Federal fact-finding mission continues - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Federal fact-finding mission continues

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by Heather Hauswirth

Guam - Jam-packed with meetings, presentations and specialized tours of the island's utilities, various Guam agencies spent the day convincing the White House delegation of the federal funds they would like to see committed to Guam to ensure infrastructure improvements take place in sufficient time to support the massive influx in population and services caused by the military buildup.

"The big picture, everyone talks about one Guam and doing it right, if we were to get done right to protect power and have affordable infrastructure, we are looking at spending something between one and a quarter to almost $2 billion," said CCU chairman Simon Sanchez.

On behalf of Governor Felix Camacho, Sanchez presented an overview of the current state of water, waste water and power utilities on island to a high powered delegation that included a mix of military and federal officials led by chair of the CEQ Nancy Sutley appointed by President Barack Obama, Jarred Blumenfeld who is the administrator of USEPA's Region 9 and of course, Guam's very own, Tony Babauta - DOI assistant secretary of insular areas. Babauta says the presence of this delegation on island sends an important message to the people of Guam as well as local officials and various Guam agencies wondering when federal dollars will actually be committed to the buildup.

"It demonstrates to them with the presence of Chairwoman Sutley this has been elevated with the Obama Administration," he said.

Gathering at the Northern Wastewater Treatment Plant this afternoon, which Sanchez says requires approximately $250 million in upgrades in order to be turned into a secondary treatment facility as the feds have required to meet the demands of the buildup, Sutley said her two-day fact finding trip gave her a better understanding of the infrastructure needs facing the island.  "Always helpful to see things first hand, words on piece of paper don't do issues justice...on costs it's important information for us and clearly it's an important issue to resolve, who pays and how and make sure we address the impacts," she said.

The delegation met with lawmakers this afternoon and wrap up their visit, but the work is not done just yet.  Sutley and her team as well as the other federal officials that were part of the delegation will continue to meet and flush out the details of their findings to determine the best approach to ensuring that the island is ready for this massive transformation financially and logistically.

"Part of the purpose in coming here was to show people of Guam we take their concerns seriously and this is a priority for the U.S. Government to do this buildup right," she said.

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