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'Fresh look needed'
JOINT Guam Program Office officials yesterday announced its plans to move forward with the military buildup, identifying steps it will take to expand the supplemental environmental impact statement, or SEIS, to include a “fresh look at natural, cultural and socioeconomic impacts.”
JGPO officials held two separate meetings – first with lawmakers at the Guam Legislature and then with Gov. Eddie Calvo at the Governor’s Office – and made a PowerPoint presentation that briefed Guam’s leaders on its plans for the island.
JGPO Executive Director Joe Ludovici said that although the U.S.-Japan revised realignment roadmap was recently released detailing several changes to the military realignment, it will not conduct a new SEIS.
“We’ve made a new decision to, ‘Let’s not start all over again.’ We’re going to expand the study to look at alternatives for the main base and housing and all the community support that goes with that such as utilities and whatnot,” Ludovici said. “We have to look at what is the best operational, least environmentally damaging.”
Ludovici said the environmental study will likely begin this fall with the new draft and final EIS to be released sometime in 2014, and the Record of Decision in early 2015.
Answering questions on the status of U.S. Marines to be transferred to Guam from Okinawa, Ludovici said that about two-thirds of the 5,000 troops to be stationed on Guam will be “rotational,” but the final decision would be made by the U.S. Congress.
Ludovici acknowledged there were some issues with the planning, scheduling and timetable for the buildup when it was proposed in 2007. “You did your job,” he told the lawmakers. He said JGPO is very comfortable with the new force structure set in the recently released revised agreement.
Ludovici also wanted to ensure the public knew that the military buildup is moving forward.
“In the meantime, I don’t want them to think that we’re in a pause,” he said, adding that there are projects slated in Fiscal Year 2013 but nothing yet in FY2014.
Some of those projects, pending further Congressional action, include six ongoing projects amounting to more than $300 million at Andersen Air Force Base and Apra Harbor.
The Department of Defense has also requested $165 million in Guam projects supporting the Marine Corps relocation and $139 million targeted to off-base infrastructure and community support.
Yesterday’s briefing at the Guam Legislature was originally scheduled to be held in Speaker Judi Won Pat’s conference room and behind closed doors, as has been the custom. But at the request of the senators, it was moved to the Legislature’s public hearing room and broadcast on live television.
Sen. Judi Guthertz, the military buildup committee chairwoman who walked out of the last closed door meeting, thanked the JGPO officials for agreeing to the live coverage.