Guam Buildup Construction Uncertain As Troop Numbers Drop

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Final decision expected in 2015 while new plans are assessed

By Brett Kelman

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, May 3, 2012) – The decrease in the number of Marines headed to Guam has prompted the federal government to rethink the placement of a military base, and a final decision is not expected until 2015.

Joe Ludovici, executive director of the Joint Guam Program Office, announced yesterday that the military would add the decision to house the Marines into ongoing scoping efforts, which could revise the placement of the Marine firing range.

Military analysts will once again collect public comment on the impact of the Marines' move to Guam, and new draft and final environmental impact statements will be released in 2014, Ludovici said.

A new record of decision -- which will once again decide where to build a Marine base and a firing range -- is expected in early 2015, Ludovici said.

"We will refresh all the studies we did on environmental impacts, cultural impacts, socioeconomic impacts and traffic impacts," Ludovici said. "And how that will change from the (reduction) of 8,600 Marines and their families down to the smaller footprint."

Gov. Eddie Calvo said the JGPO announcement provided "clarity" on the Marine move, but created "ambiguity" and left unanswered questions about the future of some buildup commitments -- including Japan-funded infrastructure funding.

The military previously decided to build the Marine base in the Finegayan area of Dededo, absorbing about 680 acres of civilian land. However, the United States and Japan recently have renegotiated the buildup plan that was first established in a 2006 U.S.-Japan agreement.

Under the new plan, 5,000 Marines and 1,300 dependents will move to Guam as part of the military buildup. The old plan included 8,600 Marines and as many as 12,000 dependents.

The troop numbers were reduced because the military is now moving some of the Marines stationed in Okinawa to Hawaii and Australia. The number of dependents decreased because most of the 5,000 Marines coming to Guam -- about 3,000 -- will be rotational troops, Ludovici said.

With fewer troops and families to house, a local Marine base could be smaller than previously thought, so the base might fit in locations that were ruled out in previous studies, Ludovici said.

"Some would argue that if you built a 10-story building you could make them fit anywhere, but that is not operationally feasible for the Marines," Ludovici said. "So what we are going to try to do this summer, before we start the actual EIS process, is identify what the potential alternatives are. Would they fit, for example, at Barrigada? At South Finegayan? Would they fit at Apra?"

[PIR editor’s note: The current supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) offered by authorities may be expanded, according to Ludovici, but no new assessments will be produced. "Let’s not start all over again," Ludovici said in a presentation to officials. "We’re going to expand the study to look at alternatives for the main base and housing... We have to look at what is the best operational, least environmentally-challenging [plan]."]


Gov. Eddie Calvo said he felt the island now had clarity about the coming Marine force and the timelines of the buildup, but new questions arose as the buildup evolved.

Calvo said he was concerned about the future of infrastructure funding -- including about $740 million in Japan funding -- and commitments the U.S. military made last year. Those commitments included money for a cultural repository and new school buses.

"Of course there is clarity now between the government of Japan and government of the United States, but there is still some ambiguity in regards to the issues that are affecting our community," Calvo said.

"If there were commitments now that may have been the responsibility of the government of Japan, if those commitments are now out of the picture, then I think it's important that the federal government pick up those commitments to ensure this is a 'One Guam' approach," Calvo said. "Then again, there is a long way to go."

Much of the infrastructure funding was offered because the Marines were moving into northern Guam, where the water and wastewater system are already at capacity. However, now that it is uncertain where the Marine base will be built, the future and purpose of the infrastructure funding is unclear, Ludovici admitted.

Despite the funding ambiguity, Calvo said he thought the revised, smaller buildup would be healthier than the "hyper growth" that was expected under the original buildup plan.

Government estimates had priced the old buildup plan at somewhere between $10 billion and $23 billion, but the new buildup is supposed to cost about $8 billion. At one point the old buildup was expected to bring as many as 79,000 new residents to Guam by 2014.

"It would have been a stretch on our social, economic and political fiber in this community. And also on the environment," Calvo said. "With this more stretched-out time table... it allows for an easier transition for the military forces to move to Guam."

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