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Business community primed on military's plans

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - The island's business community had the opportunity today to hear from Joint Guam Program Office director Captain Philip Old who provided an overview of the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. "With the new roadmap realignment in having a smaller amount of marines with having that change composition we also have a much different timeline for making this relocation occur originally it was supposed to happen between 2010 and 2014 $10 billion in four years now we're looking at a 2015 and final construction should be in 2028 so its really 13 years going forward," he said.

The Draft SEIS is much different from the 2010 Environmental Impact Statement in that it accounts for a smaller relocation of marines from Okinawa to Guam. The ancient village of Pagat is no longer on the table for the Marines live fire training range. In the new supplemental EIS the preferred location is Northwest Field on Andersen Air Force Base.  In order for the site to be selected however, a surface danger zone must be declared over the US Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Refuge in Ritidian.  Like many in the community, members of the Chamber of Commerce had questions about Ritidian including whether the citing of the firing range at Northwest Field was a done deal.

"The whole NEPA process is ongoing we still have to talk to Fish and Wildlife, Ritidian people national level just to talk about whether or not we can make this alternative to continue to work there is no decision made this is the preferred alternative," he said.

Responding to a question from the audience on the design of the firing range, Captain Old confirmed that whichever alternative is selected - a protective barrier would be constructed around the range. "There's actually berms at the end and berms on the side and you have to flatten out, and that final design still needs to be made but firing ranges are designed to keep bullets into the firing range so the bullets should be staying within that red area is there a possibly that a bullet could ricochet hit something strange on the berm and go tumbling off into the yellow area absolutely is it remote extremely remote. That's why we have surface danger zone and that's why we don't let people into surface danger zones because we're not willing to take that chance," he said.

Meanwhile Speaker Judi Won Pat was also at today's chamber meeting, she was one of chamber chairman Peter Sgro's guests he invited to attend.

The speaker asked Captain Old if he was aware what projects could be cut as a result of the Senate Armed Service Committee's final markup of its version of the FY15 National Defense Authorization Act. As we reported last night the Senate Armed Services Committee cut $80 million to the Office of Economic Adjustment for projects related to the transfer of Marines to Guam.

"The answer is I don't know I must have missed that news cycle, I have not seen that press release," he said.

As we also reported last night, the Senate's version also extends the prohibition on the use of Japanese funds for the realignment of Marine Corps' forces from Okinawa to Guam or other Pacific locations until several conditions are met, including the completion of a master plan for military construction necessary to support such a move.

Meanwhile Captain Old encourages island residents to read the Draft SEIS and provide comments by the deadline of June 17th. You can read the Draft SEIS at guambuildup.eis.us.
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