THURSDAY, 03 MARCH 2011 04:53 BY THERESE HART | VARIETY NEWS STAFF
The federal government yesterday returned 450 acres of land in South Finegayan to the government of Guam
Governor Eddie Calvo prepares to sign the proclamation returning 450 acres of excess federal property back to the Government of Guam. Photo courtesy of Delegate Bordallo’s office.
This comes 17 years after the passage of H.R. 2144 introduced by former Congressman Robert Underwood and signed into Public Law 103-339 by President Bill Clinton on Oct. 6, 1994, known as the Guam Excess Lands Act.
The turnover, held yesterday in Washington D.C., included the ancient Chamorro village of Hila’an.
Assistant Secretary of the Navy Roger Natsuhara and General Services Administration Chief of Staff Michael Robertson presented Governor Eddie Baza Calvo with the deed to 450 acres in the South Finegayan property.
The land constitutes the remaining available properties identified in the public law. The General Services Administration is the repository of federally held lands.
Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo, Governor Eddie Baza Calvo, Senators Rory Respicio, Judi Guthertz and Frank Blas Jr. were on hand to witness the historic event.
Governor Calvo signed the Memorandum of Agreement with GSA, returning the land to the government of Guam. The signing occurred shortly before the start of the Interagency Group on Insular Areas meeting at the U.S. Department of the Interior. Victory
“Team Guam sent a victory home today. This is a step forward in the right direction. It also demonstrates the federal government’s commitment to honor longstanding and important agreements with Guamanians. Our negotiations will continue until the promise of the shrinking of the federal footprint on Guam is met. The federal government recognizes that Team Guam is speaking with one voice. We know what we want and we have the courage to fight for our future. Our people fought for decades for this,” said Calvo.
Joey Leon Guerrero from the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission said yesterday that the returned lands consist of Spanish Crown Lands and lands owned by original landowners. The Commission will be the guardian of the property.
Leon Guerrero said some of the lands could be used for commercial development and some could be returned to the original landowners, depending on the policy of the current administration and the Guam Legislature.
Congresswoman Bordallo clarified that the 450 acres are not part of the Navy’s commitment to have a net negative footprint on Guam as part of the military build-up. She said this is just a transmittal of the remaining available property identified in Public Law 103-339, the Guam Excess Lands Act, to the government of Guam.
Calvo and Bordallo recognized Assistant Secretary Tony Babauta for his leadership in ensuring that the requirements of the Guam Excess Lands Act were fulfilled.
Assistant Secretary Babauta has been working with Congresswoman Bordallo in Washington, D.C. to finalize the terms of the land return.
“Today’s ceremony, which returned 450 acres of excess federal property to the people of Guam, was a meaningful and symbolic act resulting from years of hard work. Beginning with former Congressman Robert Underwood and later shepherded by Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo, the process of implementing the commitments made by the Guam Excess Lands Act, to return former Navy and Air Force property at no cost to Guam, has now been completed by the Obama Administration,” said Babauta.
In a joint statement the Guam senators said in 2006, the property was appraised at $14 million, “so clearly the return of these lands are significant.”
Today, during additional meetings with the Department of Defense, the senators will present Resolution No. 30-31 (LS), which further outlines Guam’s concerns and presents a solution for addressing these issues. The senators and the governor are in Washington D.C. to meet with the Interagency Group on Insular Areas (IGIA) regarding the Guam Military Buildup