Rear Admiral and JGPO Director Brief Senators on Buildup
Guam – Military officials briefed local legislators on the Final SEIS and the major differences between the Guam military buildup plans in 2010 and the buildup plans now.
Rear Admiral Babette Bolivar and Joint Guam Program Office Forward Director Dan Schaan briefed island Senators today on the Final SEIS for the Guam military buildup. “We talked about where we were in terms of numbers. The initial number that was supposed to come in here in 2010 and now what it is in accordance with this particular document,” said Rear-Admiral Bolivar.
The plan in 2010 was to bring in 8,600 marines and 9,000 dependents to Guam over a span of 5 years increasing the population by 79 thousand new residents at it’s peak, and 33 thousand when it settled. Now that has lessened to 5,000 marines and 1,300 dependents over a span of 12 years increasing the population by less than 10 thousand new residents at it’s peak and 7,400 new residents when settled.
Another major difference involves the amount of land needed and the amount of native limestone forest that will have to be cleared for the main cantonment, housing area, and life fire training range complex. Originally the main cantonment and housing area were both going to be placed at Finegayan. This would’ve required 688 acres of non-federal land. The preferred alternative now for the main cantonment is still at Finegayan but the preferred alternative for the housing area has moved to the Andersen Air Force base. Joint Guam Program Office Forward Director Commander Daniel Schaan explains that Andersen Air Force base would require less land clearing. It also already has some existing infrastructure that can be used for the new housing development.
One of the biggest changes from 2010 is the location of the live fire training complex which was originally going to be put in the village of Pagat now it’s going to be placed at the Andersen Air Force Base’s North West field which overlooks the Ritidian Wildlife Refuge. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife department has been in negotiations with the U.S. Department of Defense regarding this plan. “Public access to the Ritidian unit is very important and it’s recognized as a concern,” said Commander Schaan adding “The requirement within the SEIS is that the ranges have up to 39 weeks a year of being active. So potentially could there be 39 weeks of impact? Yes. The reality of it is not all the ranges are active at all times so again those details still need to be worked out.”
These details are among the many things that DOD is still working out with U.S. Fish and Wildlife. “The devils are in the details here because when we were asking questions from the briefing a lot of it that they were deferring it to the details of each chapter,” said Speaker Judi Won Pat. The local lawmaker says that to read each chapter of this 900 page document is difficult especially when the Record of Decision can be released in just 30 days from the release of the Final SEIS.
Nevertheless military officials seem content with the findings of the Final SEIS saying that it is a reflection of the hard work DOD has put into planning for the buildup while taking the community’s concerns into consideration. “The main thing is that we listened to the people we listened to the government and we took in all of those comments and we rebuilt the document based upon the input that we received. It just shows to our dedication that we are in this for a partnership and we are in it for the long haul,” said Admiral Bolivar.
The next step in the NEPA process for the military buildup is the signing of the Record of Decision which can happen no sooner than 30 days after the release of the Final SEIS. The Record of Decision will officially announce DOD’s final decisions on the relocation of marines from Okinawa to Guam.