Pacific Daily News

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (March 30) - The planned increase in military presence on Guam will mean a lot of economic growth for the island, including a boom in construction spending.

But it will also mean a significant increase in population. That means a lot more people driving on Guam's roads, a higher demand for electricity and a greater strain on our already crumbling water and wastewater systems. In short, our infrastructure will need to be upgraded and improved in order to cope with the additional people.

And yes, the federal government will work with our local government on a strategy for making this happen, and deciding who will pay for what. In fact, that's already happening, according to Governor Felix Camacho, who's running for re-election. A 20-year master plan for capital improvement is being prepared for the Department of Defense, so it can justify and substantiate budget requests to Congress.

It's key that all the proper research is done so that the correct amount of money is requested. Not asking for enough will cause problems, but so will asking for too much. As Camacho put it, "We've got one shot to get it right, and this is it."

This is the right approach - much more sensible than to just pull figures out of the air, add them up for a total US$2.4 billion and then demand that amount from Uncle Sam.

What also needs to be remembered in this discussion is that much of our infrastructure already falls far short of being adequate for the current population. The biggest shortfall is our water and wastewater infrastructure, which was made clear by the federal court order requiring major improvements under a strict set of deadlines - deadlines that our water agency has routinely missed, resulting in federal fines.

Our elected officials must wake up to the reality that the government can't run the water and wastewater systems or power distribution systems with any degree of competence or reliability. The best way to do that is to move forward with a concession agreement to outsource management and operations.

Doing so will make it easier and more affordable to get the mandated, and sorely needed, fixes done now, which will put us into position to make further upgrades and improvements necessary for the influx of military personnel and their families.

March 31, 2006

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