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Public has 45 days to respond to military assessment

By Therese Hart HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Variety, Oct. 7, 2009) - Senator Judi Guthertz, chairman of the legislative committee on military buildup, will call for an oversight hearing on Oct. 15 to discuss the draft environmental impact statement pertaining to the military buildup on Guam.

The draft EIS was provided to lawmakers by officials of the Joint Guam Program Office on Monday and the public has been given 45 days for comments when the full study is released on Nov. 20.

Guthertz, in a letter to Gov. Felix Camacho, said the 45-day comment period was insufficient given the fact that the government of Guam does not have the technical expertise to provide a comprehensive response to what the military has come up with.

"We have neither the expertise nor the funds to hire experts to conduct such a critical review, especially not within 45 days," Guthertz said.

Guthertz was also not satisfied with the information provided by the governor's office when she sent a July 31 Sunshine Act request for all information from all sources received by the government of Guam in support of the military buildup.

The senator said it was disquieting to learn that certain members of the governor's office and certain directors were provided information on the EIS, but they had to sign a document stating that they would not disclose any information regarding the voluminous document, not even to the governor. "That’s not right," Guthertz said.

The oversight chair has directed the head of certain lead agencies to be at the oversight. These agencies are: the Guam Coastal Management Programs, the Guam Environmental Protection Agency, the division of Aquatics and Wildlife Resources, Department of Agriculture, the State Historic Preservation Office and the Department of Public Works.

Guthertz has also written a letter to Tony Babauta and Gary Kuwabara, assistant secretaries of the Office of Insular Affairs and the Office of Economic Adjustment, respectively, informing them of the EIS.

She also told them she believes the governor intends to use funds provided by the OEA to provide the needed expertise for his review and comment on the draft. However, noted the lawmaker, the legislature will not have access to those funds.

Guthertz stressed that lawmakers must be able to review the draft EIS and provide substantive comments on it.

Guthertz is requesting from Babauta and Kuwabara any grant funds that their office can provide to hire experts to conduct a comprehensive review.

Various issues still need to be addressed in the EIS such as an updated location/impact study analysis for Army munitions storage which is deemed classified. Identified major issues that still need to be addressed are the water and waste infrastructure requirements, the aquifer capacity and management, workforce housing impacts, coral assessment methods and mitigation, impact on air quality and energy and the adaptive program management.

On Oct. 8, and from Oct. 13 to17, agencies will be meeting in Hawaii to discuss the responses and comments regarding the draft EIS. New information, finalizing the EIS language from comments and responses as well as planning the final steps in preparation for the buildup will be discussed.

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