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Navy sees historic site as far smaller than locally defined

By Brett Kelman

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Jan. 31, 2011) – In Guam, the Defense Department interprets "PÃ¥gat," which they have vowed not to encumber, as two historically valuable sites that total about 80 acres below a Cliffside to the east of Route 15, according to a comparison of military and GovGuam documents.

In the final Environmental Impact Statement, the military defines PÃ¥gat using two historic site numbers registered with the Guam State Historic Program Office, or SHPO.

SHPO records, which were provided last Friday, describe the two areas these numbers signify in detail:

The "PÃ¥gat Complex," an 18-acre area that includes two noteworthy configurations of intact latte stones which were once the base of several ancient Chamorro structures a freshwater cave and smattering of pottery and broken tools; and

The "PÃ¥gat Point Complex," a 60-acre area that was probably once an important archeological site, but has since been destroyed by land clearing, farming and pigs.

This definition of these areas is crucial because Navy Undersecretary Robert Work has promised that military will avoid the PÃ¥gat area when they build a firing range along Route 15.

Initially, the Defense Department firing range plans would have encumbered the historical site, limiting access to the cultural area, Work said. But the military has since listened to public outcry, and plans were changed so PÃ¥gat would be spared, Work said.

But not everyone defines PÃ¥gat the same way.

On Thursday, Speaker Judith Won Pat said "PÃ¥gat" was an area that extends far beyond the ancient village site referenced by the military. The PÃ¥gat area reaches south of Marbo Cave and north of the Guam racetrack, she said.

Won Pat's definition of PÃ¥gat covers about four square miles, and is more than 30 times larger than the military definition laid out in State Historic Program Office records.

We Are Guåhan is opposed to a firing range anywhere on the Route 15 coastline, regardless of historical sites are encumbered or not, said Leevin Camacho, a leader of the protest group, on Friday.

"The only reason why this idea of access has come into play is because Department of Defense (DOD) has tried to say that is a concession on their part, Camacho said. I think our position has been clear on from the beginning. If they are going to build ranges, they have to build them within their footprint, at a minimum."

Camacho also questioned if the military's definition of PÃ¥gat was truly as large as the SHPO documents suggest. During July of last year, before the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was released, the military gave a briefing on the firing that only recognized the "PÃ¥gat Complex," but ignored "PÃ¥gat Point Complex," Camacho said. He provided a DOD map as evidence.

Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero, another member of We Are Guåhan, said she and many other protesters agree with Won Pat about the size of Pågat.

Leon Guerrero valued all the lands along Route 15, including areas like the racetrack, which have lost any tie to the historic village. History isn't the only issue at stake, she said.

"The issue is taking lands. The issue is how this is going to affect families there. The issue is the racetrack, she said. And the issue is the ancient village as well."

And Won Pat is not the only lawmaker who thinks the military is underestimating the size of PÃ¥gat.

Senate Ben Pangelinan sent a letter to Work's office on Friday explaining that "PÃ¥gat" extends far beyond the cave or hiking trail.

The entire area where military plans to build its firing range is considered PÃ¥gat, Pangelinan wrote.

"If the Department of Defense insists on having a firing range along Route 15, I suggest you proceed a couple of miles further up Route 15, pass through the back gate of Andersen Air Force Base, and bulldoze the Palm Tree Golf Course to do so," he wrote.

Gov. Eddie Calvo said Friday that disagreements like this one over PÃ¥gat's boundaries are the exact reason why GovGuam needs to get Work's buildup commitments in writing.

Members of Calvo's staff have been working to organize the written commitments, which the governor hopes to have by the end of February.

"We have our attorney, Arthur Clark, who heads up our policy team, and that is where they're going over those particular details, Calvo said. We just need to iron it out to ensure what the representations made by federal officials that there is clarity, and they are in concert with how this administration wants to move forward."

Calvo said his discussions over PÃ¥gat have related specifically to the areas with historical and cultural significance. Clark said Thursday that his PÃ¥gat discussion with the military had always focused on the historical sites, not surrounding region.

As of Friday, Work's office hadn't responded to questions about the military's specific definition of PÃ¥gat.

PÃ¥gat wasn't the only promise Work made on behalf of the Navy, and it's not the only one sparking controversy either.

During his visit earlier this month, Work also committed that the military would control less land at the "end" of the buildup, although he wasn't specific about when that was or what land could be returned.

Since buildup plans require the acquisition of about 1,770 acres the military would have to give that much back to keep Work's promise.

The lands that are ripe for return have been identified by the Guam Economic Development Authority, according to letters from Senates Tina Muña Barnes and Frank Blas Jr.

Guam Economic Development Authority documents detail about 2,044 acres of military land that isn't needed for the buildup. The vast majority of that land 1,855 acres is on two military properties commonly referred to as Radio Barrigada.

But most of this land is in use, according to the final EIS.

The Radio Barrigada properties include the Guam Army National Guard buildings, a Navy golf course, communications towers and a radar weather station, the final Environmental Impact Statement states.

Some of the area is "underutilized" but the area that is ready to be developed only amounts to 650 acres, the final EIS states.

Pangelinan wrote in his letter that he opposes the military absorbing any new land, even if it returns an equal amount.

PÃ¥gat isn't the only land off Route 15 under dispute, either.

Senate Judith Guthertz has sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) opposing the federal agency's plan to reclaim about 80 acres of land in the Marbo area, which was given to GovGuam years ago so a school could be built.

GovGuam never had enough money to build the school, and now U.S. DOE is taking the land back. Guthertz said in a press release that U.S. Department of Education is using the firing range plan as justification to take back the land, but the firing range isn't a sure thing.

Guthertz said in the release that if U.S. DOE believes the Marbo location "poses a threat to children," then it should find another 80 acres of federal land that can be offered as a replacement.

"In this way, you would meet your moral commitment and obligation to assist the American citizens of Guam to meet our educational challenges in the face of the looming vast military buildup," Guthertz said in the release.

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