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GUAM PÅGAT LAWSUIT AGAINST NAVY DISMISSED BY COURT Activists declare victory by forcing environment review

By Zita Y. Taitano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Jan. 2, 2012) – Hawaii District Court Judge Leslie Kobayashi has granted the Navy’s motion to dismiss the PÃ¥gat case, saying the case is already moot.

We Are Guåhan spokesman Leevin Camacho and Joe Quinata, chief program officer for the Guam Preservation Trust, hold a video conference with Department of Defense officials with regard to the Pågat case. A Hawaii District Court judge has dismissed the case as moot.

The order issued last Friday came about a month after the Department of Defense announced it would conduct a supplemental environmental impact statement to re-evaluate firing ranges for the Marine Corps when they transfer to Guam.

In the decision, Kobayashi noted the Record of Decision, which the Department of the Navy and the Department of the Army issued in September 2010, was not a final decision as to the location of the live-fire firing range complex discussed.

Atty. Leevin Camacho, a member of We Are Guåhan, issued a statement regarding the decision of the Hawaii District Court.

"We wanted the court to continue to oversee the process," Camacho said, "but we are hopeful that DOD will live up to its legal obligations this time and ensure that the supplemental EIS process is open and honest without the need for court intervention."

The DOD filing stated it would formally commence the supplemental EIS process in 2012 by holding scoping meetings before preparing and releasing a draft supplemental EIS for comment.

This level of public involvement and participation is something DOD had previously refused to agree to in its motion for voluntary remand filed earlier in 2011.

"Our goal from day one has been to ensure that DOD followed the law," Camacho said. "The preparation of a supplemental EIS is the first victory – a necessary victory – along the way to achieve our ultimate goal of saving PÃ¥gat Village."

The lawsuit was filed in November 2010 by the Guam Preservation Trust, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and We Are Guåhan, in order to protect the ancient village of Pågat and the surrounding area, which is comprised of two fresh water caves (Pågat cave and Marbo cave) as well as significant sites where residents go swimming and fishing.

Meanwhile, a more detailed written order on the decision is expected to follow.

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