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Marines shift to Guam may delay 3~5 years from 2014

Date Posted: 2010-06-03

Money, environmental issues and a simple lack of enough construction capabilities in Guam appear to be forcing the United States and Japan to consider postponing the relocation of 8,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam, now scheduled for 2014 at the latest.

The controversies surrounding relocating Futenma Marine Corps Air Station are not at the core of the issue, officials say, noting the infrastructure on Guam is simply not sufficient to handle the construction necessary to accommodate 8,000 additional troops and family members. Plans are now under way for U.S. Government agencies to restructure the construction planning that totals more than $2 billion.

The U.S. and Japan have agreed to moving 8,000 Marines and their families from Okinawa to Guam, but sources say the agreement is “dependent on tangible progress” on relocating Futenma to another site in Okinawa. A more complex issue involves the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s announcements and rulings in February that the island’s infrastructure couldn’t handle the massive influx over a short period of time. The government is also trying to figure how to pay for it.

It also blasted the military’s environmental assessment planning, but the EPA and U.S. Defense Department have now come to agreement, at least in principle, on strong measures addressing the lack of infrastructure concerning potable water and sewage on Guam. The EPA insists the new system must include curtail the influx of new people from outside Guam.

Delays of 3-5 years are thought necessary, sources say, meaning even if Futenma’s replacement site is settled soon, the Marines still won’t be able to move until 2017-2019. The EPA has said Guam’s infrastructure won’t be able to keep up with significant population increases to be caused by the Marines’ move. The U.S. Congress still has to approve funding for the moves.

Officials say any significant delays in the Futenma transfer operation could affect the replacement facility’s location, configuration and construction method, which Japan and the U.S. said on Friday—when the two countries signed the newest pact—would be worked out by the end of August.

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