TWO weeks ago, members of the 30th Guam Legislature were provided an overview of a comprehensive draft report on the environmental impact study on the military buildup.
Lawmakers were not invited to review and provide input on the effort to ensure the impending military buildup fulfills the much-touted promise that it would be good for Guam as it is for the Department of Defense. So Sen. Judi Guthertz, chairman of the military buildup committee, wrote to Assistant Secretary of the Interior Tony Babauta seeking assistance in hiring an expert to help Guam digest the complicated environmental impact study.
The programmatic compilation will provide guidelines for the military realignment strategy on Guam in the coming years. Officials expect that the 8,000-page document contains a wide range of details that explore the cultural, social, economic and environmental impact of the military expansion on island.
Despite its crucial role in the planning process, the Joint Program Office failed to present a comprehensive draft to senators or through them, the public.
What’s worse is that local agencies have signed a confidentiality agreement with JGPO that prevents them from disclosing the contents of the preliminary study. In other words, local officials themselves have been gagged into secrecy. This was disclosed during last week’s military buildup committee’s oversight hearing on draft EIS.
Various issues still need to be addressed and were “conveniently” left out just as the EIS is set to go before public review – and we know that the public will not spend a great deal of time trying to understand the complex technical jargon that, in essence will bear little good news for many right before the holiday season.
Insulting the intelligence of the community is the secretive manner with which the same people who incessantly tell us that the realignment will be a “community buildup” have behaved during the entire process.
On Guam, the holidays start soon after Halloween and by the third week of November are in full steam. The 45-day period for public review is to occur during this time. And because of that, it is not likely that the community will ever learn whether the military plan to tap into the island’s aquifer to source water outside of our utilities.
We will find out too late about workforce housing impacts, coral assessment methods and mitigation, the impact on air quality and energy and the adaptive program management that could exacerbate tensions between the civilian and military communities.
There is no way that the secretive draft, the missing answers and the denial by federal authorities to help lawmakers pay for technical advice to translate the otherworldly draft report are signs of a good start to a positive buildup for Guam.
With so many billions of dollars on the line, and so many personal millions being ogled by those with special interests, no one wants to share the secrets of the EIS and upset the apple cart. It looks like the traditional post-holiday hangover this season will be severe as we awake to unwrap the secrets and see the real impact of the draft statement.