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Meetings set for live fire training range

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - The Joint Guam Program Office announced today the start of a supplemental environmental impact statement regarding where to place a live fire training range on Guam. As such, it's apparently it's Take Two for the military to gather input on their plans to build a live fire training range for U.S. Marines.

More one-on-one interaction from stronger Marine involvement, a more open house-type of setting with information booths, video presentations and experts on hand - these are just some changes JGPO plans to do when it conducts its live fire training range complex supplemental EIS next month. At today's meeting with island leaders - namely members of the Guam Legislature - United States Marine Corps Pacific Division Director Bryan Wood explained what people should expect.

"A lot of comments that we heard when we were first going through this from '07 and forward is it wasn't open, it wasn't public," he shared. "I couldn't give the types of comments I wanted, no one would listen to me. What I think what we're really trying to do here is make it absolutely open as possible, give the public as many opportunities as they can to comment to provide written comments, to hear what we have to say, to ask questions so we can educate them about why we need these things, how they will be built, why they will be built."

The public will be invited to provide input on two alternatives for the firing range - either to be located along Route 15 (the back road to Andersen Air Force Base) or in the Naval Magazine area on Department of Defense property where coincidentally the Fena Reservoir is located. Woods added that through probabilistic modeling, the surface danger zones will be a slightly different size and may open up areas, but discussions on the possibility of reducing the number of Marines on Guam wouldn't change the need or main aspects of the firing range.

"They have to be ready at all time, they have to be able to fire their individual weapon, so we're not going to put 25 Marines here, that won't do Guam any good, that won't do us any good, so it has to be a large enough number," Wood added.

Buildup Committee chair Senator Judi Guthertz meanwhile says despite a good approach from officials, she still had some concerns. "I did indicate that they need to be very sensitive, if they need to talk to landowners in the vicinity of Route 15 and Naval Magazine that could be impacted if the firing ranges be located in those areas. And we made strong recommendations that they personally contact the landowners and be more interactive with the landowners rather than through a written communication," she expressed.

The SEIS will be consistent with what was heard previously, but will include a better focus on the firing range looking closer at natural resources and its affect on fish and wildlife, cultural resources and the number of sites and socioeconomic impacts, something admittedly wasn't done thoroughly the first time around. "We want to get a decision for the selection of a site for a firing range so we can now move forward to developing the program, the money and put the improvements on it that we need," said Wood.

The scoping period is set for February 10 to April 6, with the first public scoping meetings set for March 17 at the University of Guam Field House, March 19 at Southern High School and March 20 at the Yigo Gym.

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