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The Air Force is seeking public comment on a proposal to increase its munitions storage capability at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, while mitigating environmental effects.

The 36th Air Expeditionary Wing released Wednesday a draft environmental assessment of the project, which calls for the construction of 60 new munition igloos” on about 24 acres in the base’s munitions storage area between Northwest Field and main base, according to Scott Whittaker, 36th Civil Engineer Squadron environmental flight chief.

The base already has the largest munitions storage capacity in the Pacific region with 132 such igloos, but they were built more than 50 years ago, Whittaker said. The Air Force in 2002 deemed them unsafe for large munitions storage, he added.

“This has resulted in a munitions storage shortfall for existing missions,” according to the draft environmental assessment.

The project’s first phase would build 11 to 12 igloos beginning in 2006 at a cost of about $14 million, Whittaker said. The entire project is expected to take about 10 years to complete as funding from the federal government becomes available, he said.

Made of reinforced concrete, the proposed storage facilities would be 90 feet long, 30 feet wide and about 12 feet tall, with a 2-foot soil covering, Whittaker said.

Each structure is capable of storing up to 500,000 pounds of net explosive weight, said Jonathan Wald, 36th CES environmental flight natural resources planner.

The munitions igloos store bombs for bombers and fighter aircraft, said Andersen spokeswoman Maj. Kris Meyle.

The proposed facilities would allow the wing to store munitions at full capacity and “support the aircraft we expect to operate out of here,” she said.

“It’s becoming more of an issue now than it may have been say, 10 years ago when Guam wasn’t necessarily considered at the forefront of operations,” Meyle said. “Now that people are recognizing what an important strategic location Guam is … (they’re) recognizing we need to make sure that Guam is ready.”

Andersen officials worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Guam government environmental planners to come up with the best site that met Air Force operational needs yet impacted the environment least, Whittaker said.

An endangered species that lives in the proposed area is the Marianas crow. The Marianas fruit bat, a threatened species, also lives in the area, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Wald said the majority of the proposed area is forested but most trees in the area are non-native species and aren’t the preferred habitat for the protected wildlife.

The 30-day comment period for the draft environmental assessment ends Sept. 16. Any input will be “incorporated into the final decision document, and from there, we’ll determine whether … additional assessment is needed,” Wald said, adding he expects a decision by October.

How to comment

The 36th Air Expeditionary Wing is accepting comments through Sept. 16 on a draft environmental assessment of a proposal to construct 60 munitions storage igloos at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

The analysis considers potential environmental effects of two alternative locations. The results of the environmental assessment indicate the preferred alternative would not result in significant, adverse effects to the environment.

Written comments and inquiries may be sent to Mr. Scott Whittaker, Environmental Flight Chief, CES/CEV, Unit 14007, APO, AP 96543-4007. Comments must be postmarked no later than Sept. 16, to be considered.

Copies of the draft environmental assessment are available for review at the Nieves Flores Memorial Library, 254 Martyr St., Hagatna, Guam 96910, and also at Andersen. For more information, contact Scott Whittaker at DSN 366-2101 or e-mail him at scott.whittaker@andersen.af.mil.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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