What Ritidian means to the military buildup - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

What Ritidian means to the military buildup

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - For the past few weeks we've heard discussion on controversial HR4402 and the proposal to establish a surface danger zone over parts of the Ritidian Wildlife Refuge. And just a day before the first public meeting begins on the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, members of the Guam Legislature made their way to Ritidian to see what all the talk's about.   

With all the talk about Ritidian and the proposal for a surface danger zone, members of the Guam Legislature wanted to see for themselves what's all the fuss about. "I like to go out and see the properties and see what the impact would be, I want to know firsthand, I could never speak about something I don't know anything about so I wanted to educate myself first," explained Speaker Judi Won Pat. She spearheaded a tour for members of the Guam Legislature of the Ritidian property in light of concerns raised by the recent Draft SEIS and Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo's introduction of HR4402. Vice Speaker BJ Cruz and Senator Tina Muna Barnes were in attendance along with other legislative staffers.

"It's very unfortunate because we learned so much in terms about a thousand of our ancient graves are here, and the pictographs, hand prints that are there and we were told to take basically take a look at it now, take a picture because this might be the last time that anyone will be able to see it," said Won Pat.

Won Pat says the presence of latte stones, lusongs and handpaintings at Ritidian makes her believe even more that the property is an ancient village. After the tour, a briefing was given by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the US Geological Survey and what possible impacts a surface danger zone could have on services. Wildlife biologist Tom Hinkle gave a presentation on the efforts to eradicate the brown tree snake and the reintroduction of endangered native birds to Guam.

"A lot of work has been done to reduce the snake population down here," he stated. "A barrier fence was set up and a lot of trappings to reduce the snake population, and all of this work that we already put out is going to be wasted."

The Ritidian visit comes less than 24 hours after Bordallo met with both Republicans and Democrats on HR4402 where she told KUAM News the measure was important for the buildup, especially its inclusion in the Fiscal Year 15 National Defense Authorization Act. "Would the buildup still move forward without putting HR4402 into the NDAA?", we asked Bordallo. "It will be delayed, it will be delayed and there's a good chance of it being cancelled completely and maybe going elsewhere which would be very unfortunate."  She also added that such would be necessary.

Speaker Won Pat however doesn't believe it so. "That is totally false because I asked that same question and I asked that specifically of Mr. [Joe] Ludovici who made that comment and he was taken out of context and he was saying that they didn't quote everything that he said because he said very clearly that there are those other alternatives and it's not until the ROD comes out where they will give their preferred choice and if this is not going to be the preferred choice then there are other choices they have gone through the analysis following the NEPA process, so that's totally false," she said.

However it was during a congressional subcommittee meeting on HR4402 in the nation's capital where both the Navy and Fish and Wildlife testified on HR4402. During that hearing chairman John Fleming asked Joint Guam Program Office director Ludovici about the timeframe to resolve the interagency conflict between Fish and Wildlife and the military regarding the SDZ.

Ludovici will be on Guam during this Saturday's public meeting on the Draft SEIS. Won Pat meanwhile encourages everyone to attend the meeting or at least submit comments. 
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