Guam - The Department of Defense will be taking a closer look at using the Naval Magazine as a potential alternative for a firing range complex for marines. The Joint Guam Program Office and the United States Marine Corps briefed island leaders today on their plans to re-study alternatives for a firing range complex for U.S. marines.
After the National Trust for Historic Preservation the Guam Preservation Trust and “We Are Guahan” filed a lawsuit against the selection of Pagat as a firing range complex, the Department of Defense decided to conduct a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement or SEIS on their proposed marine firing range complex.
Joint Guam Program Office Executive Director Joe Ludovici made it clear today that they are still moving forward with plans to move marines from Okinawa to Guam and are therefore proceeding with their firing range SEIS. The Joint Guam Program Office and Marine Corps officials told island leaders and island media today that this time around there will be more public input. U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters Pacific Division Director Bryan Wood said, "What I think we're really trying to do here is make it as absolutely open as possible give the public as many opportunities as they can to comment to provide written comment to hear what we have to say to ask questions so we can educate them about why we need these things how they will be built why they will be built. I think it's the openness and the manner in which we're doing that really is different”
This is not the only thing that is going to be really different. This time around DOD will also conduct a more thorough study of the Naval Magazine(Naval Base Guam) as a potential site for a firing range complex. During the first EIS DOD determined that the Naval Magazine was unsuitable but officials are now planning on using a new methodology for determining the size of the Surface Danger Zone or SDZ's of the firing range. This new methodology is called the probabilistic methodology.
"It's very computer driven modeling where you take each individual weapon that's fired on a range and you use the characteristics of that weapon you fire ten million rounds via a computer and you trace out where it would go for the most part it now takes into account all of the local conditions so it takes into account the fact that you may be shooting uphill or downhill if there's a cliff line that will block if there's a mountain or vegetation any number of different physical characteristics,” explained Wood.
Wood says that this probabilistic methodology is new. It was developed by European allies and usually results in a smaller Surface Danger Zone allowing them to fit the firing range into a smaller area,.
However they will not consider some of the other areas that they have already ruled out for example the NCTAMS area Tarague Beach(Andersen Air Force Base) and Orote(Naval Base Guam) because they are simply too small. Instead they will again consider two alternatives in the Pagat, Rt. 15 area, and three alternatives on Naval Magazine. "What we're gonna put forward when we do the scoping meetings are three alternatives that we're looking at for how we can try to make it fit for the most part within Navmag and so we will see that it would require some public land or government land and some private land if we do that,” explained Ludovici.
The JGPO Executive Director says they have been meeting with mayors and the Department of Rev&Tax and the Department of Land Management to determine which private land owners may be affected. In fact they are already sending out letters to some private land owners in the Agat/Santa Rita area requesting permission to conduct environmental studies on their property. Ludovici says they are not sure how much non DOD property will be required to use Naval Magazine as a firing range. This is something they won't know until they narrow down their choices to one of the three alternative plans in that area. Including all three alternatives there are potentially 55 parcels of land that could be affected.
Even if the number of marines is cut in half as recent reports have indicated it won't change the need for the firing range or the size of the firing range complex. "The only thing that changes if in the end we reduce the number of marines here is the throughput in fact how many marines you would have to put through there on a daily basis a weekly basis or a monthly basis,” explained Wood.
Wood says the president is still committed to a marine presence on Guam. "We are not gonna put such a small marine force on Guam that we wouldn't need live fire ranges,” said Wood.
Ludovici stressed that this a Supplemental EIS and they are not doing a brand new one from scratch which means they will use a lot of the information they gained from their first study. Ludovici also says that DOD is still working on finalizing their overall master plan that Congress has been asking for. This overall master plan is contingent upon finalizing their plans for a firing range complex. The Department of Defense will kick off the SEIS this Friday(2/10/12) when it issues it's notice of intent. The SEIS should take about a year to complete.