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A man walks along Guam's eastern shore in an area near Pagat, the site of an ancient Chamorro village, in the summer of 2010. The military originally proposed putting a firing range adjacent to the village on land stretching further north up the coast. That proposal, despite offers to keep the Pagat area accessible to the public, has not appeased some. Earlier that year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation put the area on its most endangered list.
A man walks along Guam's eastern shore in an area near Pagat, the site of an ancient Chamorro village, in the summer of 2010. The military originally proposed putting a firing range adjacent to the village on land stretching further north up the coast. That proposal, despite offers to keep the Pagat area accessible to the public, has not appeased some. Earlier that year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation put the area on its most endangered list. (Teri Weaver/Stars and Stripes)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The first Japanese-funded construction work needed to move 8,600 Okinawa Marines to the U.S. territory of Guam could soon break ground following a contract award Friday, according to Navy Facilities Engineering Command in Hawaii.

The first $89.7 million of about $700 million to be provided by the government of Japan for the military buildup was paid to a Colorado company that will construct Marine Corps aviation and waterfront facilities, the Navy announced in a news release.

Japan has agreed to help pay for the multibillion-dollar move to Guam as a way to ease the burden of a U.S. military presence on Okinawa. The government has been contributing money over the past two years and has budgeted another $400 million this year. That funding has not been finalized.

Joseph Ludovici, director of the Joint Guam Program Office, said the contract award proves that the two countries are still committed to the military realignment, which has been delayed by political opposition on Okinawa and dogged by concerns in the U.S. Senate about cost.

The Guam buildup could cost U.S. taxpayers about $14 billion over the next five years and over the next decade could cost the U.S. and Japan, which are both struggling with economic problems, nearly $24 billion, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Meanwhile, the tiny island territory has been concerned about the impact on its roads, utilities, hospitals and schools if the buildup adds 24,000 new residents to its current population of about 180,000.

The military plans to build training ranges on ancient indigenous land and dredge coral from the island’s main harbor to make way for visiting aircraft carriers has angered some and triggered a lawsuit in federal court against the Department of Defense.

Still, many on Guam hope the buildup will bring jobs and business opportunities to the isolated economy.

Ludovici said Friday that the contract award to Hensel Phelps-Granite JV of Greeley, Colo., will mean job opportunities and business for Guamanians. The company is tasked with installing utilities such as water, electricity, drainage and communication facilities to prepare sites for larger buildup construction work on Andersen Air Force Base and Naval Base Guam, according to NAVFAC.

The work is expected to be finished by February 2014.

trittent@pstripes.osd.mil

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