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Less dredging, coral damage at new site

By Brett Kelman HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Oct. 23, 2010)

Three federal agencies have sent a letter recommending the Navy consider building their aircraft carrier wharf in the San Luis Beach area in Guam, which would require much less dredging than the locations on the table today.

[PIR editor’s note: San Luis Beach area is located in the Naval Base in Guam.]

Currently, the Navy is considering building the wharf at either Polaris Point or the former Ship Repair Facility, which are on opposing sides of the mouth of the channel to Inner Apra Harbor.

These sites are only about 1,500 feet apart, so the dredging required for either plan is basically the same. The Lockwood-San Luis Pond/Beach area is to the west of both of these sites, near a small marsh between the Sumay coast at Gabgab Beach.

Paul Amato, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's water program coordinator for the Pacific Islands, said yesterday the primary reason that San Luis has been recommended as it leads to considerably less undersea destruction.

Amato said the Navy's preferred wharf site, Polaris Point, requires direct dredging of about 25 acres of sea floor, which will then spread silt that would indirectly damage about 41 more acres of sea floor, for a grand total of 71 acres of damage.

Much of that area is covered in coral.

In contrast, preliminary studies in the San Luis area estimate that a wharf would require only six acres of direct dredging, Amato said. The area of indirect impact hasn't been estimated yet, but it would be smaller than at Polaris Point, he said.

"The intent of this letter is to specifically identify this Lockwood-San Luis alternative as a potential alternative that would be reasonable and practical for the (carrier wharf) and also significantly reduce the impact to coral reef and other marine resources," Amato said yesterday morning, during a phone interview.

Amato said the letter is meant to be informative, not adversarial. It comes from the United States Environment Protection Agency (EPA), the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and was sent to the Pentagon office of Don Schregardus, deputy of assistant secretary of the Navy in environment.

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