Thursday, May 22, 2014

Buildup Updates

I wrote in my Marianas Variety column today about the importance of attending the recent public comment meetings on the military buildup because of the way it can provide a more textured understanding of the issue and why people might support it or protest it. Media reports will generally simplify things so that there are two or at most three sides to an issue, and it is no different with the military buildup. This is not only problematic because of the reduction in ways of seeing an issue, but also the representatives of different stances are reduced to caricatures. You are not introduced to the contradictions, the investments, the slips of the tongue, the rambling, the things that might help you understand more clearly that person's position. For those that need some updates on the military buildup debate, I've pasted some articles here for you to read and get informed.


Last DSEIS meeting held

Elected leaders encourage public to voice concerns

THE last public meeting on the draft supplemental environmental impact statement concluded last night, drawing a crowd as many local residents milled about alongside military personnel at the packed Naval Base gymnasium in Santa Rita.

Residents who wish to comment on the draft SEIS still have until June 17 – the last day of the public comment period – to submit written comments online or through postal mail.

Many residents who signed up to speak claimed complete support or no support for the military buildup. Attendees heard arguments focused on the future and arguments heralding the past from former military service members, activists and elected officials.

Speaker Judith Won Pat introduced herself as a Chamorro first before introducing herself as an elected official. Won Pat pointed out what she saw as contradictions between the two pillars of the DSEIS and the reality it portrayed.

“Two of these pillars include the Guam buildup as One Guam and ensuring the buildup promotes a greener Guam,” Won Pat said. She added that the proposed Finegayan cantonment plan would do neither to promote One Guam or a “greener” Guam.

“One Guam means that everyone who lives here, has to co-exist,” Won Pat said. “Our community is already segregated by fences, creating unequal experiences inside and outside the fence.”

Won Pat added that the destruction of a limestone forest, as a result of the proposed Finegayan cantonment plan, is not a plan that would ensure a greener Guam. “In order to build a separate base for the Marines at Finegayan, chapter four of the SEIS states that they would have to destroy 1,020 acres of limestone forest,” the speaker said.

Won Pat suggested the federal government choose a different plan of action. “This destruction could be avoided or minimized with the selection of south Finegayan or Andersen Air Force Base,” she said.

Continue speaking

Sen. Ben Pangelinan also expressed his opinion at the public meeting last night. Pangelinan urged the residents to continue voicing their concerns, to continue speaking. “Before the people have even stopped talking, they have stopped listening,” Pangelinan said.

The senator said the introduction of H.R. 4402 by Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo was a clear move ahead of the National Environmental Policy Act process, in that public input need not be recognized if the bill passes.

“They’re going to move forward in which no matter what decision we have, if that passes ... with the provision of 4402, nothing we say matters because they can move the Navy,” Pangelinan said.

The senator added that H.R. 4402 is not fair, balanced nor is it in good faith.

For or against

Most of the residents who commented last night were of two camps, either in support of the buildup or against the buildup.

Joseph Certeza was against actions related to war in the Marianas. “Another thing I read in the DSEIS is that low-income families are more likely to slip below the poverty line due to economic stress,” Certeza said. “If we let that happen, what then happens to low-income families? What then happens to their kids?”

Ben Palacios pointed out the suggested firing range controversy in Pågat was resolved in that residents urged the federal government to create a firing range on federal land. “They told the military to go into your own federal land and build your firing range,” Palacios said. “Now ... years later, they’re doing that.”

Palacios added that when North Korea threatened to bomb the island, “DOD didn’t even blink” and sent forces to ensure the island would be protected. “Nobody complained about that,” Palacios said. “Those armies, those service members up in Andersen defended Guam. Right in our backyard.”

Residents, officials discuss buildup: Physical, cultural impacts questioned

May 20, 2014   |  
Discussions on the new draft supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the military buildup continued last night, with a second open house and hearing at the Father Duenas Memorial School Phoenix Center.

Residents gathered around military and government officials to learn more about the draft supplemental EIS, which assesses the impact of relocating thousands of U.S. Marines from Japan to Guam.

"It's a good way to find out what changes were made from the first draft SEIS," Daphne Lujan, a resident who attended the open house, said. "I think it's going to help a lot of people. Even if people don't want to speak out, they should come to the hearings to at least hear and understand what's going on."


Curious residents weren't the only ones learning during the open house, according to William Manley, cultural resources program leader for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command.

"It helps us learn what folks think and what their questions are," Manley said. "We need all this information in order to make this whole process work better."

After the open house, residents were invited to participate in a public hearing, giving them the chance to make comments on the draft supplemental EIS.

Infrastructure worries

Speaker Judith Won Pat, D-Inarajan, made the first comment during the hearing, questioning the facts presented in the draft supplemental EIS.

