feed us or where they have to make sure it's clean water coming to us."

Noting that she hears all the issues, Bordallo said residents should know that the draft EIS is not the final say. She told residents that their comments will be used to have a final EIS that addresses all their issues.
Final EIS to have comment period

Residents will get 30 days to look at the final EIS.

"This draft document is a starting point, not an ending point to the process," Bordallo said. "We are out here trying to get the reading from the people of Guam as to the buildup ... and that's why we are here to take your sentiments back to Washington, D.C."

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