Latest Navy plan significantly curtails Guam land for Marines' move

The civic group We Are Guahan opposes the construction of a .50-caliber weapons range in the north of Guam, shown here.


By WYATT OLSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 22, 2015

To avoid infringing on Guam’s culturally sensitive areas, the Navy has significantly downsized plans to expand facilities on the island needed for the relocation of Marines from Okinawa.

The Navy issued the final supplement to a 2010 environmental impact statement (EIS) that assessed the potential consequences of establishing a live-fire training range complex, camp, family housing area and required infrastructure. This version differs from an earlier draft by limiting military upgrades to property already owned by the federal government.

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The Navy altered its plans in part because of public opposition to proposed construction along Route 15 in the Pagat coastal area, a revered spot that holds ancient indigenous Chamorro graves and archeological sites.

Construction would include a camp area at the Naval Computer Telecommunications site at Finegayan and family housing and a live-fire training range complex on Northwest Field at Andersen Air Force Base. When the original EIS was issued in 2010, the Navy was planning to relocate approximately 8,600 Marines and about 9,000 dependents from Okinawa, whose residents have long been demanding a reduction in the U.S. military presence. But in 2012, Washington and Tokyo jointly announced that the number of Marines moving to Guam would be reduced to about 5,000, along with about 1,300 dependents.

With the smaller relocation, the Navy concluded that the footprint for the camp and family housing area in Guam could be significantly reduced.

The supplemental EIS calls for construction over a period of 13 years, instead of the seven years laid out in the original plan. Plans for the camp, or cantonment area, have been downsized from 2,580 acres to about 1,700 acres, allowing the Navy to use existing federal land.

Guam’s delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, Madeleine Z. Bordallo, said in a statement that she’s pleased with the Navy’s revisions.

“While there is no perfect solution ... I appreciate that the Department of Defense seriously considered alternative locations and ideas presented by stakeholders in the community,” she said. “It is time that we move forward with this program, and with release of the final SEIS, we continue to build on the progress in last year’s defense bill which freed up unprecedented Government of Japan funds to support the relocation of Marines from Okinawa to Guam.”

Some of the Navy’s previous decisions on Guam preparations remain unchanged. These include improvements to the Apra Harbor wharf, relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Aviation Combat Element facilities to Andersen Air Force Base, development of the north gate and access road at Andersen, air embarkation facilities and the non-live fire training area on Andersen South.

The Marines’ move to Guam has stretched out longer than initially planned. Most recently they have talked about arriving sometime in the next decade. The EIS’s website says the timeline is dependent on Congressional funding support and when facilities are built, but said the first units could be expected by 2020 with an initial Marine Air-Ground Task Force capability to be established by 2023.

Twitter: @WyattWOlson

Among the Department of Navy’s preferred alternatives for a greater Marine Corps presence in Guam is a proposed live-fire training range complex, shown in blue.

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