Monday, March 19, 2007

Feds Seeking Input on Military Increases

Gof na'chalek yan na'triste este na tinige' ginnen i PDN. Gigon hu taitai este fumuffo' yu', sa' taibali. Hafa pau faloffan (pau ma cho'gue) yanggen ta alok na taya' mas militat i minalago-ta? Kao pau ma respetu iyo-ta "input" yanggen "negative?" Ekungok nu hafa ma sangani i militat put este, ya gi i mamaila na sakkan siha, tufong gi todu na asunto siha ni' ma na'tungo' i militat, kuantos ma aksepta gi minagahet, ya ma tulaika i planu-niha, ya kuantos ma fa'ga'ga' hit.

Feds seek local input on Marine relocation
By David V. Crisostomo
and Steve Limtiaco
Pacific Daily News

As the region's chief executives prepare to gather in Saipan for their annual summit next week to discuss the military buildup and other shared issues, federal officials have opened the public comment window on the Marine relocation to Guam as part of the first step to the pending buildup -- the environmental impact study.

While the buildup links the regional summit and the federal environmental impact study, both events also provide local communities -- from Guam and Saipan to Palau and Yap -- an opportunity to add their voices and express their concerns about the buildup and its potential ripple effect, Gov. Felix Camacho said yesterday.

The military needs to enlarge and improve its facilities on Guam to support the transfer of 8,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa, but it will take about two years of environmental studies here and in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands before the first shovel of dirt is turned in connection with the move, military leaders have said.

The U.S. Navy yesterday took the first step, announcing its intent to prepare an environmental impact statement. The areas and issues to be examined in the study will be determined, in part, by information gathered from Guam, Tinian and Saipan residents and government officials during public "open houses" next month.

"This is the one chance for our people to come and speak," said Camacho of next month's federal public scoping meetings on Guam, Saipan and Tinian.

"This is an extremely crucial part of the process -- this window of opportunity," Camacho said. The governor called the impact study "the first step in the many moves that we have to undergo."
Guam and the federal government aren't the only players in the largest restructuring of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Camacho said.

At least $15 billion is expected to flow into Guam alone over a period of 10 years as the Marine relocation is completed. The players in this process, Camacho said, occupy the local, regional, national and international stages.

Public involvement
The environmental impact study, the public meetings and the public comment period provide residents an opportunity to recommend alternative sites for military facilities here.

"This is one of the ways the public can start getting involved in this," said Navy Capt. Robert Lee, commander of Navy region Marianas. The date of the meetings has been set for early April, but the time and place have not been determined.

U.S. Pacific Command last September released a 91-page military development plan for Guam, stating the possible location and scope of military increases here, including: the construction of a Marine Corps base and training area in the NCTAMS region of Dededo; improving the Navy's port in order to support the Marines and other military activity; and the creation of an Army base at Radio Barrigada to provide missile defense for the island.

According to the Navy, the environmental statement will examine all of those possibilities.

Yesterday's announcement provides even more information about the proposed military increase, stating, for example, that the proposed Army base would have 630 soldiers and 950 family members.

Naval facilities need to be improved to better accommodate transient nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, the announcement states.

"The proposed action includes rehabilitation or construction of operational facilities, support facilities (such as housing), and training areas on Guam and other locations within the Mariana Islands," the environmental announcement, which was published in the Federal Register, states.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Daniel Leaf, deputy commander of U.S. Pacific Command, last September said military construction is expected to begin with two years, which means environmental assessments must begin this year. The first major movement of personnel is not expected for at least six years, he said.

Camacho yesterday encouraged all community members on Guam and the island's Pacific island neighbors to take advantage of the opportunity to speak out during the comment period and next month's meetings.

Executive summit
The military buildup on Guam and its impact to this region will be central to discussions between Camacho and other regional chief executives during the seventh annual Western Micronesian Chief Executive Summit in Saipan next week.

Also expected to attend are: CNMI Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, Republic of Palau President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. and Yap Gov. Sebastian Anefal representing the Federated States of Micronesia.

This summit will be an opportunity for Guam and its neighbors to agree on how they can collectively join the international players at the buildup "table" so their communities can benefit from the dollars and development expected from the buildup process, Camacho said.

One key topic is meeting the buildup's labor demand and the employment opportunities for residents in Guam and the CNMI to Palau and the FSM, the governor said.

Camacho said he and the other chiefs also are expected to discuss a wide range of shared issues during the summit, which begin on Tuesday.

The chiefs are expected to reach agreements on regional work-force strategies, recycling initiatives, cooperative efforts to address invasive species and strategies on meeting their communities' health-care challenges.

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