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Navy determines more analysis necessary

by Mindy Aguon

Guam - While the Department of the Navy had moved to throw out a lawsuit filed against it for failing to consider other alternatives for the Marines live fire training range, apparently they've had a change of heart.  The Navy has completed its internal review and found that more analysis is necessary.

The site of the Marines live fire training range won't be determined for at least two years as the Department of the Navy intends to re-evaluate potential alternatives other than the Pagat-Route 15 area.  The decision comes just a month before a judge in Hawaii was to hear arguments on the Navy's motion to dismiss the pending lawsuit filed against it by the Guam Preservation Trust, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and We Are Guahan. According to court documents, Joint Guam Program Office director Joseph Ludovici states that the Navy intends to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed firing range. 

The decision came after the Navy completed an internal review process and determined that additional analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act is appropriate. The pending lawsuit was filed against the DOD for failing to provide or consider other alternatives for the firing range other than the Route 15 and Pagat area. The Navy still maintains that there is no final agency action with regard to the selection of a site for the training range complex.

According to Ludovici's declaration filed with the Hawaii District Court, the Navy undertook an internal process to determine whether, the use of probabilistic modeling to predict surface danger zones on live fire training ranges, warranted additional analysis of environmental impacts at potential range sites. He explained that the modeling takes local geographic conditions and firing practices into account to more precisely identify land require for a range and the surface danger zones.

The supplemental EIS process is expected to begin in early 2012 with scoping of issues to be addressed and identifying the significant issues related to the proposed action. He stressed that the Navy is committed to providing opportunities for public involvement consistent with NEPA regulations. Ludovici adding that the Navy will complete the SEIS before any final decision on the location of the training range is made.

He further clarified that no actions are being taken to acquire property for a training range complex in Fiscal Year 2012. With the Navy's notice to conduct a SEIS, it's unclear whether Judge Leslie Kobayashi will proceed with the scheduled December 12 motion to dismiss or schedule a status hearing with the parties.

Military buildup chairperson Senator Judi Guthertz meanwhile says the Navy should have done the additional review from the very beginning. She calls the decision to step back and do the process over the right way is "a victory for reason and sensibility".

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