Programmatic Agreement stalemate - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Programmatic Agreement stalemate

by Lannie Walker

Guam - A letter from State Historic Preservation Officer Lynda Aguon spells out exactly why she is holding firm on not signing the Programmatic Agreement.  In bold print she writes Joe Duenas, director of the Guam Department of Parks & Recreation, saying, "The public involvement to the degree expected and required under the National Historic Preservation Act, was utterly and extremely inadequate."    

KUAM News asked Duenas, who is also to be a signatory on the PA, if he is united with Aguon on the stance not to signoff on the document until these terms are met.  "Yes," he replied.  "The position of the Administration is to allow the subject matter experts at the agency to do their job and really negotiate what best for the island."

Aguon and Duenas are also united on the position that Pagat be removed as a preferred site for a firing range - but that is not all that is wrong with the current agreement. 

According to Duenas, another issue of contention he says is the lack of a firm commitment by the Department of Defense to fund cumulative impacts the military buildup will have to historical properties.  "The commitment they made basically was a promise to ask congress for funding and we can't rest, that's not very assuring if congress says no where does that leave the community," he explained.

Joint Guam Program Office Executive Director David Bice spoke of the benefits of signing a pa today at a Mayors Council of Guam meeting, saying, "There was some finding that the Department of the Navy was going to offer - I'm taking about significant funding.  I felt that...if we got a programmatic agreement, it's win-win for everyone 'cause there is big-time funding for a cultural center and the like there."

But according to Duenas this big-time funding is more of a big-time promise.  "Our office has already seen increase in work load as a result of the buildup as we move forward we know we will see even more of a workload, and so the commitment from the DoD thus far has only been to become an advocate for our department to get us more funding, which is again, not very reassuring," he said.

Duenas summed up what the state historic preservation office is requesting, noting, "We want to see more commitment on the part of the DoD as far as funding cumulative impacts, funding the shop office and the third thing was more consultation with the public."

So what happens if a programmatic agreement is not signed?  Duenas said, "Well, it's basically status quo right now.  When the military comes to us with projects, we go project by project the office reviews each project so every thing would just remain status quo."

This, Bice says, could have a negative ripple effect.  He added, "And what does that do to you and your constituents? It means the workload for the SHPO is going up and probably staffing is not going up, and that's competing with work projects that you might submit, or your constituents might submit."

Both Bice and Duenas told KUAM News that having a programmatic agreement would be in the best interest of the SHPO office, as well as the military. Asked if changes would be made to the Programmatic Agreement so that the State Historic Preservation Office would signoff on it, Bice commented, "We have specialists who are engaged with the SHPO on that and are going through the process to work through the termination of the Section 106 consultation process."

Bice did not say whether  more consultation with the public or interested parties would take place before the signing of the PA.  Aguon wrote in her letter to Duenas that she "cannot in good faith discount the concerns of the consulting parties and their strong desire for DoD to conduct a public hearing." The PA in its current form calls for a public hearing to be held 30 days after a pa is signed.

But whether that term is met and what happens off Route 15 is at the core of the standoff.  "I know Pagat is a sticking point there is a concern; it's on the National Register of Historic Places, we have a federal mandate to protect that again would be a concern."  When asked if he thought this might be a deal breaker, Duenas responded, "Potentially, yes.  Absolutely."

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