Navy clears regulatory hurdle for Marine relocation to Guam

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The civic group We Are Guahan opposes the construction of a .50-caliber weapons range in the north of Guam, shown here. (Erik Slavin/Stars and Stripes)
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The civic group We Are Guahan opposes the construction of a .50-caliber weapons range in the north of Guam, shown here. (Erik Slavin/Stars and Stripes)

Navy clears regulatory hurdle for Marine relocation to Guam

by: Wyatt Olson | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: September 05, 2015

The Department of the Navy has cleared the last regulatory hurdle for building infrastructure on Guam needed to relocate about 5,000 Marines and roughly 1,300 dependents from Okinawa, Japan.

After completing a record of decision on an environment impact statement, the Navy is moving ahead with construction plans that could make way for the first Marines to move to the island in 2021, with the majority of them in place by 2023, said Cdr. Daniel J. Schaan, director of the Joint Guam Program Office (Forward), Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy.

Many Okinawans have pushed for a reduction in Marines; however, the original proposed relocation of about 8,600 Marines and 9,000 dependents from there to Guam met opposition from some residents of the Micronesian island over population expansion and the infringement upon areas that hold ancient indigenous Chamorro graves and archeological sites.

And some lawmakers in Congress balked at the cost of such a move.

In 2012, the U.S. and Japan agreed to move the fewer number of Marines to Guam, and the Navy altered parts of its plans for a base camp, family housing and a live-fire training complex. The amended plans call for a longer, less-intense construction period and limit construction to property already under U.S. federal government control.

Congress has approved spending $8.725 billion for construction and relocation, although that figure can be adjusted for inflation, Schaan said.

The project has three primary components in different locations.

The first is the cantonment to be built at the Navy Computer and Telecommunications Station at Finegayan, which will be the Marines’ primary base. The first step there is designing and constructing underground utilities.

“Once those are to the point of completion, then they start the vertical construction,” Schaan said.

Family housing will be constructed on Andersen Air Force Base. That 10-year project will also renovate existing Navy and Air Force housing to “leverage some efficiencies,” Schaan said.

The live-fire training range will be on the northern tip of the island, where the Guam National Wildlife Refuge is located.

The project includes a significant upgrade of Route 3A, a deteriorated road that leads to the refuge. It is a U.S. Department of Defense road that is leased to the government of Guam, Schaan said.

The public will continue to have access to the road, he said.

Five ranges are planned, varying to accommodate weapon caliber and style. The ranges will be used for training of weapons up to .50 caliber.

“All the shooting is done from a stationary position, with a Marine standing or kneeling and shooting at a fixed target,” Schaan said.

Earthen berms will be built to backstop the firing ranges, which are configured so that shooting is in the direction of the bay.

A so-called “surface danger zone” surrounds each range.

“That’s basically a safety area,” Schaan said. “In the event a round escapes the range, there’s enough safety margin around the range that it won’t adversely affect anyone.”

Public access to the danger zones will be restricted only during live-fire training, he said.

Artillery will not be used on the ranges.

olson.wyatt@stripes.com

Twitter: @WyattWOlson

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