"One of my biggest concerns about the draft SEIS is that it doesn't offer realistic or concrete descriptions on the impact on the island's infrastructure," Won Pat said.

Importance of voice

Sinajana resident Emily Sablan had a different perspective on the draft supplemental EIS.
"I'm not speaking for or against the buildup," Sablan said. "I'm stuck in the middle."
For her, having a voice in the process was something different.

"When my father saw signs of a first military buildup, he wasn't able to make comments and didn't have any say," Sablan said. "Being able to speak out now is important."
However, she also understands concerns about the cultural impact of the buildup.

With the release of the draft supplemental EIS, some residents have raised concerns about the preferred location of a live-action firing range, with the preferred location being at Northwest Field of Andersen Air Force Base and requiring a surface danger zone that would limit access to part of the federal wildlife refuge at Ritidian.

"We are very concerned with where these bullets are going to be landing," Sablan said. "This land has so much cultural importance, for our fishermen and our suruhanas."
With the live firing range, Sablan encourages officials to be transparent.

"Let us know what's going to happen to the beach when the firing range isn't open," Sablan said. "Is it going to be limited to military? To those with IDs? Let us know."

Residents have another opportunity to learn more about the draft supplemental EIS and make comments in person at today's open house and hearing. Comments also will be accepted through email and mail until June 17.


Outcry against range is island's voice

May 21, 2014   |  
Pacific Daily News
Letter to the Editor
Written by
Hope A. Cristobal
The draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement is deception disguised as the outcome of rational bureaucratic decision-making. It is the Department of Defense grabbing at land that does not belong to it.

The language used within the document is "property under the control and custody of" the federal government, i.e. land they do not own. While the legal status of the land is in question, what is made clear through this action is how disempowered and limited in ability to protect our home we are, as residents of a colony -- as colonial subjects.

The preferred alternative of the cantonment works out to 2.2 square miles of Finegayan. If all 6,300 people will be housed there, the planned density is marginally urban, something especially striking when some proportion of those people will be in barracks. Is the military planning more suburban tract family housing/sprawl and shopping centers with huge parking lots? There is no mention about this.

The criteria by which they decided how much area they need for the cantonment is obviously based on outdated, sprawling, U.S.-centric model of car-based suburban life. The implications of traffic, noise, dust pollution and negative impacts to the health of our people, especially the residents of Finegayan, Machanao, Astumbo, Dededo, and Yigo are left for us to worry about.

There is absolutely no way the military can justify taking land and sea over huge and important swaths of Guam. This is exactly what the earlier DOD "gift" of the Ritidian area as a National Wildlife Refuge was suspected to be in sight of!

For a weapons expert

One needs to be a weapons expert to understand the safety concerns. We get no description of what the berms will be like. The weapons to be used are described as follows: "Small arms to be fired at these ranges would include the 9 mm pistol (1,800 meters range according to an Army website), the .45-caliber pistol, the 5.56 mm rifle (the M16 with a maximum range of 3,000 yards), the 7.62 mm machine gun (maximum range of 4,070 yards), and the .50-caliber machine gun {maximum range 6,764 meters)." The distinct ranges are listed as MRFR (Modified Record of Fire Range), pistols, rifles and MPMG (multi-purpose machine gun), but really there could be any number of kinds of weapons in use at that live firing range.

The MPMG looks to be about 1,100 yards in length before the berm, suggesting there will be tremendous impact into, and likely over, the berm, rather than the minimal risk they suggest exists for people fishing or travelling beyond the sea.

There is also an inexplicable sharp right (inward) turn in the angle of the left margin of the MPMG SDZ (surface danger zone) and a sharp left (inward) turn in the NSSA SDZ. The true impact area/danger zone is most probably larger than indicated.

The firing ranges have also inexplicably been designed to avoid the beaches used by military personnel to the east of National Wildlife Refuge, raising the question of whether avoiding any impacts to military recreation took precedence over avoiding general public use of land and sea at Ritidian, endangered species impact, etc.

The idea of mitigating impacts to the National Wildlife Refuge by turning Orote Point into a refuge area is just pathetic.

Short on information

The draft Supplemental EIS falls short on information on what kind of ammunition and what kind of toxins are in the ammunition that may be added to the landscape. There is only reference on Page 5-314, with this worrisome fact: "Range operations under Alternative 5 have the potential to leach munitions constituents to the water." Important toxic and life-threatening information such as dangerous radioactive uranium used in live-fire ammunition are omitted. Why?

Noise claims

The noise claims/impacts are insufficient. This is how the military describes the already existing noise of Andersen South: "People living in areas adjacent to the Route 15 lands experience exposure to elevated noise due to the limited military training on Andersen South and Guam International Raceway events. While these noise levels have not been quantified, they are intermittent and return to ambient noise levels upon completion of the noise events. During inactive times at Andersen South and the Raceway, ambient noise levels equate to approximately 50-60 (decibels)."

