IT’S OFFICIAL: GUAM MILITARY BUILDUP UNDER WAY

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IT’S OFFICIAL: GUAM MILITARY BUILDUP UNDER WAY Key impact study signed, $1 billion authorized

By Brett Kelman HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Sept. 22, 2010) - The Record of Decision (ROD) for the military buildup has been signed, so there's no longer any doubt that about 8,000 Marines will move from Okinawa to Guam and a new military base will be built for them in Finegayan, Dededo.

The troop transfer will jump-start a period of intense construction and significant growth on Guam. Some of that work can officially begin now that the Record of Decision is an approved document. It should be available for download today at http://www.guambuildupeis.us/about/about-the-project.

[PIR editor’s note: Radio Australia reports that the U.S. has released US$500 million for preliminary work in a massive effort to upgrade infrastructure and build new facilities for incoming military families. Combined with the $498 million authorized by Japan last week nearly $1 billion is now available to begin work in earnest.]

During a press conference yesterday, retired Marine Maj. Gen. David Bice, the Joint Guam Program Office's (JGPO) executive director, said this was a "transition point" that shifts the Department of Defense from possibilities to detailed planning and contracting. "We anticipate that we will be looking at what contracts will be awarded soon hereafter," Bice said. "But the most important thing that we have established in the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as well as the ROD is that we are going to go forward in a measured pace."

Dirt might not start to move for three to six months, but contracting for buildup projects can start right away, Bice said.

According to a JGPO press release, here are some of the military decisions solidified in the Record of Decision:

What the Record of Decision doesn't include are definitive plans for two other buildup projects -- the construction of a firing range along Route 15 and an aircraft carrier wharf in Apra Harbor -- because the military needs more time to study the areas.

Although those projects are still up in the air, the growth ahead is clear.

According to population projections in the final Environmental Impact Statement, as many as 41,000 people could move to Guam by 2016 because of the buildup.

The role of controlling that growth falls on the Civilian Military Coordination Council (CMCC), which was first proposed in the final EIS to prevent local infrastructure from being overwhelmed, Bice said yesterday.

The council will be composed of representatives from the Defense Department (DOD), GovGuam and federal regulatory agencies, Bice said. The specific composition of the council should be released today. It's supposed to meet for the first time in a month.

Bice said council members have some sort of regulatory authority over the buildup progression -- such as building permits or immigration visas -- but to tackle something as large as the Marine relocation, they need to work together.

"Each organization that is going to be a member of the CMCC has their own controlling authority -- there are not new regulatory authorities granted here -- but it's where everyone can come together, coordinate their own, and come up with recommendations," Bice said. "For example, the CMCC could come up with a recommendation that would be sent to DOD about adjusting the pace of the flow of Marines. Similarly, a recommendation could be provided to GovGuam ... over activities related to utilities systems and the like."

Simon Sanchez, chairman of the Consolidated Commission on Utilities, said yesterday he believed the CMCC would be a communication tool for each agency.

Although each agency would retain its respective authority, regular communication would keep local and federal agencies from stumbling over each other, and keep buildup players that move quickly from leaving their partners in the dust.

"It's such a big move -- we are going to need to be communicating every day for the next decade or so," Sanchez said. "Creating something that will actually facilitate communication is a good goal."

Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo also saw promise in the power of the council. In a press release, Bordallo said the council would help the local community "put the brakes" on the buildup construction if it starts to have a negative impact on local infrastructure.

Gov. Felix Camacho said in a press release that his administration will "continue to focus on protecting our people and resources."

Guam's governor will appoint some of the council members, but Camacho's term ends this year.

The governor didn't answer questions about the Civilian Military Coordination Council that were e-mailed to his office.

"We were told from the very beginning that this buildup will be mutually beneficial and we will continue to make sure that is the case," Camacho said.

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