Monday, September 14, 2015

Open Letter to Governor Eddie Baza Calvo

Representatives of the group Our Islands Are Sacred delivered the letter below to Governor of Guam Eddie Baza Calvo at 4 pm on September 11th, 2015. The letter expresses the disapproval of many of the military buildup proposals to Guam and the Marianas by the United State and also to Governor Calvo's rhetoric regarding the buildup.

The group is inviting community member to also submit letters to Governor Calvo expressing your own thoughts on the military buildup and the recently signed Record of Decision, which is meant to move the buildup plans forward for Guam.

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Open Letter to Governor Eddie Baza Calvo
September 11, 2015
Hafa Adai Governor Calvo,

When we first heard about the military buildup, we were shocked to learn how massive it was. We couldn’t believe the Federal Government would even imagine proposing something so clearly harmful for our island and our people. So we fought and we fought hard. We even took the feds to court and WON! We did all of this, yet the buildup still persists, only now it’s being sold as a “new and improved buildup” by both the military and by you. You have said that the Federal Government listened to our community’s concerns and responded by shrinking the buildup so that it will have less of an impact on our community.

If you had attended any of the public hearings for the DEIS and DSEIS to hear what our community was saying, or if you read any of the 10,000 comments collected in response to the buildup, you would see that this new buildup plan does not in fact address our community’s concerns. If you really listened to the outcry of our people, you would want to do the right thing.
We were concerned in 2010 about the Marines coming here, especially in light of their hostile history in Okinawa. Decreasing the number of Marines from 8,000 to 5,000 does not make a difference in that regard, especially considering they changed their population proposal entirely – not just in numbers but in the type of Marines they intend to bring here. The original plan said that most of the Marines would be officers and older soldiers with children and families. However, their new proposal states that 2/3 of the Marines on Guam will be new recruits who are here to train. They even have plans to build “bachelor” housing units for them. These soldiers are not going to be investing in our communities and becoming neighbors in our villages, they will be here for training and for rest and relaxation. They will be more interested in the nightlife than the P.T.A. This does not make us feel any better.

We did not want to lose access to an important cultural site (Pågat). Yet, their response of changing the location of the range to Northwest Field with a Surface Danger Zone over Litekyan (Ritidian) will keep us from another important historic area for most of the year. Litekyan is one of the few places where we can see remnants of our ancestors that are over 3,000 years old. There are numerous sacred latte and burial sites there with artifacts and cultural resources from very important periods in our people’s history that have yet to be fully studied. Litekyan contains invaluable educational resources that are irreplaceable. Losing access to Litekyan is as offensive to our people as losing access to Pågat. And they propose to fire over 6 million rounds of ammunition per year above Litekyan. Is that really listening to the concerns of our people?

We wanted to be sure that there would be no impacts to our water sources and that they would remain clean and reliable for our people. Water is one of the most important natural resources we have. We didn’t want the military to use an additional 11.3 million gallons of water per day as they proposed then, and we still don’t want them using an additional 1.7 million gallons per day as they are proposing now. This new buildup doesn’t change the fact that we are still being asked to provide more water to more people when we have a hard enough time providing for the current number of people on our island as is. We are already trying to find other water sources to compensate for the issues with the Ugam Reservoir. What will we do when the demand for water rises? The same can be said about power. How can we provide more power when we are already being asked to conserve power and deal with load shedding? Power rates have gone up consistently over the past several years, how much less affordable will it be when the demand grows even higher? You say that the military has shown a commitment to investing in Guam’s infrastructure, but the ROD points out that the funds necessary to complete upgrades have not been committed by Congress, and no commitments have been made to fund the impacts on essential public services outside of the base. How do we really know that Congress will provide the funding necessary for our community to respond to this unnatural population growth? We don’t.

You praised the military for agreeing to build only on existing land and not acquiring additional lands to satisfy the needs of the buildup. Is that really worth commending when they already occupy 30 percent of the island and have continued to dodge promises to return excess land to original landowners? What makes us think that this will finally happen after the buildup? Doing the right thing is not saying that you will give back land after you’ve used it for your buildup. Doing the right thing is giving back the land that you stole, because you promised that you would (and also obviously because stealing is wrong). Are you really “excited” about the military agreeing to stay within their existing footprint? It’s a really big foot to begin with. Other than the Government of Guam, no single party has a bigger footprint on Guam than the United States Military, not even the Calvos.

What about the military’s environmental footprint? This buildup will produce an additional 1.2 million gallons of wastewater per day. Are we ready to deal with that? What will the long term impacts of this wastewater be on our sewer system and our ocean water? The ROD acknowledges that the years it will take to fully upgrade our wastewater system will overlap with the years of the construction phase (the point in the buildup timeline when the highest population spike is predicted).
On the topic of waste, how will this island be able to handle the inevitable increase in trash? The cells that hold solid waste at Layon are already filling up at a faster pace than had been anticipated by the government. And since the opening of the landfill and the increase in garbage disposal fees, people have resorted to dumping their trash illegally. The military already has their own landfill and solid waste facility, yet they say that they will only use it until the Layon Landfill is ready for them. Are we really ready to deal with even more waste, especially toxic waste? Are we ready for more dump-truck-traffic down south into Dan Dan?

