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Environmental survey backs government airfield design

Date Posted: 2009-04-09

An environmental green light has been given to the government’s plan for a new U.S. military airfield in northern Okinawa’s Camp Schwab and Henoko area, but Okinawa officials are blasting the survey as being unfair.

The Japanese Ministry of Defense unveiled results of an environmental survey that supports its plan for the new airfield to replace the controversial Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, complete with two V-shape runways that extend into Oura Bay. Current plans, as worked out in a 2006 agreement between Japan and the United States, would have the airfield ready for operations by 2014 as part of a move to shift 8,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam.

Okinawa’s governor and the Nago City mayor rejected the findings, saying the government did not give fair and adequate consideration for its alternative locations for the two 1,600-meter runways. Both Governor Hirokazu Nakaima and Nago City Mayor Yoshikazu Shimabukuro proposed minor adjustments to the runways plan, moving them some 90 meters further into Oura Bay, proposals that agitated environmentalists.

The environmental survey endorsed the government’s plan, saying it is the most accurate and realistic, particularly when examined and compared with the six alternative plans put forth by Nago City and Okinawa Prefecture. Environmentalists are quickly voicing opposition to the Defense Ministry’s findings.

The new airfield construction is to begin next year, with the bulk of the airfield itself being built on Camp Schwab, while the V-shape runways are built on reclaimed land in Oura Bay.

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