Concerns expressed over military construction projects

All construction projects are suspended starting the close of business Saturday, November 14, 2020, until further directive from the DPHSS. (File photo)

Two projects set for development on Andersen Air Force base have raised some concerns within the community about their effects on the environment and cultural resources.

According to a recently released programmatic agreement memo, the operation activities of an urban combat training complex may have adverse effects on artifacts within its vicinity.

The Andersen South Urban Combat Training Complex site is one of two projects slated for development by Naval Facilities Engineering Command and will be used by the U.S. Marine Corps for training. Proposed operation activities at the complex include hand grenade exercises and a vehicle course for convoy maneuvers.

Because these activities involve walking over terrain and moving heavy field equipment, the memo says that there is a high likelihood that surface artifacts may be dislodged over the course of these exercises.

Five historic sites have been identified within the project area, including: three Latte period artifact scatters, remnants of a Latte set, and a Second American Administration site that may have been associated with the 204th Army Hospital.

In reaction to the project, Maria Hernandez, a member of the cultural and environmental advocacy group Prutehi Litekyan, says that she is concerned about its effects on cultural resources.

“These areas are proposed for data recovery and what data recovery means is…they’re basically going to strip the area of the artifacts and place them in another area. And Prutehi Litekyan…our stance has always been to preserve them in place,” Hernandez said.

She added that artifacts that have undergone data recovery would have to be stored in a cultural repository. However, such a facility on island does not yet exist and is still being developed by the University of Guam.

In addition, Hernandez raised further concerns about NAVFAC’s other project, which involves the construction of several water well facilities on Andersen and how the additional wells would affect the island’s acquifer.

“With that rise in population, there would be an increased demand on our acquifer — about 1.2 million gallons more than it’s currently pumping. With that increase, there is a risk for saltwater intrusion, and this will affect the cleanliness of our drinking water. So for those who aren’t aware, our northern lens acquifer provides 80 to 90 percent of our island’s drinking water. So this is something extremely troubling to us,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez urges the community to submit their comments on the projects, which can be found on the Legislature’s website under the “Guam Buildup” tab. The comment period will be open until Oct. 9, 2019.

PNC reached out to the Guam State Historic Preservation Office, who could not comment on the developments by newstime.