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Marines: Don’t go packing bags for Guam yet

Date Posted: 2010-08-19

The timeline for shifting 8,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam appears to be slipping again, but this time it’s the U.S. Department of Defense—and not Okinawans opposed to moving Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to northern Okinawa—that’s causing all the commotion.

A just-released final Environmental Impact Statement from the Defense Department’s Joint Guam Program Office contains a proposal to defer transferring Marines and their families to as late as 2020, in order to reduce the environmental impact on Guam from the massive series of construction projects necessary for relocating the combat troops now stationed in Okinawa. The Environmental Impact Statement puts forth two mitigation scenarios to ease the turmoil levied upon Guam. One, “force flow reduction”, calls for rescheduling the timelines for moving Marines and their dependents. The second concept is “adaptive program management” that would adjust the entire issues of construction tempo and construction projects to spread them farther out.

“Extending the arrival of the military population over a greater period of time would lessen the need for various infrastructure upgrades to meet peak load demand in 2014,” the EIS states, adding “the proposed force flow reduction mitigation measure would both lower the overall peak population and decrease the rate of short-term population increase resulting from the proposed action, thereby reducing demands on utilities and many island services.”

The EIS spells out proposals for deferring the movement of some 10,552 individuals –including 8,552 Marines from Okinawa -- to Guam until 2017 by reducing the number of arrivals each year. The impact statement proposes moving only 2,468 people to Guam in 2014. The government document also offers a second proposal for completing the transfer operations by 2020. It would have 2,019 troops move in 2014, then moving to 7,408 in 2017 by putting into effect both the flow reduction measures and the construction tempo adaptations.

In a move that appears different from what Japanese government officials were saying only a week ago, the Environmental Impact Statement said the Japanese government would pick up the costs for ¥65 billion ($740 million) in public infrastructure construction, including water and sewage. Japan indicated earlier this month it wouldn’t contribute or loan the money to the Guam Power Authority or Guam Wastewater Authority because if feared the companies were too insolvent, and would not repay the loans and leave Japanese taxpayers footing the bill.

The EIS noted that construction of the new U.S. facilities in Guam should be frozen until Tokyo actually provides funds. Japan has confirmed it received a copy of the Environmental Impact Statement before its public release, but a Japanese Embassy source in Washington D.C. says it contained no U.S. proposals for altering the 2014 completion date for troop relocation from Okinawa to Guam.

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