GUAM SCOPES UTILITY UPGRADES FOR MILITARY

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By Gaynor-Dumat-ol Daleno

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, March 28) – While Japan and the United States try to iron out details of the multibillion-dollar cost to relocate about 17,000 U.S. Marines and their families to Guam, local officials are trying to determine to what extent - and at what cost - water, power and wastewater systems would have to expand.

Consolidated Commission on Utilities Chairman Simon Sanchez said the commission is working to give Gov. Felix Camacho and the military leadership on Guam a synopsis of utility upgrade estimates based on three levels of possible growth: 15,000, 25,000 or 35,000 in additional population over the next decade.

The synopsis, which is expected to be released by the middle of next month, will also try to establish cost estimates for each of the population growth scenarios.

"Whatever it is, it won't be cheap," Sanchez said yesterday of the cost to get water, power and wastewater systems ready for a surge in military presence on island.

Water and power system improvements could cost close to $1 billion over the next 10 to 15 years, Sanchez said at the Guam Economic Development Conference last year.

The U.S. military, Sanchez said, also has asked for estimates of the utility upgrades.

Guam Power Authority's power-generating capacity is double the island's current peak demand, but knowing that it takes three to five years to build another major power plant, the commission wants to be ready to offer additional capacity when the need arises years from now, said the utilities commission chairman.

And the commission also would like to plan for wastewater upgrades in the event populations in the southern or northern parts of the island increase because of increased military presence, he added.

The military has not talked publicly, at least not on Guam, of the specific spending items within the $10 billion projected relocation cost, which the U.S. expects Japan to help pay for.

But even without specific dollar amounts at this point, Sanchez said there's a sense of expectation locally that the military would not let the local community pay for all the utility upgrades that would become necessary when the Marines relocate and boost the local population.

"They can't just grow into the community, create impacts and not help with the impact," he said.

Guam government and business officials have been trying for years to encourage a military buildup on Guam because of the expectation that more jobs will be created when more military money would be spent locally.

The 2000 Census report counted Guam's population at 154,000 plus, so 17,000 Marines and their families would add more than 10 percent to the island population.

nd the estimated relocation cost of $10 billion as last reported by wire news agencies amounts to almost three times the total amount of money circulating in Guam's economy each year in recent years. The Guam Gross Island Product has been estimated at around $3 billion.

The U.S. and Japan have been unable to agree on the amount of the shared relocation cost, but The Associated Press reported yesterday that Japan still hopes to conclude a pact by the end of this month.

The two sides would meet in Washington later this week, the AP reported.

"They reportedly are at odds over how to split the cost of transferring thousands of Marines to the U.S. territory of Guam," the AP reported.

The United States wants Japan to pay 75 percent of the cost, more than twice as much as the $3 billion Tokyo has offered to pay -- mostly in the form of loans for U.S. companies to cover the cost of the move -- according to the AP, quoting media reports in Japan.

American troops have been stationed in Japan since the end of World War II in 1945.

March 28, 2006

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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