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Choices for Site of New Ishigaki Airport Narrow

Date Posted: 2000-02-20

The one rare thing that about everybody agrees on is that Ishigaki Island, some 350 miles south-west of Okinawa’s main island, needs a new and bigger airport. Where it is to be constructed has been under intense fighting for past 20 years. Now the Ishigaki New Airport Location Committee has decided to take two locations off from the list of proposed sites, leaving two more sites for further debate. The committee made its decision in its regular meeting on Monday.

When the prefecture officials first decided to construct the airport runway partially on top of the world’s largest colony of rare blue coral, they angered practically the whole world. After that plan was abandoned, four other sites were proposed, all of them opposed by one group of people or another. Finally, during Monday’s meeting, the committee members narrowed the choice to two, Miyasakino and Karadake.

“I feel like a heavy load has been taken off my shoulders, as there has been at least a decision and we were able to narrow the choices to two locations,” the committee chairman, Yasuharu Agarie said. The 35 members of the committee will meet on March 5th next and try to choose one of the two remaining locations as the final.

Still, many people in Ishigaki whose lives will be affected by the decision have reservations. There are questions about the effects of the construction to coral reefs surrounding the island, possible red soil flows and where to get soil and gravel for the construction work.

Current Ishigaki City Mayor Choshu Ohama, who won the election pushing Miyara as the location for the new airport, says it is time for him to change his mind. “I don’t want to continue this war any longer. I just hope that the committee will come to the conclusion quickly, and we can move ahead,” the mayor said.

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