Futenma neighbors awarded $6 million for noise; Japan to pay
By MATTHEW M. BURKE AND CHIYOMI SUMIDA | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 17, 2015
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A Japanese court has awarded more than $6 million in damages to residents living around Marine Corps Air Station Futenma for aircraft noise.
The suit was filed July 31, 2014, by 2,177 residents, according to court records. The Japanese government is responsible for making the payments.
“The residents living in the affected area have been exposed to intense noise with fairly high frequency,” Chief Judge Satoshi Hikage of Naha District Court said in his June 11 decision.
“The air station and flight operations at the facility contribute to the security of our country and maintenance of international peace in this region, therefore serve the interest of our country; however, the damages suffered by the plaintiffs are serious and widespread. The court found that the level of damages are beyond the tolerable limit.”
Hikage cited noise levels registered by a monitoring system installed in the vicinity of the air station and shrugged off Japanese government claims that some residents moved into the area aware of the issue.
The Okinawan prefectural government said it has 15 noise monitoring posts in communities neighboring Futenma air station that collect data by the hour. Similar posts have been installed at 18 locations surrounding Kadena Air base and four near Naha Airport.
The Japanese government has taken noise abatement measures, such as soundproofing homes around the base. Hikage said he reduced the compensation for families whose homes had been soundproofed.
Marine Corps officials on Okinawa did not respond to queries seeking reaction by press time. Japanese government officials vowed to address the issue.
“The Defense Bureau will make further efforts for the closure and early return of the Futenma air station and is committed to a continued effort to improve the living environment surrounding the air station,” said Kazunori Inoue, director general of the Okinawa Defense Bureau.
Marine Corps Air Station Futenma was erected shortly after Okinawa fell to American forces at the end of World War II. With the surrounding area becoming increasingly populated, the air station has been the subject of heated protests in recent years from locals intent on seeing the base moved off island.
Current Japanese and American plans call for the air station to be moved to Camp Schwab in Okinawa’s remote north. Construction is ongoing on a runway into Oura Bay at Henoko to facilitate the move.
Okinawan Gov. Takeshi Onaga has caused quite a stir since his election late last year. The former Naha mayor has vowed to move Futenma off Okinawa altogether and to block runway construction at Schwab. He recently visited the U.S. to make his case, but members of Congress were not swayed.
“For the past 70 years since the end of WWII, the heavy presence of the military and its activities have continued to cause various negative impacts on the lives of the people of Okinawa and the prefecture’s economic development,” Onaga said after the ruling. “As part of my effort to reduce excessive burden of U.S. military presence, I am committed to move Futenma operations outside Okinawa and early closure of the base, as well as halt the air operation within five years.”