Guam -Joint Guam Program Office Forward Executive Director David Bice is confident that the Record of Decision [ROD] will be released by next Tuesday morning and that will mark the official start of the military buildup.
But there remain issues of concern about it, including Guam’s inadequate infrastructure and DOD’s plans to use Pagat as part of a firing range complex.
In an interview with PNC News, Bice said: “We’re looking probably at waking up on the morning of the 21st here on Guam and we’ll be seeing the signed record of decision.”
The Record of Decision once signed will kickstart the Guam military buildup. “It has always been our goal to complete the Record of Decision within the fiscal year,” said Bice, “so we can commence awarding contracts utilizing fiscal year ten budget that has already been appropriated and funded by congress.”
What has yet to be funded however are the off-base improvements to Guam’s infrastructure that are necessary to keep the passing grade DoD has received from U.S. EPA. Japan has promised to fund this but the funding hasn’t been entirely figured out yet.
“We need to see a funding plan and until we see a funding plan our ability to do the construction and a major effort is going to be severely curtailed,” said Bice. “And that’s where EPA has acknowledged that and we made a commitment both the Government of Guam and EPA that we’re not going to go forward until we have funding for the upgrading of those utilities.”
Bice also promised that whether or not the money is loaned by japan it will not affect the local ratepayer. “This will have no impact to Mrs. Cruz in other words her rates are not going to go up as a result of this.”
Within 30 days of the Record of Decision a Civilian/Military Coordination Council [CMCC] will be formed to help control the pace of the buildup so it doesn’t burden our infrastructure. It will be Co-Chaired by GovGuam and DoD, but, it will not have the authority to stop or slow the pace of the buildup.
“There’s no new authorities granted by the CMCC,” said Bice, “but they will provide recommendations to the Department of Defense to the regulatory agencies or even to the Government of Guam.”
Once the ROD is signed the military will move forward with it’s plans. Plans that include the use of the ancient village of Pagat as part of a firing range complex.
“The range itself does not impact Pagat around a range there is a safety zone so when that range is in use there is a safety zone that surrounds it,” Bice said
The ancient Pagat village is in this safety zone which is why residents are concerned about not being able to access the ancient Chamorro village. Also the proposed firing range is on civilian lands. Originally DoD had said it would not need any civilian land, but Bice explained “There was not enough DoD lands to accommodate the ranges.”
Q: If I might stop you for a second the FEIS actually shows that the ranges could be accommodated if split up for example i believe for could fit at Andersen Air Force Base at Tarague and one could be placed at the Northwest Field.
Bice: “The machine gun range was the range that could not fit on any property you might be able to find a way to fit it on Northwest Field but you’d have to relocate the taxi ways as well as the airfield itself at Andersen.”
So it appears that the range will stay in the Pagat area. An area filled with historic artifacts. Right now DoD is consulting with GovGuam on a Programmatic Agreement. It outlines how DoD and GovGuam will deal with historic artifacts that are affected by the buildup.
“We need to conclude the consultation process prior to completing the Record of Decision.”
Guam’s State Historic Preservation Officer Lynda Agoun has been reluctant to sign the agreement. So what happens if it isn’t signed by the record of decision?
Bice said, “We can conclude consultations phase and go into individual consultations in other words for every building that would be built we would then consult with the state historic preservation office on that specific site.”