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Shirai River construction needs money, U.S. base land

Date Posted: 2009-10-29

The Shirai River reconstruction plan is more than halfway through a cycle that began in 2001, is over budget, and now confronted with needing land now being held by the U.S. military as it attempts to rebuild river banks to stop flooding disasters.

The three-kilometer stretch of the Shirai River flows from Chatan Town, through Okinawa City, and then on to Kitanakagusuku Village, with 36% of the distance flowing through lands occupied by the American military bases. The project, which involves reconstruction of the shores and river banks to make them safe against flooding, was budgeted at ¥1.7 billion, but ¥1 billion’s already been spent on the program that is to be finished by 2016.

To solve some of the problems, Okinawa Prefecture has asked the U.S. military to hand back a section of land at Camp Zukeran, but the Americans are demanding it be given compensation in return. The Prefecture says if it paid ¥500 million, as asked by the Americans for the portion of land, which contains the old military jail, it wouldn’t have enough money to finish the project. The U.S. military wants the money to transfer the facility to Camp Hansen.

Okinawa Prefecture says it is hopeful the U.S. will re-evaluate the situation, and then turn back the land without the payment requirement. If that doesn’t happen, officials say they’ll try to find away around the problem by digging deeper channels in the river and along the river banks to control the water flow and prevent flooding. The Prefecture says the situation is getting worse, so something has to be done before flooding becomes more severe.

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