SHPO: Construction halt decision ‘a long time coming’

Guam State Historic Preservation Officer Patrick Lujan (PNC file photo)

The Guam State Historic Preservation Officer has called for the temporary halt of further construction at the live-fire training range complex at the Andersen Air Force Base.

Based on the discovery of ancestral remains found during the clearing of the first four firing ranges at the Northwest Field, Guam State Historic Preservation Officer Patrick Lujan has invoked Stipulation 13 of the 2011 Programmatic Agreement.

That means that for 45 days, the U.S. Navy will not be allowed to begin construction of the fifth firing range — the largest site of the project — which has not yet been cleared of vegetation.

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The firing range complex is part of an agreement between the U.S. and Japan to move almost 5,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam.

Lujan says that this decision has been a long time coming and over the past several months was made with consultation from his staff as well as input from the community.

“In this case, it was a very thought out process and in conjunction with the Navy, we do have a good working relationship with them. So it wasn’t like a surprise to them that we invoked them. We’ve been working with them, notifying them, so they knew it was coming,” Lujan said.

Lujan’s resolution calls for greater, more comprehensive archaeological surveys to be completed before the construction of the fifth firing range can begin.

If the military is in agreement, they won’t have to use the whole 45 days reviewing period and can proceed with the process. If the military declines, the matter will be referred to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

With this in mind, Lujan says the invoking of the stipulation is a chance to assess how to mitigate any damage to historic properties.

“Looking at all the years of war, just the destruction of our island with no thought of preserving our culture and history, now’s our time to do and really uphold what we stand and what we can learn from. Even though this is happening at Northwest Field, it’s almost rewriting history on the northern plateau. And that is something that is going to come out that we can learn from as a people moving forward,” Lujan said.

Joint Region Marianas has confirmed that they have received the letter from the Guam SHPO invoking Stipulation 13.

Al Borja, the environmental director of the Marine Corps Base, said: “The supplemental efforts have been a subject of discussion for some time. We believe a mutually agreeable outcome that is protective of resources is within reach for both parties.”