Feelings mixed after federal briefing - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Feelings mixed after federal briefing

by Nick Delgado

Guam - There were mixed feelings during the Joint Guam Program Office's briefing to the Council of Environmental Quality in Washington, DC this morning. JGPO Executive Director David Bice said via teleconference that the process in selecting property for a Marine Corps firing range came under the direct guidance of the Department of Defense to maximize federal property on Guam as well as consider the safety of those using the range along with the surrounding community.

Bice says JGPO ruled out a number of proposed sites due to the size, including Navy Barrigada, Apra Heights, Drydock Island, Mt. Santa Rosa, Naval Hospital, and Potts Junction. Other areas ruled out due to incompatibility for surrounding areas include Andersen Air Force Base, Northwest Field, Andersen South, Tarague Beach, Orote Point, and Naval Magazine. The most discussed proposed site was the Pagat area along Route 15, as the military has deemed the preferred site a good location for marine training.

Marine Corps Head of Range Development Tom Shear explained the types of ammunition the Marines will be using, which includes several training rounds that emit an orange powder in an effort to prevent any fire hazards. He adds that there will be no damage to the lusongs or lattes on the historic site if it is selected.

During the briefing, local senators Judi Won Pat, Tony Ada, Rory Respicio, Tina Muna Barnes, Frank Blas Jr., and B.J. Cruz, raised several concerns about the use of the Pagat land and questioned why Resolution 275 that states no action on Pagat be taken seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Cruz, the vice-speaker of the 30th Legislature, expressed disappointment about the lack of notice on the briefing, as he feels the military's notion of Pagat is misleading. Senator Blas also questioned what the military plans to do if the preferred site in Pagat does not work out.

However, the feds reacted to most of the concerns by stating that nothing is official, and that most of the details will become clearer in the final environmental impact statement.

The military also admits that the final EIS would explain why other areas like Tinian was not selected to host a firing range. The military argues that they are not trying to hide the ball when it comes to selecting a site for training.

The feds also mentioned a range management plan that would keep the public informed of the training activity, as well as let them know when they can visit the site. However, more concerns were raised by the We Are Guahan organization, who joined the teleconference and asked National Historic Preservation Trust officials how they felt about Pagat being considered when it is one of America's 11 most endangered historic sites.

A federal representative with the trust responded that they are keeping a close watch on the proposed plans so that the land does not lose its historical value.

But some felt that the two-hour briefing did not allow them enough time to have their concerns addressed, as Senator Barnes says it seems like the feds think the people of Guam are third-class citizens. 

Meanwhile, military officials say they are hoping to further discuss the concerns regarding the Marines' relocation during their site visit to the Pagat area on July 23.

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