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  • Guam
  • Kelly G. Marsh (bio) and Tyrone J. Taitano (bio)

Guam

Dominating the news for the past year on Guam was the issue of the pending relocation of 8,600 US Marines and their several thousand dependents from Okinawa to Guam, the building of a new aircraft carrier wharf and facilities, and the establishment of a new army ballistic missile defense base over the next few years. At the same time, facilities at Andersen Air Force Base are being upgraded. This combined military buildup has already begun to impact many aspects of the island's political, economic, and social landscapes as well as the cultural lifeways of its people.

In November 2009, the Department of Defense (DOD) released its official "Draft Environmental Impact Statement" (DEIS) for public comment. The purpose of the 11,000-page document was to detail the impact of the relocation on the local community. The military buildup is expected to occur over a multiyear period with peak activity to be reached by 2014. According to the report, at the buildup's height, almost 80,000 people will be added to the island's existing population of 170,000—a population increase of 45 percent. About half of this population growth will be due to "transient workers," meaning construction workers and other personnel coming to Guam for initial construction and other preparatory activities. Even after these workers have departed, the buildup is projected to push Guam's population above the 200,000 mark. The report noted that, without the buildup, Guam's population would not have reached this number for another twenty years. Guam residents responded in force, with 10,000 written comments noting their concerns about various proposed actions (PDN, 1 Jan, 29 June 2010).

One of the more controversial revelations in the report was the federal government's plan to acquire at least 2,200 acres to add to its current inventory of Guam land. At present, the US government owns nearly onethird of the island—most of which is in DOD hands. Huge tracts of these federal lands, however, are not only unused but also completely undeveloped. According to the environmental impact statement, the additional acreage would be for a number of purposes, including a live firing range in the Pågat/Sasayan area in the northeast part of the island (PDN, 1 Jan 2010). There are community concerns about increased traffic and denial of access to recreational lands as well as the fact that the site includes the Pågat cultural historic site (Guam Bureau of Statistics and Plans 2010). The live firing range is currently planned for a bluff right above this prehistoric indigenous site, which is listed on both the Guam Register of Historic Places and the US National Register of Historic [End Page 177] Places. Pågat contains the remains of ancient Chamorro village structural stone foundations known as "latte" as well as mortars, pottery, and tools dating back to AD 700 (Guam Preservation Trust 2010; Craib ND). In May 2010, the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced that Pågat was on their "11 Most Endangered [US] Historic Sites List." After this announcement, the DOD point man for the buildup, David Bice, announced that access to the site would be ensured, though this did little to mitigate public concerns (KUAM, 26 May 2010). By mid-2010, the Guam Preservation Trust was considering filing a lawsuit to stop the military's plans for Pågat (KUAM, 26 July 2010). Aside from the military's direct land use plans, University of Guam Richard F Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center Director John Peterson raised c! oncerns about the consequences of the resulting urban sprawl on nonmilitary land and its impact on historic sites (PNC, 22 June 2010).

The DOD land acquisition plans also caused an uproar among local landowners who might lose their land through federal eminent domain proceedings, as well as those who want to keep Pâgat open and free from what they feel are culturally insensitive and offensive impacts of a live firing range. Although the process would compensate Pågat landowners on the basis of the fair market value of their land, this was not considered acceptable to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9464
Print ISSN
1043-898X
Pages
pp. 177-184
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-26
Open Access
No
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