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Military training to avoid Pagat village and caves

By Therese Hart HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Variety, March 10, 2011) – After months of discussions, debates, negotiations and conjecture, Guam State Historic Preservation Officer Lynda Aguon yesterday signed the programmatic agreement.

Aguon signed the document after the Navy made concessions removing Pagat village and caves from the Route 15 firing range surface danger zone.

Aguon’s signature was one of four required for the agreement to take place. Aguon’s signature makes the agreement legally binding.

And the final document, "although not perfect, provides for all the signatories and the public to be engaged in every step of the way, as an assurance that our historic properties are treated with special care, recognition and respect; that access to them is not a privilege but a right," SHPO Aguon wrote to senators.

Governor Eddie Baza Calvo made the announcement in his chambers yesterday, saying that with the signing of the PA, about US$1 billion worth of projects will begin; and that the US$200 million that has already been awarded "will come out immediately." The remaining US$800 million will be realized by way of bids on military projects awarded to companies.

Gov. Calvo thanked Aguon, saying, "Lynda Aguon is a courageous woman, who had to withstand a lot of public criticism and pressure following two years of uncertainty and a lack of administrative support."

The governor also thanked his Chief Policy Advisor, Attorney Arthur Clark, for his negotiating skills and his commitment to bringing the Department of the Navy back to the negotiating table to craft a PA that would provide more amenities to Guam.

"I try to make this point clear: I’m not negotiating for DOD, I’m negotiating against DOD for the people of Guam and the governor," said Clark.

Yesterday, Clark said the last version was reviewed on Feb. 16 and since then, there have been significant modifications to the final version.

The most significant concession from this version versus the last version is Pagat Village, said Clark. Clark successfully negotiated to carve Pagat Village and Pagat Cave out of the Safety Danger Zone.

A Feb. 16 press release from We Are Guahan and the Guam Preservation Trust expressed concern about the potential of projectiles falling within the village area.

The environmental impact statement estimated that 90 projectiles could potentially fall within the village, the bulk of which would fall into the ocean, said Clark.

But the final numbers were less and the potential of one projectile falling within the village was one per month and the potential of a projectile hitting an artifact is one every 10 years, said Clark.

Clark spoke to Joe Quinata, program officer of the Guam Preservation Trust, who said, "even that’s too much."

"So the Navy carved it out, which means nothing will fall in the village or in the cave area. We reduced that to zero, which I think was the bulk of their concerns," said Clark.

Another concern, said Clark, was the mitigation of cumulative effect. Clark negotiated with the Department of Defense to commit to reprogram their funding for a repository estimated at US$12.5 million. This means, DoD will provide full funding for a cultural artifacts repository.

And although not in the PA, Clark also negotiated and got a commitment from the Navy to develop a base access policy. This means civilians will have access to history sites on military lands.

"There’s the commitment to develop a policy in consultation with the public. I looked at their access policy. They will provide escorts and make these escorts available to the public. Details still need to be worked out; it’s a multi-tiered process and access will depend on safety and security and the difficulty in accessing those areas."

SHPO Aguon, in her letter, told senators that she did not sign the PA under duress. Aguon expressed that Attorney Clark listened to her and constantly sought her advice and comments, "in hopes of producing an acceptable document to some, if not to all."

"Not once did Mr. Clark dictate what should go in the document. His persistence produced provisions in this final document that DoD officials once rejected in prior negotiations," wrote Aguon.

The PA states that any of the signatories may terminate the PA and termination with an individual SHPO shall only terminate the application of the PA within the jurisdiction of the SHPO electing to terminate.

Attorney Leevin Camacho, vice president of We Are Guahan, said yesterday they are reviewing the document and has no comment at this time.

Committeewoman on the Guam buildup, Senator Judi Guthertz said without seeing the document that SHPO Lynda Aguon has signed off on, that she can only be "prayerful" that it is in Guam’s best interest.

Guthertz said she has confidence in Aguon’s stewardship and she trusted Aguon to do right by the people of Guam.

Others who are expected to sign the agreement are: Rear Admiral Paul J. Bushong for the Department of Defense, Joint Region Marianas, United States Navy; Brigadier General John J. Broadmeadow for the United States Marine Corps; John M. Fowler, Executive Director for the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation; and Melvyn L.O. Faisao, State Historic Preservation Office for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands State Historic Preservation Office.

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