Guam – One of the alternatives being looked at by DOD for a firing range complex for the marines could impact public access to the Ritidian wildlife refuge. Joint Guam Program Office Executive Director Joe Ludovici spoke with members of the media last week about the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement scoping meetings that took place on Thursday Friday and Saturday of last week.
The SEIS will take a look at several alternatives for a firing range complex. One of those alternatives is at the Northwest Field on Andersen Air Force base. One of the graphs at the scoping meetings showed that the surface danger zone at the Northwest Field would extend onto the Ritidian wildlife refuge. This property is owned and operated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife who in turn allows for public access to the refuge. Ludovici confirmed during a press conference last week that this could affect some public access to the area.
So why exactly is DOD looking at these alternatives for a firing range complex was it prompted by the Pagat lawsuit filed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation the Guam Preseravation Trust and We Are Guahan. “I’m gonna tell you no it did not have an effect I think what had more effect is when the governor said I’m not gonna allow you to affect Pagat cave and Pagat village and the marine corps went back and said okay how do we accomplish our training mission and still be able to fit on this footprint and they did the probabilistic method and we said well we just changed the process we studied these I’m gonna continue to say that that’s what caused us to study the alternative,” said Ludovici.
Nevertheless this has resulted in the military taking a closer look at alternative sites for a firing range complex sites which include areas on the naval magazine, areas on NCTAMS, and on Andersen Air Force base. The most important factor for DOD when looking at these alternatives is the military’s mission. “We’re gonna get down to the ones that first meet the military mission so if some of them don’t meet the military mission and second if there’s conflicts that just won’t work at all from the airspace or from the environmental thing from threatened and endangered species they start to drop off and the ones that float to the top are the ones that primarily meet the mission and have the least impact environmentally infrastructure wise etc.,” said Ludovici.
Part of the reason for the Supplemental EIS is the scaled down version of the buildup. originally 8 thousand marines were to be stationed on Guam with an additional 2,000 rotational marines. This number has been brought down to about 5,000 marines. Ludovici is confident that DOD will be able to accomplish this second effort at a placing a marine component on Guam. “We are gonna have some challenges but I don’t want to understate as we look at this on Guam we are gonna have a number of issues that we are gonna talk about at the scoping meetings traffic, environmental cultural issues we’re going to continue to have to address this it’s not going to be an easy fix every one of them are gonna have their challenges particularly in the firing ranges,” said Ludovici. Now that the scoping meetings are done the next step is for a series of public hearings. The entire process will take a few years as the record of decision is not expected until 2015.