Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero has agreed to ask Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield for a pause in construction in a limited area around what is believed to be a rare tree at Northwest Field on Andersen Air Force Base.

The Serianthes nelsonii, also known as a fire tree, is believed to be the only known mature specimen on Guam. It was found in an area where construction of part of the firing range complex is underway. The firing range is part of the support facility for the Marine Corps base that's also being developed near Andersen.

The governor said a DNA study has been requested to determine whether the tree is in fact a Serianthes nelsonii and learn whether "it can reproduce."

Leon Guerrero said the study results are not expected to be available until December. She said she is writing a letter to Chatfield, seeking a six-month pause in construction activity in that area.

She emphasized she is not seeking a halt to all buildup construction projects.

The governor's decision follows a closed-door breakfast meeting Friday with 13 Guam senators at Adelup. Leon Guerrero called for the meeting to hear their concerns about a number of potentially significant archaeological finds recently reported by contractors building the firing range complex.

Reporters were asked to leave before the meeting began.

Other calls for pause

Sens. Therese Terlaje and Sabina Perez have both called for a pause in military construction activity as a result of these findings.

Sen. Telena Nelson is circulating a petition, not yet publicly released, which calls for a halt in construction pending an archaeological review of the recently discovered sites. Nelson is asking all 15 Guam senators to sign her petition.

It's not clear yet whether the pause sought by Nelson is a halt to all buildup projects or just in the areas where artifacts have been found.

The governor said she is "pretty sure" that construction has already been stopped at those sites.

Christian Hodge, the deputy public affairs officer with Joint Region Marianas, confirmed that construction has been stopped in those areas.

In his response to questions from The Guam Daily Post, Hodge stated that "the contractor, guided by an archaeologist" has established "a high-visibility fence ... including a 30-meter buffer around each site."

In all, nine different sites have been discovered since Dec. 5, 2018.

Hodge said "further construction that may affect the potential historic property" has been "suspended until an archaeological investigation is completed." He said that was done in line with the National Historic Preservation Act's Section 106, Programmatic Agreement process and in consultation with Guam's state historic preservation officer. That officer used to be Lynda Aguon, who was fired earlier this week.

Hodge made it clear that "overall project construction continues away from (the) new discoveries in accordance with the historic preservation process."

A chronology of discoveries, as of June 17, was provided by Joint Region Marianas.

Chronology of Discoveries (as of June 17, 2019)

Date

Designation

Comment

12/05/18

J-001B-001

In early lay down area (J-016 BEQ).  Determination

 of historic property made (archaeological surface scatter).

 Consultation process conclusion: Data recovery mitigation. 

Status: completed.

1/21/19

J-001B-002

Potential to combine this site with J-001B-001;

Archaeological contract: awarded. 

3/19/19

P-715-001

Surface artifact scatter at NE corner of range

discovered during reconnaissance part of monitoring

protocol.  Archaeological contract:  in development.

5/8/19

P-715-002

400 ceramics discovered in one stump pull in SE

corner of range near previously data recovered sites. 

Archaeological contract:  in development.

5/23/19

J-001B-003

These two discoveries are immediately adjacent

to the north and west boundaries of 66-08-2303 and

are probably part of that site.  Features (probably

 earth ovens) are visible in both areas.  Archaeological

contract:  in development.

5/29/19

J-001B-004

6/3/19

P-715-003

Large surface artifact scatter SW/NE across

 Known Distance Rifle Range site.  This discovery

 is not yet well-defined; investigation may locate

discrete areas within the scatter.  Any discrete area

 may qualify as a historic property.  Archaeological

contract:  in development.

6/3/19

J-001B-005

Small site located some distance east and north of

66-08-2303. Not geographically part of 66-08-2303.

Archaeological contract:  in development.

6/12/19

P-715-004

Small site located in the range road between pistol

range and modified road of range.    Archaeological

contract:  in development.

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