Guam sends residents’ final buildup concerns to Navy
September 3, 2010
SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — The Guam government said it planned to forward about 1,000 letters of concern from residents to the U.S. Navy on Friday — a last outpouring of local apprehension before the military firms up plans next week for a buildup on the island.
The Navy is expected to decide Sept. 10 how, when and where to build an aircraft carrier berth, a missile defense facility, and homes and infrastructure for 8,600 Marines and families.
The decision could end years of speculation on how the territory will shoulder the shift of military forces from Okinawa, a key component of a regional realignment strategy hammered out by the U.S. and Japan.
But Guam legislators, government agencies and residents remain anxious over the buildup and have sent hundreds of concerned comments to the Navy in recent weeks in hopes of influencing any final decisions.
The Guam Joint Program Office said it will accept the input and forward it to the Navy for consideration before it signs what is called a “record of decision” on the buildup.
The Guam governor’s office said it sent about 200 comments Aug. 27, including policy and technical questions, as well as concerns that had not been “properly addressed or were simply ignored” by the military during a federally mandated environmental assessment over the past year.
Most of the nearly 1,000 comments collected on Friday were from residents who are worried about losing Chamorro cultural land to the buildup, said Paul Shintaku, executive director of the Guam Buildup Office, which maintains liaison with the military.
“The land taking for the firing range is still an issue,” he said.
Shintaku said many feel the U.S. military had failed to address island concerns in a Final Environmental Impact Statement, a report released in July that details expected effects and provides various options for the buildup.
Still, there were much fewer public comments over the past month than when the military requested public input while compiling the FEIS, he said.
Meanwhile, Guam lawmakers also have been airing concerns that plans so far haven’t properly addressed the buildup’s effect on hospitals, schools and other public services.
Guam Sen. Telo Taitague said Friday that Guam Memorial hospital already suffers from “grave capacity issues” that could be made worse by an influx of workers and residents.