Military representatives and the Guam State Historic Preservation Office differ on what to do about what could be “an ancient village” in the west Fena Lake area on Naval Magazine grounds near the planned construction of “covered magazines and an ordnance pad."
The discovery was made last month when Department of Parks and Recreation Director Richard Ybanez was serving as temporary SHPO. He called the discovery significant, writing that “National Register eligibility is unquestionable.”
Ybanez called for a full on-site investigation to be conducted before the Navy begins construction.
Naval Facilities Engineering Command Marianas spokeswoman Catherine Cruz Norton issued a statement saying that the Navy agrees with the SHPO that “intensive archaeological investigations are required .... to respectfully investigate an ancient village in the Fena area.”
But a memo issued by NAVFAC concludes that the project will result in “no adverse effect” on historic properties.
Both the SHPO and NAVFAC have recently exchanged letters over the discovery of at least two sets of latte stones in the west Fena Lake area on the grounds of Naval Magazine.
The previously unrecorded sites were found during a joint inspection of the area conducted by Guam State archaeologist John Mark Joseph and Marine Corps Activity Guam archaeologist Ronnie Rogers. Four prior surveys of the area between 1998 and 2014 failed to reveal the latte sets.
The required site inspection was conducted June 7 following the announcement by the Navy of its plans to build a covered ammunition storage magazine and an ordnance building in the area.
Two archaeologists, one representing Guam, the other representing the Navy, went to the location to determine if there was anything culturally significant in the area that should be protected and preserved.
“The site visit discovered the existence of an intact Latte set with nine standing uprights (haligi) and a previously bulldozed Latte set” according to a June 24 letter written by Ybanez to NAVFAC environmental engineer Joe Vinch.
The bulldozed latte set was found in an overgrown area of the jungle. The SHPO and MCAG archeologists agreed that the “disturbance” occurred back in the 1950s when Naval Magazine was originally built.
“It’s a new letter but an old disturbance,” said Patrick Lujan, who took over Ybanez’s temporary assignment after being named acting SHPO by Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero. The bulldozing took place more than 50 years ago, he said.
NAVFAC's Norton agreed, adding that the site was disturbed "before the National Historic Preservation Act or other federal or Guam cultural resources protection law was in place."
“We concur on the ‘no adverse effects’ determination,” Ybanez wrote in his letter to Vinch, but he asked NAVFAC to submit “a monitoring and discovery plan.”
“Our office believes that the newly found latte not only shows the incompleteness of previous studies, but binds the sites together making them one,” Ibanez wrote to Vinch. They “should be considered one larger complex."
Latte sites are usually associated with burials, Ybanez said, telling Vinch that “it is imperative” a research design program assess the findings before any construction in the area begins.
On June 21, NAVFAC issued Programmatic Agreement Memo #1. It describes the two new latte sites, which together add up to “seven Latte sets” in the area along with “an associated retaining wall, several basalt mortars (lusong), and a surface artifact scatter.”
The memo states that the Department of the Navy “agrees” that the west Fena Lake West area is “potentially eligible” for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places pending “a formal evaluation.”
But the memo states that the Navy “does not agree with Guam SHPO that new survey must be completed at this time.”
The Navy “will consider additional archaeological investigation at the Fena Lake West area prior to future consultation on construction” however the memo concludes: “The (Department of the Navy) has reassessed its findings and has determined that the project will result in “no adverse effect” on historic properties.”
Norton in her statement adds that the historic areas are "distinct from the proposed” construction planned by the Navy, which is “within existing built surfaces and roadways.”
The exchange between Ybanez and Vinch comes amidst some recent controversy over the military’s commitment to preserving Guam’s historical heritage during buildup construction work.
Fourteen of Guam's lawmakers are scheduled to visit one of those sites on Friday, the firing range complex on Northwest Filed at Andersen Air Force Base.
Speaker Tina Muña Barnes requested the visit following the June 24 introduction of a resolution calling for an indefinite pause on the construction of the firing range complex, which is being built as a training facility for the nearly 5,000 Marines relocating to Guam from Okinawa in the coming years.
The senators have expressed concerns that the military was not taking sufficient steps to preserve artifacts recently uncovered during the construction of the firing range. Thirteen lawmakers signed onto a resolution calling for a pause in that construction.
The resolution’s author, Sen. Telena Nelson, will not be on the tour. Her spokesman Tihu Lujan said that week Nelson is taking part in annual military training “which was scheduled months prior.”
Speaker Barnes has said that the media would be welcomed on the tour, however, it was up to Joint Region command to decide.
Christian Hodge, deputy public affairs officer with Joint Region Marianas, said a separate visit for the media at a later date is under discussion.
He said the Friday visit by the senators will focus on the military’s “endeavors to protect and preserve the island's natural resources.” The media will not be allowed to accompany the senators on this site visit.
However photographs and video of the senators visit to the construction site will be made available after the visit said Hodge.