They did not include any attention to how much noise is already being generated by military activity.
The government of Guam should have a noise expert check their calculations because the number of rounds they say will be fired -- 6.7 million annually and, so, over 18,000 a day -- is tremendous and there is nothing louder than a machine gun, including jet engines.

Water, wastewater

The treatment of water and wastewater looks inadequate. While they refer to how much money was allocated by Congress but they do not say how much is needed to treat the additional waste, nor do they say where the extra water needed will come from without taking it from the people of Guam.
The public costs of the socioeconomic impacts suggest, without any evidence, that the use of public services by the new population will be matched by increased tax revenues.

Our local government must not fail in its highest purpose -- that is, to protect Guam and its citizens from harm. Our leaders have a responsibility to speak for the general public, who has voiced concern in the thousands during the last EIS. The public's response was no small reaction. The thousands of comments submitted did not reflect a "small and noisy minority" as elite circles seem to keep insisting they are.

The public outcry in response to recent actions that jeopardize Ritidian is not "noise from a few." It is the sound of our island's voice, the sound our leaders have been elected to listen to and speak for.
Hope A. Cristobal is a former senator in the Guam Legislature.


Firing range bill changed: House committee to hear Bordallo's measure

May 21, 2014   |  
Written by
Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno
Pacific Daily News
A revised bill on public access to the Guam National Wildlife Refuge at Ritidian is scheduled for discussion before the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee tomorrow, Guam time.

It could be included as an amendment to next year's defense budget, which currently is before Congress.

Del. Madeleine Bordallo has revised her Bill 4402, which would have given the Navy the authority to close any portion of Ritidian's beach and historical site as part of a safety zone for a Marine Corps live-fire training range complex.

The complex of firing ranges may be located in the adjacent Northwest Field area at Andersen Air Force Base, a preliminary military plan states.

Bordallo's revised bill, submitted Friday, would give the Navy and the Interior Department the responsibility to work out the public access issues at Ritidian in connection with a firing range.
Interior is the parent department of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the Ritidian wildlife refuge.

Public access to Ritidian's hiking trails and caves has become a focal point in the public debate over the revised plan to move thousands of Marines from Okinawa to Guam.

The current plans for the military buildup call for a safety zone for a firing range which would extend over part of the federal wildlife refuge.

Without a firing-range complex, the $8.6 billion military buildup can't proceed, government of Guam and military officials have said.

The Japan government already has paid $1.5 billion of its $3 billion commitment for the relocation of about 5,000 Marines and 1,300 dependents from Okinawa to Guam, Pacific Daily News files show.
Bordallo temporarily withdrew her proposal on May 8 to give Guam residents time to participate in a series of public meetings about the buildup.

The last of the public meetings hosted by the Joint Guam Program Office was held last night.
The Joint Guam Program Office, which handles buildup issues for the Defense Department, has said the authorization sought in Bordallo's legislation isn't meant as a shortcut to the National Environmental Protection Act and Record of Decision processes.

The Record of Decision gives the buildup projects the go-ahead after the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement becomes final.

Last weekend's and this week's public meetings on Guam were part of the Supplemental EIS process to seek public input.

Mark-up meeting

Bordallo attended meetings on Guam earlier this week but left for Washington yesterday morning in time for the mark-up hearing in the House Natural Resources Committee tomorrow.
Bordallo appreciated getting the community's input at the public hearings on the supplemental EIS, her office said.

"The congresswoman believes that including H.R. 4402 as an amendment to the (National Defense Authorization Act) is critical to moving forward with the buildup and not creating unnecessary delays," the statement from Bordallo's office adds.

Bordallo has said Hawaii is interested in hosting the Marines if Guam doesn't want them.
The amendment is needed to keep the Navy and the Fish and Wildlife Service negotiating so the NEPA process can move forward in a timely fashion, should the preferred alternative location at Northwest Field be chosen, Bordallo's office said.

Local support

Gov. Eddie Calvo, local Republican senators and the mayors' council have voiced support for the revised buildup plan.

If the Natural Resources Committee votes to report H.R. 4402 out of committee, it moves to the full House. The House also is expected to discuss the fiscal 2015 defense spending bill this week.
"The people of Guam support the military buildup and just needed clarity of what will take place," said Guam Chamber of Commerce President David Leddy. "We believe all the major concerns have been addressed and it is time to move forward with this very important process without any further delay."

The preferred location for the Marine base and housing area will be on existing military land along Route 3A. Route 3A cuts across existing military land, so no civilian residential neighborhoods are located along the route.

Joseph D. Ludovici, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for infrastructure strategy and Analysis, said on Saturday the Route 3A area will cause the least disruption to the civilian community.

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