by Nick Delgado
Guam - As part of the National Environmental Policy Act, the military is launching meetings with island leaders and the community about their proposals to expand training and exercise space in our region. Department of Defense officials say this effort is not part of the military buildup.
Three proposed actions requiring an environmental impact statement from Guam and the CNMI were discussed between lawmakers and officials with the Joint Region Marianas, Pacific Air Forces and Commander Pacific Fleet. Although uniformed personnel declined interviews, PACAF's Carol Gaudette says this is the preliminary stage, saying, "DOD intends to issue some notices of intent for a couple of different NEPA actions here in the future. We just want to go into the senators today and give them a heads up on what we have in the future plans."
It's a heads-up that Speaker Judi Won Pat says they didn't get with the proposed military buildup, saying, "We had cautioned them don't make the same mistake that they did in the last time where they decided where they wanted to have it and then they developed the impact study they should do that for all the sites that they're considering."
The first proposal is to develop and improve existing airfield infrastructure to use as an exercise location and divert location for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. The second proposal is to conduct military training and testing activities within the Mariana Islands Training and Testing Study Area. Officials only explain the reason is to maintain military readiness.
"A lot of right now a lot of these actions haven't been defined we just wanted to come in and talk to the legislature and let them know we're getting these actions underway," said Gaudette.
However, the third action to update the Marianas Range Complex (Farallon De Medinilla) by extending the restricted airspace from 3 nautical miles to 12 nautical miles and extend the surface danger zone from 10 to 12 nautical miles, is what Won Pat says will have the most impact on airline carriers and others who frequent those waters.
She said, "They're expanding the restriction and our concerns is that how is it going to effect the livelihood of fishermen. Here fishermen are trying to make a living for themselves and you take away now they're fishing areas we're beginning to take so much away from farmers and fishermen to support themselves and their families and then what all for the military."
In the meantime, a scoping meeting for the first proposal is set for October 10-20, while meetings for the second proposal is set for September 20-28. The venue has not yet been announced.