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Millions invested for Guam military buildup

May. 19, 2014 - 08:00PM   |  
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Buildup-related civilian projects

Here are some of the federally funded projects that have been completed or received congressional approval to help Guam’s civilian infrastructure cope with an expanded military presence:

■ $50 million for seaport upgrades to prepare for the expected increase in military buildup-related cargo.

■ Road projects worth more than $95 million have been completed between 2008 and this year, as part of the Guam Transportation Plan, which lists projects to support the proposed relocation of Marines to Guam and other military expansions on island.

■ $106 million for civilian water and wastewater improvements on Guam, including the Northern Wastewater Treatment Plant.

■ $12 million for a Guam Cultural Repository facility.

■ $13 million for a regional public health laboratory on Guam.

Sources: Port Authority of Guam, Guam Transportation Plan 2030, and 2014 draft supplemental Environmental Impact Statement

The federal government and the military already have invested hundreds of millions of dollars “outside the fence” to help Guam prepare for the pending military buildup, including bridge and road improvements, renovations at the commercial port and an upgraded wastewater treatment plant.

The relocation of U.S. Marines from Okinawa, Japan, to Guam also will boost the government of Guam’s tax revenue by at least $37 million a year, not including corporate and gross receipts taxes that also are expected to increase, according to defense officials.

That’s enough revenue to more than double the size of Guam’s current police force, which now operates with a $28 million annual budget.

We Are Guahan, a grassroots organization that opposed an earlier proposal to build a military firing range complex near the remnants of an ancient Chamorro village called Pågat, has started a campaign against the revised buildup plan, arguing the military is not paying to help Guam.

While the military has shifted its preferred firing range complex site entirely to federal property, at the Northwest Field area within Andersen Air Force Base, We Are Guahan, in a recent video on YouTube, claims that the Department of Defense is providing no money to mitigate the social impacts of the buildup.

For every social impact created on Guam as a result of the buildup, there should be mitigation that directly addresses the impact, said attorney Leevin Camacho, of We Are Guahan.

The Joint Guam Program Office, which handles buildup issues within the Defense Department, released a rebuttal to the We Are Guahan video campaign.

GovGuam will make an additional $37 million per year on Section 30 funds as a result of the approximately 5,000 Marines who will move to Guam, according to the JGPO statement. Section 30 is from military servicemembers’ income tax payments. It’s remitted to GovGuam in a lump sum near the end of each year.

“At its peak, during 2021, GovGuam will make $62 million in Section 30 funds,” stated Maj. Darren Alvarez, deputy director of the Joint Guam Program Office-Forward. When other taxes are factored in, Guam should see an additional $86 million in revenue at the height of the buildup, he said.

Camacho said Section 30 tax money from the Marines shouldn’t be seen as mitigation for the social impacts.

“I don’t really look at that as being DOD providing funding for mitigation,” Camacho said.

If the buildup adversely impacts public schools, the local firefighting force, the local hospital and other social service functions or entities, the Defense Department should pay for the impact of the buildup on those specific service providers, Camacho said.

We Are Guahan’s assertion that the Defense Department pays nothing for the social impacts is inaccurate, according to the governor’s office. But the organization also raises valid issues, according to the governor’s office, such as stewardship of the environment and preservation of and respect for Guam’s culture.

“However, we believe we can champion all those issues even through and beyond the military buildup. One does not cancel the other out,” governor’s spokesman Troy Torres said. “We think the clear majority of Guamanians share this view with us. The clear majority supports the buildup, wants it to happen, believes it will be great for Guam, and does not believe that supporting it is surrendering our heritage as Chamorros or our responsibilities as Guamanian citizens.”

As it stands, more than $292 million worth of federally funded projects in the community to help with the buildup have been completed or approved, documents show.

The Port Authority of Guam in 2010 received $50 million from the Defense Department, and it has started to used that money to upgrade its facilities in anticipation of increased cargo flow.

The improvements to the Routes 8, 10 and 16 tri-intersection and the nearly complete reconstruction of Marine Corps Drive between Routes 4 and 8, are part of the network of road projects being paid for by the U.S. government to support Guam’s capability to become a bigger military host, documents show.

Congress also has authorized $106 million for Guam Waterworks Authority, mostly for wastewater plant upgrades.

There also is $12 million for a cultural repository and $13 million for a public health lab, in anticipation of population growth related to the buildup.

Those projects are just the beginning, according to the governor’s office, which Gov. Eddie Calvo said will push for more.

“We have every opportunity to get on the negotiating table with the Navy and DOD for funding other impacts,” said governor’s spokesman Torres.

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