A proposed military training exercise, which will involve the underwater detonation of explosives off Apra Harbor, has caused certain members of the community to voice concerns, but the Navy has clarified the explosives will have minimal impact.
"You likely won't notice a ripple on the surface of the water," said Lt. Tim Gorman, Joint Region Marianas public affairs officer. "It will sound like a clap."
What many island residents were reacting to was a photo that has circulated online, showing the detonation of a 10,000-pound explosive, Gorman said.
That's the wrong explosive, he said.
The planned training will involve detonating four separate 1.25-pound explosives beneath the water's surface, away from coral and on a sandy bottom, according to the Navy.
The training will be conducted by the Navy's Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 5.
A rule published in the Federal Register on April 21 states that the Coast Guard will establish a "temporary safety zone" for underwater detonations in the area, initially on April 27 and 28.
Gorman said there will be no underwater detonation training in April.
Detonation training set for May 18
The detonation training will take place May 18 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the Coast Guard will restrict access in the vicinity of northwest outer Apra Harbor, according to the Navy.
In a letter to Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield, Sen. Fernando Esteves stated his disappointment with the military's planned activities and what he called a lack of consideration of island sentiments.
"This activity may negatively impact our local marine life habitat and the surrounding environment," Estevez said.
Gorman said the four 1.25-pound explosives won't damage corals, and added that the Navy has followed mitigation procedures to ensure "minimal" impact to the environment.
'Inequitable and imbalanced relationship'
Short notice and a lack of local input are hard pills to swallow for Piti resident Monaeka Flores.
"This exercise demonstrates the inequitable and imbalanced relationship between the territory and the United States," Flores said. "How is the military capable of carrying out such destructive exercises without public consent or input?"
Attorney Gloria Rudolph said the country's "increased militarism" and disregard for our environment are also evident in another story about the expanded bombing range on Farallon de Medinilla.
"Please use your considerable voice and position to demand answers on behalf of our island and its people," Rudolph wrote to Sen. Regine Biscoe Lee, who also wrote a letter voicing concern.