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May 12, 2014 @ 3:04 pm

Ep. 184, “From Pågat to Ritidian: The Live-Fire Training Range Complex (LFTRC) Controversy Continues”

(hosted by Dr. Vivian Dames with production assistance of Marlon Molinos) was recorded 4/28/14 at the Guam Legislature and airs 5/9/14.   

 

This episode features excerpts of several statements presented at a April 28 roundtable convened by Senator Frank B. Aguon, Chair of the Guam US Military Relocation, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs and Judiciary Committee.  [These statements were edited to fit the format of this  program.] This roundtable was convened to afford an opportunity for representatives of non-governmental organizations and other concerned individuals to provide preliminary comment on the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on the Guam and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Relocation released April 18.  The 60 day public comment period on this Draft SEIS ends June 17

After opening comments by Senator Aguon and Mark Calvo, director of the Guam Military Buildup Office and special assistant to Governor Calvo, 18 representatives and individuals presented statements. Several urged elected leaders to seek an extension on the public comment period. Requests were also made for Government of Guam agencies to provide the community their preliminary review and comment before the series of US Navy open house/public hearings begin May 17.  

A focal controversy since the release of the 2009 Draft Environment Impact Study (DEIS) is the Department of Navy (DON) preferred location for the live-fire training range complex (LFTRC).  Officials, including Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo, assert that the Guam buildup cannot happen without a LFTRC for the marines. 

Included here are the statements of several speakers at this roundtable who specifically addressed this issue. We begin with the statement of Leevin Camacho, representing We Are Guahan, who was invited to present a brief overview of the key changes and similarities from the 2009 DEIS. Attorney Camacho is a member of the legal team which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Guam Preservation Trust, and We Are Guahan, arguing that the DON did not comply with the requirements of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) by not considering all potential sites for the LFTRC.  There is no mention of this lawsuit in the Draft SEIS.   

A key change outlined by Camacho is the shift in the preferred location for the LFTRC from an area along Route 15 in the northeastern part of Guam (which includes the site of an ancient village in Pågat) that is outside the existing military footprint to Northwest Field which is located on Anderson Air Force Base.  Although this new preferred alternative is within the fence, it is not without controversy.  

Lisa Baza, who spoke on behalf of the Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice, focused on the environmental concerns and proposed mitigation measures related to locating the LFTRC in Northwest Field as well as the plan for a hand grenade range in Anderson (‘Andy’) South.   

Concerns were also presented by four individuals with ties to ancestral land in Ritidian and Urunao in northern Guam:  Catherine Flores McCollum, Chris Flores Bejado, Pascual Artero and Larry Kasperbauer. 

McCollum and Bejado are heirs to land in Ritidian which was taken by eminent domain by the U.S. federal government in 1963.  The Navy used this area as a high security communications station throughout the Cold War then donated the 1,203 acres to Fish and Wildlife Service in 1993. Guam Delegate at the time, Dr. Robert Underwood, objected to this transfer as a violation of indigenous Chamorro land rights, but to no avail. This land is now part of the 24,000 acre Guam National Wildlife Refuge.

Both McCollum and Bejado talked about the April 5 meeting they and other Ritidian land owners had with Guam Delegate Bordallo and their feelings when they later learned that she had introduced H.R. 4402. “The Guam Military Training and Readiness Act of 2014” the day before this meeting.  This legislation would authorize the Navy secretary to establish a Surface Danger Zone over the Guam National Wildlife Refuge when the LFTRC is in use.    

Following the statements by McCollum and Bejado, Senator Vicente ‘Ben’ Pangelinan expressed concern that Guam lawmakers were not informed of HR 4402 that would circumvent the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and restrict public access to Ritidian.  He is seeking an extension of the comment period on H.R 4402.  The Congressional hearing on HR 4402 was April 29 and the comment period ends May 13.  

Pascual Artero, a US veteran, is a representative of the Artero family who owns land in Urunao which they have been trying to get back from the military since World War II. Part of this land has been landlocked by AAFB for over 60 years.  Urunao includes several large cliffs and was used during World War II to dispose of debris from construction of Northwest Field and North Field.  Artero shared his concerns about environmental and other impacts of the proposed LFTRC, citing what happened in the islands of Kaho’olawe in Hawaii and in Vieques, Puerto Rico, which were used for similar purposes until local resistance efforts brought these practices to a halt. 

Captain Phillip Old, Director, Joint Guam Program Office (JGPO), responded briefly to concerns raised regarding Route 3A access to the Guam National Wildlife Refuge and private properties in nearby Urunao.   

Dr. Larry Kasperbauer is married to Carmen Artero Kasperbauer, a former Guam senator whose family owns land in the Urunao area near Ritidian. Dr. Kasperbauer, a University of Guam professor emeritus and former vice-speaker of the Guam Legislature, talks about the impacts of increased military and related activity, especially air and ground traffic, on the quality of life for those who live along Route 3 -- from Marine Drive to Potts Junction --- as well as concerns regarding Route 3A access to Urunao properties. He supported the earlier suggestion offered by Bejado that the golf course on AAFB be evaluated as an alternative for the LFTRC and reiterated the recommendation he made at a 2010 DEIS public meeting that Tarague Beach, a major recreation area on AAFB,  also be considered as a potential site. 

The LFTRC controversy heated up as an online petition campaign was launched this week opposing H.R. 4402. [see http://www.change.org/petitions/representative-madeleine-z-bordallo...]  Also, Speaker Judith Won Pat formally asked Delegate Bordallo to withdraw HR 4402 claiming it undermines the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process and the power of the public comment period in which the community is currently engaged. Today, it was reported in the media that Bordallo has cancelled her plan to offer H.R. 4402 as an amendment to the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act. 

The US Navy will hold a series of open house/public hearings on Guam on the Draft SEIS.  These meetings are scheduled for May 17 at Okkodo High School in Dededo, May 19 at the Father Duenas Phoenix Center in Mangilao, and May 20 at the old McCool School in Santa Rita. For more information, go to http://guambuildupeis.us .

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