Proposed firing range, combat training zone discussed

INFORMATION BRIEFING: Linda Aguon of the State Historic Preservation Office, answers questions from Vice Speaker Therese Terlaje about her office's role in protecting historic and cultural sites and resources in light of the military buildup. The Legislature held an information briefing on the possible negative impacts to Andersen South and Ritidian with the planned military buildup, on Tuesday, March 21. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

"There's a large portion of our community that don't want to see our ecology, cultural and historical resources further impacted by militarization." - Vice Speaker Therese Terlaje

After weeks of tension over native sovereignty, land stewardship and the impact of a proposed military firing range adjacent to Ritidian, representatives from various agencies and interests raised concerns over a proposed urban warfare training range at Andersen South at an information briefing on Tuesday.

"First and foremost, we want to protect the human skeletal remains, and then the pre-contact-era latte stones," said Linda Aguon, a Guam State Historic Preservation officer. "Northwest field itself must be protected, and an adequate evaluation of the area needs to conducted."

One of the training areas at Andersen South will include the proposed development of a hand grenade range, and a live-fire shoot house. Another training area will require demolition of some of the abandoned structures at Andersen South, such as certain former enlisted personnel barracks, according to the military's plan.

Artifacts in the area

A major point of contention for many residents is the impact to numerous cultural resources within the desired area that are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

Some of these resources include:

  • Artifacts from the Latte Period, scattered approximately 270 meters east-west by 50 meters north-south, comprising pottery fragments, stone tool fragments, a shell adze fragment and fire-altered pieces of coral. A few pieces of charcoal, terrestrial gastropod shells and a bird bone fragment were also observed.
  • Another area that has scattered Latte Period artifacts spread across 60 meters northeast-southwest by 40 meters northwest-southeast, situated at the southeast side of what is known as the Mogfog Depression, according to the military. The site is comprised of varying densities of pottery fragments, stone tool fragments and fire-altered pieces of coral.
  • Latte Period pottery fragments in an area measuring 8 meters north-south by 5 meters east-west.

Aguon said mitigation of impacts to these areas is still possible through nomination of these sites to the NRHP.

The Guam Preservation Trust's Joseph Quinata said his agency is strongly concerned about cultural practice and access to sites.

"When we talk about cultural practices, we're talking about suruhanus going in to gather medicinal plants, and we talk about fishermen being allowed to fish there where a surface danger zone would be imposed," Quinata said.

The creation of a historical repository, which is part of a programmatic agreement concerning the properties, has yet to be clarified.

"They have not produced it, and therefore it's a breach of agreement," Quinata said.

Vice Speaker Therese Terlaje said it was deeply concerning that most Guam agencies are not signatories to the programmatic agreement.

"This isn't very reassuring," Terlaje said. "There's a large portion of our community that don't want to see our ecology, cultural and historical resources further impacted by militarization."

Training complex

The military plans to develop a live-fire training range complex within Andersen Air Force Base, but public access at the adjacent Ritidian Wildlife Refuge will be limited during the training as part of a required safety buffer zone, according to a previously released military document.

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