Vice Speaker Telena Nelson is introducing a resolution calling on Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero to take action to halt construction of the Live-Fire Training Range Complex on Northwest Field inside Andersen Air Force Base. 

Tihu Lujan, the spokesman for Nelson, said on Sunday the resolution will be introduced this morning.

A news conference is scheduled for 8 a.m. today in the public hearing room of the Guam Congress Building to discuss the resolution.

The development of the firing range is part of the preparations to relocate close to 5,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam under an agreement made between Japan and the United States in 2012. Japan has paid part of the estimated $8 billion relocation tab.

An earlier version of the call for a pause to the firing range project was being circulated Friday morning at Adelup during a closed-door breakfast meeting called by the governor and attended by 13 senators. Sens. James Moylan and Mary Torres did not attend that meeting.

The governor called for the meeting to hear the senators' concerns about a number of potentially significant archaeological finds recently reported by military contractors building the firing range complex.

At the meeting, an aide to Nelson declined to provide a copy of the resolution to The Guam Daily Post.

A copy later obtained by the Post shows that the following senators placed their initials on the earlier version – Speaker Tina Muña Barnes and Sens. Therese Terlaje, Sabina Perez, Amanda Shelton, Kelly Marsh, Clynt Ridgell, Telo Taitague, Will Castro and Louise Muna.

However, the Post has learned that questions were subsequently raised about the cost of a pause in construction on the firing range and some senators have since asked for their endorsement of the resolution to be removed.

There were no initials on the revised version provided to the Post.

Following the Friday meeting at Adelup, Nelson said, "We discussed the impact of the military buildup and the firing ranges and the desecration of our cultural heritage."

She said, "It's important at this time that we all move forward as a unified body because for many years there has been some kind of disconnect within the government and our leaders."

"We're all trying to see where we stand, our own personal convictions and to see if we can move together to challenge the military buildup to ask them to pause," said Nelson.

Terlaje suggested a pause in a May 24 letter to the governor and again in another letter she sent June 12.

Following Friday's meeting with the governor, Terlaje said, "The good part seemed to be that the senators were in agreement on a pause, so I'm very happy for that."

"The governor, I think she's considering it. So we're hopeful. She's going to talk it over with her lawyers," Terlaje said.

The governor told reporters on Friday that she 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.

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." The results won't be known for six months, she said.

Earlier, the governor said it was her understanding that construction at the other recently discovered sites had already been stopped as required by the programmatic agreement. She also emphasized that she is not seeking a halt to all buildup construction projects.

JRM response

On the same day that the resolution was being circulated at the governor’s meeting, Christian Hodge, the deputy public affairs officer with Joint Region Marianas, responded to a series of questions about the findings posed the week before by the Post.

Hodge stated construction had been stopped in each of the nine areas where artifacts have been found since December 2018.

Construction activity had been halted in the area of each site, prior to the recent calls for it to be stopped, in line with the programmatic agreement.

Hodge said the contractor, guided by an archaeologist, has established "a high-visibility fence ... including a 30-meter buffer around each site."

However, he stated that "overall project construction continues in parallel to this site-specific historic preservation process."

Hodge's complete response to the questions posed by the Post can be seen below.

The list from JRM of the nine recently discovered sites and a description of what was found is attached.

The resolution

The text of both the first and revised version of the resolution is substantially the same. (Both are attached.)

Each is 15 pages in length and both detail the history of the programmatic agreement that established the ground rules for dealing with the preservation of Guam's environmental and cultural heritage at military buildup sites.

The programmatic agreement was signed in March 2011 by then Joint Region Marianas Cmdr. Paul Bushong and former State Historic Preservation Officer Lynda Aguon, among others.

Aguon was fired on June 18 by acting Parks and Recreation Director Richard Ibanez. On Friday she filed an appeal over her termination with the Civil Service Commission.

Nelson’s resolution cites a number of concerns raised by the former SHPO and others in recent years.

*Sept. 2017 - SHPO Aguon alleged that “inadequate background research” was done on a culture site and that the “agreed upon mitigation measure was changed.“

* May 2018 – SHPO Aguon “invoked” a clause in the Programmatic Agreement, objecting to the archaeological surveys used by the Department of the Navy for the Live Fire Training Range Complex, the Main Cantonment area in Finegayan South Andersen, and the Water Well Development Construction Areas.”   The resolution notes that although there “was some resolution” between the SHPO and the navy over that objection, “more concerns were raised by the SHPO at the 7th Annual PA Workshop meetings that still need to be resolved.”  Those additional concerns are not mentioned in the resolution.

*August 2018 – “Despite” passage of by the Guam legislature of Resolution 228-34  seeking “to pause development and construction on the firing range complex at Northwest Field” the military  “initiated their activities .”

*May/June 2019 - "A new site was discovered with Latte-period artifacts at the live fire training range's future site at Northwest Field. Shortly after the first discovery three sites with more remnants of the ancient village Magua' were discovered on the future Marine Corps Base 400 pieces of latte-period ceramic pottery found in one dense area, earth ovens, various stone, shell artifacts in two other areas, and lusong or mortar and pestle and ceramic scatters on a roadway."

On June 14, the Post sent the following questions to Joint Region Marianas in response to a news release issued by Sen. Therese Terlaje on that day.

The response from JRM was received a week later on June 21.

Q1: Have three new historic sites been found?

