Island leaders respond to federal compromise - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Island leaders respond to federal compromise

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - As we first brought you yesterday, Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo informed island leaders on the apparent compromise between the Navy and the Interior Department over issues regarding the live fire training range and the designation of a surface danger zone at Northwest Field.

Ritidian original landowners like Chris Bejado still don't support HR-4402. "Initially I'd like to say that HR-4402 should have never been proposed or submitted without a public hearing here on Guam and now with the revised language provided by DOD and DOI, I personally and the families personally feel it shows that it could have been introduced without even the Congresswoman's bill initially," he said.

Bejado is referring to draft compromise language between the Navy and the Department of the Interior which oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service. As we reported, the two were at odds because the firing range and designation of the surface danger zone is in conflict with the mission of and the goal of the wildlife refuge at Ritidian. According to a letter to island leaders from Congresswoman Bordallo over the concerns of HR-4402, the compromise to island leaders which includes the possible relocation and reconstruction of the existing structures and facilities of the refuge.

"But I just think that HR-4402 is very problematic right now," he said.

Speaker Judi Won Pat in a response letter today raised several questions over legal impediments and how this revised compromise language would address it along with impacts to the Wildlife Refuge. "The third of course is nothing is being said at all even in this compromise about the access to the families and others to the Ritidian area and what's really even more disturbing because with the language in the SEIS it says that they would determine 'as may be necessary', so there's nothing guaranteed in terms whether its fixed or 39 weeks of the year or could it be less," she said.

Overall she says, her hesitancy in support of HR-4402 is that it was introduced without public consultation while undermining the NEPA process. "I think I was very hesitant in support HR-4402 and that the best thing is to probably withdraw the bill until we go through the whole process, reading and providing comments on the SEIS before we have to deal with something else," she said.

Won Pat adds HR-4402 is unfair to the people of Guam. She says the island needs great guarantees that concrete actions will be taken to mitigate the impact on Ritidian adding the revised language does not address the concerns of original landowners as it still keeps the alternative location for the refuge in the area of the current refuge.

Bejado meanwhile says he agrees with Won Pat that HR-4402 shouldn't move forward adding the concerns not only from Ritidian families but all of the people of Guam should be heard first.  "And this compromise between the two agencies only shows that this land is of no use to the Fish and Wildlife anymore with the Navy now introducing the language that they are willing to maintain the activities that are going to be conducted down at Ritidian in the revised language they are going to administer whether the access to Ritidian would be possible," he said. 
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