Representatives from the Department of Defense, government of Guam and public consultants met Thursday to review progress on the military buildup projects involving historic properties.
The workshop was an open space for participants to share their concerns on plans to preserve the cultural and historic artifacts on Guam, according to Maj. Tim Patrick, public affairs officer of Marine Corps Activity Guam.
The military buildup is expected to relocate 5,000 Marines and their dependents from Okinawa to Guam. About $8.6 billion in federal funds is projected to be spent on the construction of a new base for training facilities, housing and other buildup projects.
The plans are aligned with the 2011 Programmatic Agreement, which sets guidelines as to how the buildup will proceed while considering the impact on cultural and historical lands on Guam and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Among those in attendance were the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the State Preservation Offices of Guam and the CNMI and the Guam Legislature.
Much of the workshop was for reviewing accomplishments made since the 2011 signing of the agreement, Patrick said.
Cultural storage facility
One of the accomplishments is the secured funding to construct a Guam Cultural Repository. The appropriated funds were made under the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.
“All Guam archaeological artifacts and ancestral remains will be stored at the cultural repository upon completion,” Patrick said.
Al Borja, environmental director of Marine Corps Activity Guam, said the construction timeline and place for the repository is subject to the Office of the Governor and the Office of Economic Adjustment. Ancestral remains discovered during development currently are stored in a facility on U.S. Naval Base Guam, Borja said.
The first step is getting the facility built, Borja said. Additional steps, like finding a funding source for facility maintenance and personnel, will follow the completion of the facility.
Vice Speaker Therese Terlaje issued a statement saying the terms of the Programmatic Agreement, specifically with the cultural repository, hadn't been complied with. Terlaje said, according to the agreement, the repository was supposed to be funded since 2012. A representative from the Department of Defense told Terlaje it isn't known whether the recent appropriation — $12 million — would completely cover the project.
Terlaje also referenced a section in the Programmatic Agreement that stated in addition to the repository, a museum complex would be created for public display of Guam’s artifacts. The museum was to be a separate structure from the repository.
The poll, Is enough being done to prepare Guam for the military buildup? closes at 5 p.m. April 28, 2017.
The military also has been working on keeping the public informed about what’s been going on with the buildup.
Contractors coming in to work on several military installations have been educated on cultural resource awareness, Patrick said. That way, workers are more cautious and conservative of the land they’re working on.
The voices of Guam’s residents also must be heard, Patrick said. The military met with the Mayors Council of Guam and the villages to come up with an education plan for residents. Environmental and cultural campaigns have been planned on a monthly basis to let the community know about preservation projects, such as the medicinal plant collection.
“Every acre of previously undisturbed land that we will develop, we set aside another acre for conservation or risk mitigation measures,” Patrick said.
Communication has always been an issue, according to Jessy Gogue, mayor of Ordot-Chalan Pago. Gogue said he’s had conversations with military representatives and he’s told them there needs to be a clear, consistent information hub residents can reference.
“At every one of these public sessions, the same questions keep being asked,” Gogue said. It indicates the people asking the questions either don't support the buildup or they don’t understand the answers they're being given, he said.
Gogue served 10 years in the Marine Corps as an engineer officer and said he can understand the information put out on federal websites concerning the buildup. However, that may not be the case for those who don’t have a military background. The military needs to anticipate the questions and come up with accurate answers the public can digest, Gogue said.
The workshop also touched on historic properties nominated to be nationally registered. Being on the National Register of Historic Places is a special recognition that preserves a site deemed culturally and historically significant, Borja said.
Among the nominations are the Maulap River site, the Tumon Maui Well, the Torres farm and Japanese bunkers at Dådi Beach.
Finegayan and Northwest Field weren't included as nominations, but Patrick said data recovery projects are being conducted for mitigation. Terlaje stated the Department of Defense said the properties would be disturbed by military activity.
Terlaje took issue with the firing ranges at Northwest Field, saying the land wasn't reviewed in the Programmatic Agreement. She said the firing ranges overlay historic properties and shouldn't be disturbed.