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Initial estimate reduced to 40,000

By Janela Buhain HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Variety, July 23, 2010) – The initial estimate of a population growth of 80,000 people has been reduced to 41,000 to reflect a more realistic figure when the military buildup peaks in 2014, according to a paper handout that summarizes the final environmental impact statement, which will be signed and released during a presentation at the University of Guam Field House today.

Federal officials also disclosed that the plan to use the basin at Apra Harbor as an aircraft carrier berthing site—which was one of the most controversial items in the original draft—will be on hold pending further study on the alternative site.

The Navy is likely to use Polaris Point as the new berthing location.

At yesterday’s press conference, White House Council on Environmental Quality chair Nancy Sutley and Assistant Secretary Jackalyn Pfannenstiel reassured the Guam community that the final impact statement represents the best interest of the island.

After receiving more than 10,000 comments on the draft environmental impact study, Sutley said national officials worked hard to resolve the concerns of the people and identify key issues in addressing Guam’s needs.

"We believe that the work the military does on Guam should benefit the people of Guam," Sutley said. "If it doesn’t work for the people of Guam, it won’t work for the military."

Pfannenstiel said after the release of the final report, it will be filed with the federal registry by July 30. The report, she said, includes proposed alternatives for moving forward with the buildup and the relocation of the Marine base to Guam from Okinawa.

Although 2014 remains the target for the full implementation of the relocation, Pfannenstiel said the relocation pace will not move faster than Guam’s infrastructure can handle. "We are not going to begin until we get the infrastructure that’s necessary," she said.

The troop realignment agreement between the United States and Japan calls for a targeted completion date of 2014.

However, the federal government recognized that Guam’s infrastructure may not be able to handle such a rapid construction pace, states the handout released by the federal delegation.

"In response, the [final study] will identify a mitigation measure called ‘adaptive program management,’ in which the pace and sequencing of construction will be adjusted to stay within the limitations of Guam’s utilities, port, roadways, and other systems. This will result in a more stretched out, manageable construction timeline."

"The ultimate number of people would be based on the ability of Guam’s infrastructure to handle the construction workforce, arrival of Marines and other factors," the report’s summary reads.

Tony Babauta, deputy secretary of the Department of Interior, acknowledged that not all issues have been resolved.

"There is an additional 40 days before the record of decision, but even beyond that, this military buildup is a continuing process," he said.

There will be a presentation today at the UOG Field House at 11 a.m. on the final impact study. The public is invited to attend and ask questions, according to officials.

Based on concerns raised in comments on the draft study, discussions with resource agencies, and the Navy’s commitment to the environment, the Navy has not decided on a specific site for the transient aircraft carrier berth at this time.

"The Navy will continue to consider the general decision to locate berth within Apra Harbor but will (postpone) a decision on the specific site. The Navy will voluntarily collect additional data on marine resources at the alternative sites still under consideration and make a decision regarding the specific site at a later date," the summary states.

Other key issues highlighted are as follows:

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