CAMP SCHWAB, Okinawa — Construction has begun here on five buildings that will replace existing structures to make room for an airfield to replace Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

The project started earlier this month and is to be completed by September 2009, a spokesman for Naha Defense Bureau said Wednesday.

The buildings will include noncommissioned officers quarters, a warehouse, an office building, a communication equipment maintenance shop and a boat maintenance shop.

A total of 11 buildings on Camp Schwab will be razed in preparation for construction of two V-shaped runways on the lower part of the Marine base, across the eastern tip of Cape Henoko and extending into the shallow water of Oura Bay.

While an environmental survey of the bay continues, the bureau spokesman said the survey for the area now under preparation for construction has been completed.

Construction of what is called the Futenma replacement facility is the key to a bilateral agreement to realign U.S. troops in Japan. Under the realignment, some 8,000 Marines and their families would move to Guam once the new airport is complete and Futenma is closed. The move is to take place by 2014.

Also scheduled for closure are Camps Kinser and Lester and part of Camp Foster. The new construction is on previously developed land, Marine spokesman 1st Lt. Judd Wilson said.

"These buildings will serve as replacements for those that will be removed as part of Futenma replacement facility construction projects," he said. "The FRF is a bilaterally planned and designed facility, funded and supported by the Japanese Government."

A General Accountability Office report on the troop realignment and the planned military buildup on Guam, released last September, noted the importance of the MCAS Futenma replacement project.

"DOD officials expect that if the Futenma replacement facility in Okinawa (a facility intended to replace Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and estimated to cost from $4 billion to $5 billion) is not built, the Marine Corps relocation to Guam may be delayed," the report states. "DOD officials view the success of the Futenma replacement facility as a key objective that will need to be completed in order for other realignment actions to take place."

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