One more week to comment on HR-4402 - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

One more week to comment on HR-4402

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - A week remains for public comment on controversial HR-4402. The measure was introduced by Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo who has since met with lawmakers and most recently Ritidian families over many of their concerns. In the past week Ritidian family members have expressed their concern over controversial HR-4402 introduced by Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo.

"We walked out of that meeting with very positive feelings that the Ritidian families best interest would be something that she would keep in mind for future reference but not a mention of that bill which was proposed in Congress on April 4th the day before we met was ever brought up in our meeting with the Congresswoman," said Christopher Bejado. Second generation descendants like Bejado spoke during a public roundtable on the Draft SEIS where he stated Ritidian families felt blindsided by the bill's introduction. He tells KUAM that on Monday, Bordallo held a teleconference with Ritidian families personally apologizing for not letting them aware of the bill's introduction. HR-4402 would authorize the Secretary of the Navy to establish a surface danger zone over the Guam National Wildlife Refuge to support the operation of a live fire training range complex.

The teleconference follows a public hearing during a congressional subcommittee last week where the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Department of the Navy provided testimony. Joint Guam Program Office director Joseph Ludovici spoke on addressing interagency conflicts between the two.

Ludovici said, "Sir, we are about to start our public meetings in Guam in May with our draft SEIS that was released two weeks ago we are in the process of collecting all the input we are targeting to get a decision on a final alternative sometime this fall if I have to change from my current preferred alternative to select some other options I'm a year extending my overall process I cannot afford a year extension based on the domino effect with our agreement with Japan and the consolidating of Marine Corps bases in Okinawa," he said.

National Wildlife Refuge System chief James Kurth meanwhile says they have no interest in holding up the Marines from their mission, saying, "We don't have any interest in holding up the Marine Corps from their mission I think that we're in the public comment period. The service will provide detailed comments on the draft SEIS we also will have to consult on Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act and the intention of the Fish and Wildlife Service is to have all that information to the Navy in time so they can make a decision that meets their time schedule."

Kurth however added that if HR-4402 is enacted it would impact the wildlife refuge on Guam. Subcommittee chairman John Fleming however asked if the live fire training range is located at Northwest Field, should there be further discussions on a land transfer instead of authorizing closures for the refuge.

Kurth said, "You know I think it's very similar to the answer that was given about paying for the facilities we're are the beginning of what's going to be some detailed discussions about what's going to be the best end outcome here and I don't want to publicly propose options that my colleagues and I haven't had a chance to discuss but they've signaled a willingness to discuss a wide range of options that would allow us to continue to do good with our conservation mission."

As we've reported, Ritidian families have fought for the return of their land after it was taken away under eminent domain. In 1993, Ritidian was deemed excess by the US military however instead of it being returned to the original landowners it was taken by the US Fish and Wildlife and turned into the Wildlife Refuge. Bejado says this continues to be the primary concern for Ritidian families. He tells KUAM he'll wait to see how the issue pans out especially as the public meetings take place for SEIS. He will however be submitting written testimony on HR-4402 which is due on May 13.

You can submit comment to Bordallo's District Office in Hagatna. 
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