On the issue of traffic, the ROD “recommends” eight roadway widening projects to help with traffic congestion. Only so many cars can fit on an island that is 30 miles long and 4-12-miles wide, no matter how wide the road is. Haven’t you already felt the increase in traffic congestion and prevalence of cars with off-island plates on the road? And we haven’t even mentioned about air traffic and noise pollution. There has been a surge in commercial airplanes, fighter jets, and military helicopters flying all over the island. The buildup hasn’t even started yet and we are already feeling the impact.

What about all our other concerns from 2010 that aren’t making the headlines in this “new and improved” deal? What about the dredging of Apra Harbor? They have not taken Apra Harbor off the table either. They simply said that they will continue to do studies in order to find a solution, but the reality is that their buildup cannot function without being able to park an aircraft carrier in our harbor. This is OUR harbor, it is an irreplaceable resource that we cannot afford to jeopardize. Why would we allow the military to dredge the reef and then drive a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier into it? How is this in any way doing the right thing? How is this good for Guam?

Governor, we have been wronged. We do not share in your excitement. We do not see the economic benefits being worth the price that we are being asked to pay, that our children will have to pay. You said, “This buildup 2 has given us time to understand better what we need to do to strengthen our economy so we don’t see a huge rise with the buildup, and then plummet once it’s completed.” What exactly is it that we need to do? You have never proposed any other viable source of economy other than tourism. But who’s going to want to visit a tropical island for vacation when there is construction and traffic everywhere, or when it becomes a giant military base? Why do you think Japan put most of their US military bases in Okinawa? Because they didn’t want them in their back yard. No one wants a Marine base in their back yard. If this was such a good thing, then why did 90,000 people in Okinawa take to the streets in protest against these Marines? If Okinawa has been protesting so much and Japan is willing to pay billions of dollars to get them out, why are you so excited?

You are our Maga’låhi, our high chief. You have been chosen by us to protect and defend our island and our way of life. It’s time to act like our Maga’låhi. If you really are our chief, then stand up for us.

We are asking you to be more critical of this buildup. The Record of Decision itself predicts impacts that will harm our community. In reading both the ROD and the Final SEIS, we have valid concerns and questions about our island’s future. How much will this cost our government? Our environment? Our people? Will we have enough clean water for our community? Will we be able to prevent further contamination and condemnation of our lands? How will we address the period in which the military predicts the pollution of our ocean from sewage? How often will we be able to visit Litekyan (Ritidian) and the important ancestral and cultural resources found there? What will happen to all the research that is being done there now? What will happen to all the local people who are working there now? How exactly will our government address the inevitable job-loss and unemployment spikes predicted after the construction phase? How will we be able to monitor the construction activities of the military when EPA, the Historic Preservation Office, Coastal Management and other essential regulatory agencies are currently understaffed and underfunded? How will we prevent an increase in “red light” industries? How will we manage the massive influx of waste associated with the population increases and construction from the buildup? How will the buildup affect our cost of living — how much more will we have to pay for food, rent, utilities, trash services, and gas? How much more of a minority will Chamorus become in our homeland? How will we ensure that this won’t further delay our quest for self-determination, especially in light of the fact that the buildup further increases our dependency on the United States? How will we enhance our ability to feed our community? What will be the impacts on agriculture and ocean resources? How much more time will we be sitting in traffic? How much more damage will be done to Route 4 leading down south from the increase in heavy trash loads? How many more people will be pushed into poverty? What will be the impacts to our ecosystem of the destruction of over 1,000 acres of limestone forest? What will be the impacts of dredging our coral reefs? How will we ensure that our sacred sites are not disturbed or destroyed? What will be the impacts on our social services like our schools, hospitals, Mental Health, D.O.C., Public Health and Public Safety?

These questions need to be answered by people who are from here — the experts in our community, the researchers, agency leaders, and you. You are supposed to be our community’s voice. Why aren’t you asking these questions? Why aren’t you demanding answers?

We urge you to withdraw your public support of this buildup until all of these questions are answered. Only then can we have peace of mind, knowing that you have our best interests at heart. And if you find that the answers to these questions reveal that this is not the best course for our people, we will support every effort to resist it and instead shape a more promising destiny for our children.
We would like to meet with you as soon as possible to discuss this further. We are also calling on you to take the following actions in helping our community better understand what is being planned for our island:

Invite the governor of Okinawa to Guam and host a large community event in which he will speak about their history with the Marines and why his community has fought so hard to move the Marines off their island.

Meet regularly with the leadership of the CNMI to collectively respond to the military’s plans for our archipelago. We are all affected by this buildup and we need to work together to stop it from harming our ways of life.

Do a thorough review of all the Environmental Impact Statements associated with this buildup that have been released since 2009 — the original Guam Buildup EIS, the MIRC/MITT EIS, the SEIS and the CJMT EIS and take a look at the bigger picture of what is being asked of our islands and our people. Do we really want to become the largest military training range in the world? Is that going to be the legacy of our people? Is that the future we want for our children?

We don’t expect the Federal Government to put our people first, they have their own agenda, and historically they never have. But you are a Chamoru — a Guamanian, as you say — so the welfare of Guam and her people are your ONLY agenda. Make us your priority and fight for us. Our people deserve nothing less.

Kon Respetu,
Our Islands Are Sacred
oiasguam@gmail.com

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