Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Guthertz: Slow buildup pace

Guthertz: Slow buildup pace

By Dionesis Tamondong • Pacific Daily News • January 29, 2010

The relocation of Marines to Guam should be stretched out over eight years instead of two, and the military should consider shifting half of those troops to the Northern Marianas, said Democratic Sen. Judith Guthertz.

The senator made these recommendations as part of her comments to the draft Environmental Impact Statement, which details the Department of Defense's buildup plans and the potential impacts.

"The people of Guam are beginning to realize that the proposed relocation to Guam is too large and too quick for Guam's governmental services and infrastructure to adapt," said Guthertz, chairwoman of the Committee on the Guam Military Buildup, during a press conference yesterday.

Gov. Felix Camacho yesterday said he shares the idea of extending the buildup deadline. He said he's written a letter to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus requesting a delay in the buildup.

"The extension of the overall buildup deadline will greatly impact every area of public concern. It will lessen the pressure currently being placed on our people to accommodate a significant influx in our population," the governor said in an e-mail.

Guthertz also urged the reduction of the number of Marines to Guam by half.

She recommended relocating the First Marine Aircraft Wing, an aviation command, from Futenma to Tinian and Aguijan, also known as Goat Island -- a move supported by their respective mayors.

If this happens, the military can transfer about half of the 8,652 Marines intended for Guam from Okinawa's infantry bases to the vacated Futenma facilities.

The Joint Guam Program Office, which is coordinating the buildup on Guam, didn't respond to Guthertz's specific proposals.

"We have forwarded her comments to the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Pacific for inclusion in the Final Environmental Impact Statement," JGPO spokesman Capt. Neil Ruggiero said.

Guthertz said her proposals would alleviate the concerns on Guam and Okinawa, and shift some of the economic investments badly needed in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

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