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Bordallo backs down

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - It appears the outcry from landowners and lawmakers has been heard loud and clear as the controversial HR4402 did not move forward as an amendment in the proposed National Defense Authorization Act during a congressional subcommittee today in the nation's capitol.

After weeks of controversy and a compromise, it appears Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo has backed off from her initial plans of including HR4402 as an amendment to the proposed FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act.

"I'm actually very pleased that she did and that she listened to the people of Guam, the community so that was a good thing," said Speaker Judi Won Pat. HR4402 as you recall would designate a surface danger zone over the National Wildlife Refuge at Ritidian in anticipation of a proposed live fire training range complex at Northwest Field for the Marine Corps. The House Armed Services Committee today held a markup hearing on the proposed NDAA.

Lawmakers like the speaker expressed concerns with the bill. This week, she asked Bordallo to withdraw the bill until after public meetings were held on the draft supplemental environmental impact statement which starts next week.

"The fear that I had that had it gone into the NDAA, then it becomes a must enact law and that it would be very difficult to pull back later on and you're going to have to wait until next year maybe to introduce another bill to amend it or remove it and that surely is not going to look good on us if we do that because by passing the NDAA it's really a must enact law and you just can't stop it dead in its track because of a particular amendment," she said.

Original landowners of Ritidian like Chris Bejado also expressed concern even asking Bordallo to repeal the bill. Today he tells KUAM that not including HR4402 in the mark up is a good sign adding "the fight is not over". He says much of the controversy over HR4402 has brought to light the long standing issue Ritidian landowners have had with Fish and Wildlife Service.

Today Bordallo says she decided not offer HR4402 as an amendment after speaking with Governor Eddie Calvo, members of the Legislature and Ritidian original landowners like Bejado. She says, "I agree that our community should have the opportunity to discuss this issue and other concerns regarding the build-up during the public meetings on the SEIS. I look forward to the upcoming hearings and will continue to work with our local leaders and all stakeholders as we move forward in the process."

Won Pat said, "I think now what we need to do is concentrate on the SEIS we need to read it, analyze it, provide most definitely comment. The next step aside from reading and writing comments, is to meet with the original landowners to talk with them and see not only what the concerns but the possibilities in terms of what recommendations they have."

Bejado says Bordallo's office has informed him that the congresswoman will be on island next week and meeting with the Ritidian families. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen what it means for HR4402. As we reported, Bordallo had called the bill a placeholder to keep our federal partners honest during the process saying it may not be needed as the Navy and Fish and Wildlife were in negotiations on the issue. Bordallo had informed lawmakers this week of draft compromise language between the two organizations. 
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