Guam - It's official the full House of Representatives voted to include Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo's amendment to include HR4402 into the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act or HR4435. Her amendment authorizes the Department of the Navy and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to enter into an agreement for the designation of a surface danger zone over the National Wildlife Refuge at Ritidian. The SDZ is necessary should Northwest Field be ultimately selected as the location for a Live Fire Training Range Complex for the marine's relocation from Okinawa to Guam. According to the amendment the military would pay for impacts to the SDZ including the relocation of facilities of the refuge. The miltiary would also have control over access.
HR4402's inclusion in the FY15NDAA follows concerns from island residents and original landowners of Ritidian properties. Chris Bejado's family owns property at Ritidian "With the Congresswoman's reintroduction of the bill it's tough. We are disappointed with the reintroduction, but what are we going to do at this point. At least we said what we needed to say, we are at the table somewhat to discuss the issues. Our issues are brought to light in the public eye so in a way that's a positive for us," he stated.
It was in 1963 when the federal government took the property at Ritidian under eminent domain. Families thought they were going to see the return of their land in 1993 when the U.S. military deemed it excess. However, instead it was taken by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and turned into a wildlife refuge.
During recent public hearings on the Draft SEIS several individuals in the community including Ritidian landowners expressed their concerns about the SDZ.
In Washington DC, Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo said she appreciates that our community has been closely engaged on this issue, especially during the SEIS public meetings this past week. Community feedback is absolutely critical to the process, and it provides the Navy and other stakeholders with important viewpoints to consider when final decisions are made for the Record of Decision."
"H.R. 4402 , as amended, addresses a potential legal impediment of allowing an SDZ over the Guam National Wildlife Refuge, and it outlines areas that would need to be mitigated if Northwest Field is selected as the location for the firing range," said Congresswoman Bordallo. "I believe this legislation is important to keep the NEPA process on track, and it keeps the Navy and the Fish and Wildlife Service talking about the potential impacts of a firing range on Northwest Field. This amendment does not prejudge the outcome of this process, and it is intended to keep the process on track so we do not suffer any unnecessary delays in the realignment of Marines from Okinawa to Guam."