Island leaders tour Fena facilities - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Island leaders tour Fena facilities

by Mindy Aguon

Guam - Just a week after members of the 31st Guam Legislature joined with Congresswoman Madeliene Bordallo to march to the gates of Fena, Governor Eddie Calvo and several senators joined the military for a tour of the Navy's water and waste water system inside the gates. While the media was initially denied access on the tour, it was later granted. 

Admiral Paul Bushong declared, "We're completely open to any questions. We'll be transparent with you we have no ulterior motives. We're not trying to sell you anything," a sentiment met with healthy laughter from the attendees. Governor Calvo said, "That's the quote of the day!," with Senator Rory Respicio saying, "And we're not gonna buy it back." "Both literally or figuratively," noted Bushong.

A tour of the Fena Reservoir, at Calvo's request, began with laughter as members of the governor's staff, Consolidated Commission on Utilities vice chairperson for the Guam Waterworks Authority Eloy Hara, and Democrat senators Respicio, Judi Guthertz and Tom Ada, got a first-hand look at what's become a significant point of contention in recent weeks.

The governor said of the group's intention, "We want to take a look at a very valuable asset, a very valuable asset that is controlled by the Navy that sooner or later will be owned by the people of Guam. It's just important to assess it, look at the condition of these facilities; look at what improvements have been made and what needs to be done."

The hour-long tour consisted of the military explaining how Fena operates and how valuable a resource it is to the Navy.  Regional Engineer and NAVFAC Commanding Officer Captain Peter Lynch explained, "The water system for the Navy is a lot broader than just the Fena Reservoir. The reservoir itself is pretty large body of water - a manmade reservoir. A dam was built in the 50's makes the capacity of the Fena Reservoir quite large."

But those on the tour were less concerned with how much water Fena supplies and how it operates. Instead, Ada, the chairman of the Legislative Committee on Utilities and a former member of the CCU, sought answers as to why the assets couldn't be transferred to GWA. Hara chimed in that the agency is more concerned with having access to operate and maintain the facility.

Lynch said, "And that's another fundamental issue and concern that we've got: to make sure that GWA's system is compliant with all the USEPA requirements."

Lynch admitting there's a fair amount of reluctance from the Department of Defense because of the ongoing litigation between the U.S. Department of Justice and GWA over the Clean Water Drinking Act and the agency's inability to meet all of the mandates in the stipulated order. 

Bushong, the commanding officer for Joint Region Marianas, stressed that despite claims that the military should just turn over Fena because it is excess, he said, "We rely on this water as mission-critical - no way no how that I could say this is excess we need it for ships, submarines and military members and quite frankly for civilians too." There's also been discussion that transferring the assets of Fena would be fairly easy as the military previously  transferred over power assets, but captain lynch explained there are some significant differences."

Lynch noted, "Transferring those assets back to the Guam Power Authority was a relatively straightforward process. Here, if you've got the reservoir right in the middle of the naval station the wells are all in the middle of NCTAMS, so much of that infrastructure is inherent inside the fenceline, so it's much more complicated."

Military buildup chair Guthertz also questioned how the transfer of Fena at the cost of $300 million managed to be included in the Fiscal Year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act. "Nobody ever asked us what we thought about anything," she commented. "I think the tag about payment was put in by staffers."

The island's elected leaders, as KUAM News has reported previously, refuse to pay a penny for Fena and vehemently oppose the military having a seat on the Consolidated Commission on Utilities, as mandated in the NDAA.

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