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  • By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

Public hearing sought on Navy's plan to bar public access to Finegayan

Sen. Jose Terlaje is asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to hold a public hearing on the U.S. Navy’s plan to extend firing tests into the Pacific ocean and block public access to the waters adjacent to Finegayan, the site of the Navy’s small arms range.

“With limited land on the island, it is not feasible to have the firing range and safety zone completely on land,” the Navy said. “This location is an existing range and meets all of the landside requirements of a small arms range.”

The application to establish a permanent danger zone in the Finegayan area was filed Dec. 13 by U.S. Navy Commanding Officer Captain Hans E. Sholley. Public comment period for the Navy's proposal expired on Jan. 12.

“I strongly urge that a public hearing be held in order to gauge the significance of this proposed regulation’s impact to the culture and livelihood of our CHamorru people,” Terlaje said.

The proposed restricted area comprises 892 acres and extending into the ocean approximately 2.36 miles from the coast, overlying part of the existing Small Arms Safety Drop Zone.

“The establishment of a danger zone would intermittently restrict commercial, public, and private vessels from entering or lingering in the restricted safety zone to ensure public safety during small arms training activities at the Finegayan Small Arms Range,” the Navy said.

There are currently two other ranges on its naval base on Guam that are being used to support weapons qualifications, the Navy said. However, it added, the two ranges are not sufficient given the number of units required to maintain weapon qualifications.

“Both ranges are fully booked with commands having to be placed on a waiting list for range availability,” the Navy said.

It said the Finegayan Small Arms Range has been used for training exercises by both military and non-military units. Nonmilitary units include the Guam Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Homeland Security, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Guam Customs and Quarantine, and Guam Airport Authority.

“This danger zone will be in place as a precautionary measure to protect the public from any potential impacts in firing small arms to the west,” the Navy said, noting that the establishment of the danger zone was considered in the final environmental impact statement for Mariana Islands Training and Testing/Overseas.

Terlaje sent his public hearing request to David Olson of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer. “I want to make sure that our culture and heritage is protected. That is the only way that our children and grandchildren can learn about our ancestors,” said the neophyte senator.

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