ALTHOUGH many suspect the Department of Defense is not committed to preserving and protecting Guam’s cultural and historical resources, an archaeologist commissioned by the military says otherwise.

Archaeologist Valerie Curtis who is with the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific, or NAVFAC PAC, said in an interview with the Variety during the Programmatic Agreement Open House last Thursday at Okkodo High School, that she and two local cultural researchers have studied the impacts the military realignment would have on Guam.

The military buildup will relocate 8,600 U.S. Marines and their 9,000 dependents from Okinawa, Japan to Guam over the next five to seven years. The population on Guam is expected to skyrocket to at least 41,000 by 2014.

The projects include dredging 70 acres of coral to build a berthing site and building a multipurpose firing range complex along Route 15 overlooking the historic Pagat site.

Curtis said she has been working on identifying source properties as part of the National Historic Preservation Act to plan around them.

“If possible, you try to avoid as many impacts as part of early planning,” said Curtis. “So one thing we did, when they were looking at areas, especially the Pagat area that is around the lower coastal plane, is we told them ‘Do not build down on the coast.’ So they said, ‘Okay, we’re going to look at areas on the plateau.’”

With 20 years experience in archaeology and anthropology, Curtis said she empathized with the locals’ concerns.

“It is a concern for the people of Guam and I completely realize that,” she said.

“I think it’s still part of communication with the people of Guam because a lot of people hear things but they don’t know what to believe. Do we [DoD] really mean what we say we’re going to do or are we just saying that to appease them? We’re not. What we did is we told the truth,” she added.

Curtis identified certain areas within Guam that she and other cultural, historical and natural researchers studied.

One of those areas was the heavily forested Finegayan area that had an abundance of Banyan and Ifil trees, or more locally known as Nunu and Ifit trees, respectively.

Instead of building around areas heavily forested with Banyan and Ifil trees, Curtis said her team suggested to stay within areas that have been previously impacted that are now just grassy lawns with wide open space.

This is just one example, Curtis said, of the military working with the people of Guam to preserve its resources.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize that the DoD hires archaeologists, researchers and historians. We have a whole program where we review all of the projects that the DoD does for any impact to the environment, whether big or small,” she said.

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