SHPO says he’s stood firm on protecting archaeological finds

"We will work closely with the military to determine whether the site can be preserved in place, which is our priority," said State Historic Preservation Officer Patrick Lujan. (PNC file photo)

There’s been a lot of controversy over the treatment of archeological finds during military construction projects.

But commercial projects and private citizens also have to comply with many of those same rules.

The State Historic Preservation Office is trying to find ways to make that easier.

State Historic Preservation Officer Patrick Lujan told Newstalk K57’s Patti Arroyo that he’s stood firm on protecting archeological finds.

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Burial grounds in particular are extremely sensitive and military projects have had to change their building plans to accommodate the final resting places for ancestral remains.

However, the rules don’t just apply to military construction.

All development projects are bound by the requirements to protect historically significant areas.

“It’s a case by case basis situation. So you’s a classic example..Nikko Hotel…from a commercial standpoint…where they had to restructure the building itself because of the burials that were found in that property. That’s what the review process is for. We try and do a very diligent job here, whether it’s a homeowner that owns just a little quarter acre or less, to a big developer to the military. So we have to make sure that everyone is treated the same across the board,” Lujan said.

Although it’s not just federal projects and big commercial developments that have to bear the financial and regulatory burdens of compliance. Private non-commercial developments have to abide by the rules as well.

And Lujan admits that compliance can be a challenge for a private citizen who lacks the enormous resources of a large corporation or the federal government.

“So I’ve been trying to figure out solutions. You know, Guam Preservation Trust has pocket money to help residents in this regard. There’s an archeological mitigation fund that Senator Terlaje initiated a couple of years ago under the previous legislature that could help in this regard. Developing that type of structure and pot of money can help locals that can’t afford it. That program is not where it’s supposed to be,” Lujan said.

Lujan said that he plans to confer with the Attorney General on how the law applies to private citizens as well as options to help ease the regulatory and financial burdens that might be imposed on them.

All while still preserving irreplaceable artifacts and remains from the island’s past.

“I feel for everybody who’s done this, trust me, that takes up a lot of my time. Coming up with that, and it definitely needs to be solidified. And it’s gonna…it may start with what the Attorney General calls for. We may have to sit down with the senators again to establish a more clear definition of what needs to be done when it comes to situations like this and then for our office to just execute accordingly. We don’t want to…we’re not trying to just arbitrarily create rules and laws and make it harder for people. That’s not the case,” Lujan said.