Second DEIS hearing well-attended - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Second DEIS hearing well-attended

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by Michele Catahay

Guam - Hundreds of island residents showed up testify at the second public hearing held at the University of Guam Field House in Mangilao this afternoon. This is one of several hearings planned to get input on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Marine relocation from Okinawa to Guam.

Melvin Won Pat Borja from the We Are Guahan coalition was just one of many who showed up to testify on the DEIS for the relocation of Marines from Okinawa to Guam. The coalition has vowed to read the EIS in its entirety in hopes to educate the public about it. Won Pat Borja says there are issues with land ownership and land acquisition in the Pagat, Mangilao area. It's just one of many brought up to date.

"Right now the EIS proposes a seizure of 2,200 acres of land, some of which will be compensated. There's also an option of eminent domain which will definitely be an issue with private land owners. There's an issue with the decision making process because of our U.S. territory status, the decision was not necessarily ours," said Borja.

Borja says with 80,000 additional people set to arrive on Guam, more students will also be attending our public schools with school population expected to increase by 20%. In addition, he says he fears that the local people will not get the jobs created for the buildup.  In the meantime, Barrigada resident Sabina Perez says Guam will be experiencing what she calls the largest ecological disaster to happen to the island.

"They're planning to dredge a million cubic yards in Apra Harbor and dump it in a site. That's going to impact a lot of our local fishermen. Another thing is that our coastal reefs will be impacted anytime you destroy our ecosystem, it affects us," she said.

The issue of land condemnation is another issue. Perez says Department of Defense lands have been taken illegally from her ancestors, and it's up to the community to protect what it has.  "If my grandfather were here today, and were to be able to speak to this audience, he would say 'do not buildup' this is one of the alternatives that we have is that basically to say loud and clear that the military buildup is going to it's going to impact our livelihoods forever," she said.

Joint Guam Program Office Executive Director David Bice says public comment is gathered to ensure DoD is able to address them within the DEIS and make some adjustments. As for issues dealing with land condemnation, Bice says they're working with landowners on the issue.

"I'm highly confident that we're going to reach an agreement with the landowners with either private or public land owners. Also, too, we're clearing up some misconceptions in talking to mayors and they've been getting calls well away from where our alternative plans are located. Residents are thinking their properties are being evaluated. There are only three or four private properties that are in our preferred alternative," he said.

If you haven't provided testimony on the EIS, you could attend two more hearings. One is scheduled on Monday at the Yigo Gym, while the other will be held at Okkodo High School on Tuesday from 5 to 9pm.

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