Navy decision to re-evaluate Pågat range seen as ‘victory’

We Are Guåhan spokesman Leevin Camacho talks to media about the Department of Justice declaration on the Navy preparing a supplemental environmental impact statement to re-evaluate the Pågat training range location. Looking on is Joe Quinata, Guam Preservation Trust program officer, and SNR Denton attorneys Nicholas Yost and Matthew Adams via teleconference. Photo by Zita Y. Taitano

THE recent order by the Department of Justice for the Navy to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement for the proposed Pågat firing range is a victory for the Guam Preservation Trust (GPT), We Are Guåhan and their legal counsel SNR Denton.

GPT Chief Program Officer Joe Quinata said there are so many people to thank, especially the people of Guam.

“If it wasn’t for their support, we would not have gone as far as we’ve gone. Our legal counsel would not have taken on this pro bono,” he said. “But really it was the people who saw the need to protect and preserve. It’s not a done deal yet – we still need to work the details.”

He added they will be working with the courts to assure they maintain jurisdiction on the case. One of the issues their legal counsel Nichols Yost and Matthew Adams will be handling now is the Navy’s motion to dismiss.

“Nick is going to look at incorporating everything to respond to that motion, and from there we’ll see what the judge is going to make out of that,” Quinata said.

For his part, Leevin Camacho, We Are Guåhan spokesman, said their role will be to get out to the community when the Department of Defense’s scoping meetings begin.

“It’s the very narrow issue of where the firing ranges should be and whether the Department of Defense should acquire more land to build a firing range,” he said. “I predict our role will be to go out to the community and encourage them to show up to these meetings to ensure again that there’s going to be honesty, transparency and public involvement to the greatest extent,” Camacho said.

Uncertain

Meanwhile, Yost said they are hopeful Hawaii district court Judge Leslie Kobayashi will throw out the motion to dismiss. That would allow the Navy to restart the National Environmental Protection Act process.

"The mechanics are a little uncertain at this point but she would then remand it and we trust that she would deny the motion to dismiss, therefore she would keep jurisdiction,” said Yost.

He also stressed they are going to keep a watchful eye on everything, believing that with this current victory, the Navy should be able to conduct a more community-involved environmental impact statement and find a more suitable site for the firing range.

Quinata is also grateful for the work of SNR Denton. Over $1 million was SNR’s donated shared cost to date.

“We have a great legal team. We have two tiers of teams. There’s Team Pågat and our legal team SNR Denton. Team Pågat is comprised of

We are Guåhan and GPT,” he said.  “Between the three organizations, we’re all working as a team. It’s been a great journey. We’ve learned so much from Nick and Matt. At the same time, they’ve learned so much about the real meaning of preservation.”

He explained that in the states, preservation refers to houses and structures.

“Preservation on Guam is preservation of culture, traditions and of course places that connect people and its culture,” he explained.

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