Construction on live-fire range won't start until February

ROUNDTABLE: Rear Adm. Shoshana Hatfield is shown in this file photo. Chatfield was among officials and stakeholders who appeared during a roundtable convened by the Legislature yesterday at the Guam Congress Building. Post file photo

The need for key amendments and clarification to a resolution prohibiting the construction of a live-fire training range at Ritidian led to the early conclusion of legislative session yesterday. 

Lawmakers spent most of the morning in caucus discussing the matter. Speaker Benjamin Cruz later called for recess at around 1:30 p.m.

Sen. Telena Nelson, who authored the resolution, told The Guam Daily Post that her office is working on amending the wording in the resolution to ensure the Guam Legislature as a whole is "able to stand behind the resolution" as well as address concerns brought up during a public hearing on Sept. 22. 

The activist group Prutehi Litekyan is opposed to the construction of the live-fire training range because of concerns about adverse impacts to the environment and restricted access to cultural sites.  

"We asked to postpone session so that we could get more clarification on the context of the resolution," Nelson said. "It's a very delicate matter and we don't want to cause any harm to anyone."

Nelson said she could not speak on details of the resolution amendments as they were still being finalized. 

The proposed live-fire training complex is being built for the estimated 4,700 U.S. Marines who are being moved here from Okinawa. The Marines are being moved to Guam because the United States and Japan agreed more than a decade ago to ease the presence of U.S. troops in Okinawa by shifting some of them to Guam, Hawaii and Australia.

Resolution 228-34, as introduced, states that the Department of Defense has not proven the need for another live-fire training range on Guam and that it lacks the data to determine impacts to environmental and historical sites at Ritidian.

The resolution also states that the range's construction will lead to unavoidable noise pollution that would desecrate numerous ancestral burial sites; that the land is "held in trust" for the community; that the training range breaks the spirit of a government agreement that specifies military projects will remain within DOD property; and other arguments. 

Resolution 228-34 calls for "all necessary steps to be taken to halt the construction" of the training range and that the 2011 Programmatic Agreement between GovGuam and DOD be amended to prohibit Ritidian from being included in planned military expansion, among other things.

It also calls for a temporary restraining order on any construction that increases the military's footprint on Guam.

Some of the discussions among lawmakers yesterday revolved around the legalities of such language.

The Legislature also received testimony from Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield yesterday, who is the commander of Joint Region Marianas. Chatfield detailed mitigation initiatives, including forest restoration.

Moreover, Chatfield outlined the reasoning behind choosing the Ritidian site over other proposed training range sites.

"It would be disingenuous to say without qualification that the Northwest Field (where the Ritidian training range is to be located) is the most impactful alternative with regards to impacts to cultural resources," Chatfield stated.

Chatfield wrote that the firing ranges at Northwest Field will remove 89 acres of limestone forest and 110 acres of disturbed limestone forest. "DOD is committed to restoring 219 acres of limestone forest to compensate for the loss of vegetation," she wrote.

"The proposed range with the most impacts to intact latte period resources was the Naval magazine locations, which had numerous standing latte and similar resources," Chatfield stated. "The proposed locations with the least amount of cultural impact was the (Pågat) alternative." 

However, Pågat proved to have the most sociocultural impact because of potential restriction to access for traditional and modern land use, Chatfield stated. 

"Northwest Field had the most eligible properties affected in terms of numbers, but the affected resources are primarily composed of pottery/artifact scatters and post-war earth or concrete structures," she added.

Session is scheduled to resume this morning.

The University of Guam held a peaceful march in protest of constructing a live-fire training range at Ritidian. Read more here:


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