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

Dominating the news during the year under review were the same three issues that captured the most attention in the previous year: the upcoming US military buildup, the 2010 gubernatorial election, and ongoing fiscal difficulties for the Government of Guam (GovGuam).

As 2011 began, the proposed transfer of 8,600 US Marines and their dependents from Okinawa to Guam was still proceeding. However, in response to public opposition to the buildup plans, the pace of the buildup was slowed. Initially, the buildup was expected to bring about 79,000 people to Guam by 2014, with about half as imported labor for military construction projects and other preparatory activities. As noted last year, the US Department of Defense (DOD) issued a draft environmental impact statement in late 2009 outlining the different plans for how the buildup would transform the island. The document, over 11,000 pages long (Saipan Tribune, 8 Jan 2010), received over 10,000 submissions from the public, elected leaders, and government agencies during the public comment period (DOD 2010). The new plan in the final impact statement purportedly would only shift marines to Guam after the island's infrastructure [End Page 142] is ready to handle the sizeable influx in population. Under the suggested timeline, about 41,000 new residents would come to Guam in 2016. This would be half the number initially proposed and would occur two years later than originally projected. But even federal officials expressed doubts that the buildup would move that quickly. Still unresolved were two controversial military construction projects: the planned live firing range near the ancient Indigenous Chamorro village site of Pågat and the dredging of Apra Harbor to build an aircraft carrier harbor (PDN, 29 June 2010, 1 Jan 2011).

With respect to the live firing range plan, community opposition centered on concerns about increased traffic, loss of land associated with recreational activities, and denial of access to a sacred Indigenous Chamorro site existing on GovGuam-owned land (Guam Bureau of Statistics and Plans 2010). The site has been listed on both the Guam Register of Historic Places and the US National Register of Historic Places since 1974 (Guam Preservation Trust 2011). The proposed dredging of Apra Harbor drew fire not only from island residents but also from the US Environmental Protection Agency, which cited the "unacceptable" impact of dredging on seventy-one acres of coral reef (Harden 2010). Even with these open questions, the Department of Defense issued a Record of Decision that formalized the plan to relocate the marines to Guam (PDN, 1 Jan 2011).

In November, the Guam Preservation Trust, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the We Are Guahan activist group filed suit in federal court to block the live firing range. According to the suit, the Department of Defense violated the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act when it picked Pågat as the firing-range site (MV, 16 Feb 2011). The court case continued through the first half of 2011. In the briefs, DOD attorneys stated that no final decision had been made on Pågat and no appropriation had been provided in the current fiscal year's budget, or the next, to fund the firing range (PNC, 1 July 2011). In March, however, the administration of Guam Governor Eddie Baza Calvo signed a "programmatic agreement" with the Department of Defense that gave approval for the controversial US military plan to build Marine Corps training ranges in that area. Governor Calvo explained that GovGuam dropped its opposition to live firing ranges after the US Navy guaranteed unimpeded public access to several sites, including the ancient Chamorro Pågat Village site. In response, representatives for We Are Guahan said that their group still opposes the training ranges and any military construction in Pågat. They further stated that the group would continue their lawsuit, claiming that "the DOD broke the law because it did not consider alternate sites for the ranges" (Stars and Stripes, 9 March 2011). The case is scheduled to be heard in court by September (MV, 18 Feb 2011).

In the wake...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9464
Print ISSN
1043-898X
Pages
pp. 142-150
Launched on MUSE
2012-02-12
Open Access
No
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