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Guam needs guarantees from the federal government

by John Davis

It's been about a week now that the Draft Environmental impact Statement has been released for public digestion and open for comments, but as you read the 11 thousand page document you'll notice that the DEIS is a bunch of bullet points about the upcoming military buildup offering no real solutions or guarantees regarding the impact to Guam residents.

Aside from the federal government relocating 8 thousand marines from Okinawa, Japan to Guam, island residents can look forward to another 72 thousand people making their way to Guam in search of job opportunities and a better life.  Island residents can also look forward to the feds taking more land for their use without the consent of the local government or local residents.  The Federal government plans to use more Guam land for military training grounds and military housing.  The feds will also construct infrastructure to support an Aircraft carrier strike group at Apra harbor.  To date, island residents have a better idea of what the federal government plans to do to support military forces with the Guam buildup, but we don't know how much will come out of Guam's pocketbook and how much will come out of the federal governments pocketbook, that's a big problem.

The department of defense is eyeing at least 3 pieces of property to use as training and housing facilities.  These properties are located at the old FAA property near NCTAMS, the Marbo Sea Command property in Mangilao.  The third and newest piece of property propsed to be used by the federal government disturbs me the most.  The property is located near the southern villages of Agat and Umatac known as Mount Jumullong Manglo.  You may be familiar with this property considering thousands of island residents come to this area every year to express their catholic faith on a pilgrimage to the top of this mountain on Good Friday.

The feds plan to use the pilgrimage property to train hundreds of Marines at once.  Soldiers training on the land will conduct jungle and navigation training for 12 weeks of the year.  Does this mean that after 3 months of military training and exercises the land will be opened back up?  I don't think so, even if the feds say the road to be built on top of the existing hiking trail will be lined with locked gates and barriers will keep any civilians from traversing the area.  Is it good news for residents that these gates and barriers will be unmanned?  What about the protection of National Security?  If I were planning the use of this land for the federal government, I would keep this training area under lock and key t all times.  I would not allow an avenue for a breach of security because the federal government wants to portray a friendly relationship with the Chamorro people.

On the other hand, the property located at the old FAA and Marbo Sea Command are being eyed by residents owed ancestral lands after the Guam International Airport Authority took their Tiyan land for GIAA improvements.  There is existing public law that provides an avenue for compensation of Tiyan landowners, so if these two pieces of property are supposed to be given to residents for their use, why would we want to lease it to the federal government?  Better yet, if the property is taken by the federal government, will Tiyan landowners be compensated at fair market value or will the federal government use their powers of condemnation?  In the past, the feds have taken land without compensation or input from residents, so why would it change?

Lastly, the Department of Defense will be constructing a deep-draft wharf to support aircraft carrier personnel.  Projections contained in the DEIS show 63 aircraft carrier visits per year at 21 days of less per visit. 

That's an additional 5600 military personnel on Guam every time a CSG anchors down at Apra Harbor.  These 5600 military personnel will be granted liberty to see the sights and shores around the island, but who will be protecting local residents from military personnel when they are out and about?  I don't think the Navy has enough Shore patrol officers to handle 5600 military personnel on the streets of Guam during liberty.  In order to support the aircraft carrier, shore side infrastructure must be upgraded.  That means, power, water, wastewater infrastructure will be upgraded, but who will pay for it? GovGuam, DOD, DON?  I'm not so sure considering there have not been any guarantees from the federal government regarding cost sharing measures for infrastructure upgrades directly related to the military buildup.

Now that the DEIS is open for comment, all residents should look into it and be prepared to ask for guarantees from the federal government.  We know what's about to happen, but we don't know how those affected will be compensated or if there will be any compensation from the federal government at all. 

Guam needs guarantees that come with matching federal dollars for every dollar our local government spends.  I personally believe that the federal government should fund construction of Haul roads, power and water infrastructure and building new schools because this massive buildup will impact all services provided by our local government.  After all they are visitors on our island, Guam is our home and if the feds are going to change our way of life they should foot the bill.

The views and opinions expressed on KUAM Columns do not reflect those of Pacific Telestations, Inc. or its advertisers

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