A1: The federal historic preservation process, Programmatic Agreement and consultations with the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) and Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) ensured a rigorous archaeological search of historic and prehistoric sites.  Recognizing that no pre-construction survey can be 100% definitive in its identification of archaeological sites, our archaeological monitoring process was designed to provide further assurance that before vegetation clearing, during vegetation clearing, stump removal, and again during construction grading, that any previously unknown sites would be detected, analyzed, reported, and appropriately addressed.

The Navy confirms nine discoveries of potential historic value have been made during the construction and clearing activities of the main cantonment and live fire training range complex. See attached dynamic table that shows the chronology of inadvertent findings. 

Q2: Has construction been stopped to assess the importance of these sites? 

A2: For every discovery of this nature, per the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) Section 106, Programmatic Agreement process and in consultation with the SHPO, the contractor, guided by an archaeologist, establishes a high-visibility fence around the area, including a 30-meter buffer around each site; and further construction that may affect the potential historic property is suspended until an archaeological investigation is completed. Overall project construction continues away from new discoveries in accordance with the historic preservation process.

Q3: Has your own archeologist assessed the finds? What are his/her conclusions?

A3: The assessment of potential historic sites is a process which begins with a Navy archaeologist evaluating the integrity of the site and eligibility in accordance with historic preservation criteria established by the Secretary of Interior. Following that, the Guam SHPO is notified and afforded the opportunity for the Territorial Archaeologist to perform their assessment. Next, a contracted Secretary of the Interior-qualified archaeologist will assess the site and evaluate its eligibility as a historic property.  A plan for resolving adverse effects is then presented to the Guam SHPO for consultation.

Q4: May we have a copy of the Marine Corps Activity report referred to by the senator? 

A4: The Navy will consult with the incumbent Guam SHPO and advise you.

Q5: Sen. Terlaje states that the "clearing of the forest" is occurring. Is a forest area being cleared? Limestone forest trees being cut down?

A5: Details of vegetation mapping are available in the Relocation (Buildup) Environmental Impact Statement. In general, most of the construction area was previously cleared starting in WWII and continuing through 1960s resulting in secondary vegetation growth.  These are areas which have been historically impacted by human activity and invasive species. All clearing is carefully planned with deliberate consideration to strict regulatory consultation in accordance with federal regulations.

Additionally, with regard to cultural resources, the NHPA Section 106, Programmatic Agreement processes and consultation with the SHPO, calls for vegetation clearing to be performed in phases, starting with archeological reconnaissance prior to clearing, then archaeological monitoring during vegetation clearing that does not remove stumps, stumps and finally archaeological monitoring during construction grading. The discoveries being discussed have typically occurred during the early phases of vegetation clearing.

Q6: What is your response to this statement: "Senator Therese Terlaje continues to ask the Governor for a pause to be placed on the clearing of vegetation and construction of the Live Fire Training Range Complex..."

A6: The Department of the Navy is committed to the protection of cultural and natural resources in the execution of its military mission in Guam and the region.  We are open and transparent in our communications with all elected officials and look forward to continued dialogue with the senators and all of Guam’s leadership as we work towards mutually beneficial objectives for the security of our nation.  This process does include discussing and addressing concerns from the community as they arise.

In accordance with the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) Section 106, Programmatic Agreement process and consultation with the SHPO, the contractor, guided by an archaeologist, has established a high-visibility fence around the discovery sites, including a 30 meter buffer around each site; and further construction immediately within this protected area is deferred until an archaeological investigation and the appropriate preservation is completed.  Overall project construction continues in parallel to this site-specific historic preservation process.

Q7: We'd like to ask for a statement from Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield on the question - Will construction be paused to assess these finds? If not why not?

A7: The Department of the Navy is steadfastly committed to cultural preservation and environmental stewardship in Guam and continues to adhere closely to all regulations and laws associated with environmental and construction activities in support of the Marine Corps realignment. The 2011 Programmatic Agreement allows for continued dialogue, set procedures for resource management and prompt disclosure, assessment of and collaboration on a mitigation plan on discoveries made. Overall project construction continues away from new discoveries in accordance with the historic preservation process.

In the instance of discoveries of this nature, the Navy’s archaeologists and construction team follow all federal and local laws, and protocols set forth in the 2011 Programmatic Agreement. The Navy consults with Guam State Historic Preservation Office and ensures all of our actions and activities are in strict compliance with the 2011 PA and Secretary of Interior standards.

Moreover, there are provisions allowing the Guam SHPO to work with the Navy to include parties who have special knowledge or significant interest in the historic properties under consultation and we encourage this inclusion to ensure practicable participation by appropriate parties in order inform decision-making for future project-specific plans.

Q8: Was the Magua site named  by Sen. Terlaje a village? Was it "destroyed"?

Most of this area was previously excavated for development in the 1950s and possibly again in the 1960s, as seen on archival aerial photos. Even with this development, surface artifact scatters remain and have been found and are expected to continue to be discovered. These discoveries that may qualify for protection either through preservation in place, reducing effects through mitigation, or safely recovering for curation, research and possibly public display. The method of preservation is determined through the consultation process.

The Department of the Navy, regardless of whether or not it is determined that the area had a village, treats the area as meeting historic property criteria in accordance with Secretary of Interior standards. As such, the Department of the Navy is preserving in place several historic sites and has incorporated these sites into the range construction design, while other identified historic sites, that were appropriate to not be preserved in place have been documented and recovered for curation preservation, research and public display as appropriate. Each site that is discovered is diligently evaluated for historic significance and the integrity of the remaining artifacts are vital to planning appropriate future mitigation and preservation. 


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