Pagat remains military's pick for range - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Pagat remains military's pick for range

by Lannie Walker

Guam - In less than a week the Record of Decision detailing how the military buildup will be conducted will be released, and according to Joint Guam Program Office Executive Director David Bice, Pagat is still the pick for the U.S. Marines' training and firing range.

"That is the preferred alternative," the retired Marine Corps general confirmed.  "The Record of Decision, which will be made on the 20th, will confirm whether that is in fact the decision, because I'm not making that decision - that decision is being made by the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, but the preferred location for that is Route 15."

Bice is quick to clarify the ancient village itself will not be impacted, telling KUAM News, "What would be the potential impact would be the safety zone that surrounds the firing range would for a couple of the most infrequently used ranges would potentially impact the Access to Pagat."

He says locations were first scouted behind the fence, noting, "We were looking to stay on DoD property and as we looked around the island where DoD property exists there, we could find no location to locate specifically the machine gun range."

It was, in fact, says Bice, not the federal government but local officials who suggested Route 15 as a possible location for the training ranges.  "We were guided by officials to take a look a Route 15 because it was fallow land it was not being used."  When asked which officials precisely, Bice said, "There were a number of folks that guided us over there."  The general added, "I will leave it to them to come forward and say what they stated."

Bice did say discussions to use the area as a firing range date back to 2007; at the time he says there were no major objections. As for giving the public adequate time to review and comment on the Final Environmental Impact Statement, Bice contends the process has been transparent all the way through.  "We understand in some areas that not everything was achieved, but we also recognize too that the Record of Decision is in some ways a starting point to in some ways help resolve these things."

As for the Programmatic Agreement on how the buildup will affect historical sites, Bice says they will conclude the consultation process before the ROD is signed. State Historic Preservation Officer Lynda Aguon has said she will not sign the agreement until concerned organizations are consulted.

Asked which other organizations are going be consulted on the PA prior to it being signed, Bice responded, "There are a number of organizations we have been consulting with I would have to turn you over to the specialist who had been working that, but I know we had been consulting with a wide range of different organizations on that."

Bice also talked about $740 million to come from the Japanese government for infrastructure on Guam - saying they are currently in negotiations on how to apply for the financing.  He said this won't be something the local government will have to pay back, explaining, "As Simon Sanchez [the Consolidated Commission on Utilities' chairman] so artfully stated, 'It will not impact Mrs. Cruz'.  Is if there is going to be any payment, the Department of Defense will pay for its share back."

Despite criticism on how the military is approaching the buildup Bice remains positive   pointing out nearly a billion dollars ($955 million to be exact) has been committed to upgrades islandwide.

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