More than 300 turn out for DEIS hearing - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

More than 300 turn out for DEIS hearing

by Nick Delgado

Guam - The first public in a series of public hearings on the Joint Guam Program Office's Draft Environmental Impact Statement was held Thursday evening at Southern High School in Santa Rita.  Approximately 319 island residents participated, some to listen in on the proposed plans, while others provided comment on the relocation of U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam.

JGPO Chief of Staff Colonel Paul Pohn presented the military's proposed actions for the buildup.  Residents were informed that the hearing would only allow for them to submit comments, and not debate their concerns with military officials.  "The Marine Corps proposes to relocate approximately 8,600 Marines, as well as 9,000 of their family members to Guam, where they will live and work alongside you," he announced.

While the population increase is dependant upon the funding available to begin the buildup, Pohn says the military's goal is to use as much Department of Defense land as possible, as he says it's still too soon to determine what land is needed at this time.

Chamoru Tribe Chairman Frank Schacher says he has been carefully studying the Draft EIS, claiming there is not one bit of information that shares the impacts of the Chamorro people.  "Within your EIS," he challenged, "you seem to have answered all of the questions that you have asked yourselves. I don't believe you even attempted to answer the questions involving the issues we're concerned with."

Guam Chamber of Commerce President David Leddy, meanwhile, expressed why the island needs the military's presence to help better Guam's economy.  "The Chamber has put together a brief bullet paper, entitled "14 Reasons Why We Need The Military Buildup", which in simple terms states how the buildup on Guam will affect employment, revenues, infrastructure, healthcare, and the general prosperity of our island.

Concerned resident Kenneth Leon Guerrero shared his frustration with the lack of public safety information during his review of the DEIS.  "One of the things people forget is these people are almost being kicked out of Okinawa. There's a lot of public crimes and real known things, and we're not hearing a lot about that. This plan, every page talks about hazard analysis, controlled mitigation plans or just about everything, but there's not one for the predictable crime increase," he said.

Piti Mayor Ben Gumataotao however stated that the military is not coming to bring war to the island, but to help the economy and defend the island for everyone living on it, but still some disagree.  "How are we free?  Seriously, how are we free when we can't even go into any certain parts our land to hunt? Hunting is part of our culture. Hunting, fishing, there's many other things and we cannot do it because the U.S. Government owns that part of the land. This is our island and we are Chamorros and together we must fight," he said.

Residents were also given a summary explanation of the DEIS at each station during the open house period. JGPO officials say all comments will now be included in Volume 10 of the DEIS.

Now residents will have another opportunity to provide public comment and learn more on the DEIS this Saturday at the University of Guam Field House in Mangilao. The hearing will be held form 1 to 5 in the afternoon, while another hearing will be held Monday at the Yigo Gym from 5 to 9 in the evening.

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