JAPAN MULLS EARLY FUNDING FOR GUAM UTILITIES

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Power, water, sewage upgrades needed before troops arrive

By Brett Kelman HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Nov. 9, 2010) - Japan’s second-highest defense official, who toured Guam’s northern sewage plant over the weekend, has returned to his home country with the belief funding for local utility upgrades should be given sooner rather than later.

According to an article published by the Daily Yomiuri, one of Japan’s largest newspapers, Deputy Defense Minister Jun Azumi said the government of Japan is likely to include some funding for about US$740 million of Guam utility upgrades in its fiscal 2011 budget.

Japan’s new fiscal year starts in April.

"If we leave the situation unchanged, Guam’s sewage treatment facility will not be able to accommodate the rise in population (following the transfer of U.S. Marines)," Azumi said, according to the Yomiuri article.

Azumi toured Guam’s facilities on Saturday as part of an ongoing negotiation between the U.S. and Japan over how infrastructure upgrades will be funded.

The government of Japan, which is eager to move Marines from Okinawa, has pledged to spend heavily in local utilities so Guam is ready to receive these troops. International negotiations are still working out how the US$740 million will be transferred, according to Pacific Daily News files.

Some of those Japan-funded upgrades might be required to be contracted to Japanese companies, and some of the money will be a loan, but the federal government and Consolidated Commission on Utilities have promised local residents won’t be responsible for repayment.

According to the Yomiuri article, Azumi said the negotiations over the money have reached a crucial stage, about how long-term repayment will be ensured.

Once received, the money will be used to upgrade the island’s power, water and sewage systems, none of which are prepared to absorb population spike brought on by the coming military buildup.

According to a Joint Guam Program Office breakdown, the Japan funding includes includes:

Most of the money will be spent at the northern wastewater plant, which must absorb the sewage from the Marine base and the community that grows around it, Heidi Ballendorf, spokeswoman for Guam Waterworks Authority said.

"Basically, the buildup really can’t happen unless northern gets upgraded," Ballendorf said. "There’s just no way."

Ballendorf said if Japan includes upgrade funding in its plans for fiscal 2011, Guam should know when it will get the money by end of December.

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