- By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Guam seeks return of excess land currently under feds' control
Guam is seeking the return of 17,031 acres of federally-controlled submerged lands to the local government. The list consists of 54 sites marked by GovGuam as "releasable."
“The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) offers another opportunity for the Navy to return excess land,” Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said in requesting the U.S. Navy to transfer the excess lands to Guam.
“This is land that we have identified to be in excess, unused, or unnecessary for the Marine Relocation—land that can benefit our people through their return to the original landowners and through cultivation and agriculture, cultural and environmental preservation, economic development, affordable housing, and education.”
In 2011, the Guam Economic Development Authority (GEDA) prepared a report entitled “Potentially Releasable Federal Land” which identified 2,339 acres of federally-owned terrestrial land and 17,021 acres of federally-owned submerged land for transfer to the Government of Guam.
In June 2017, the Navy released its “Report to Congress on the Status of the ‘Net Negative’ Policy Regarding Navy Acreage on Guam” which indicated that the Department of the Navy owns 36,411.60 acres of fast land, including former Air Force properties, on Guam and after 734 acres pending transfer and/or acquisition is completed, will own 35,803.20 acres of fast land. This number excludes lands owned by other federal agencies such as the Department of the Interior and submerged lands.
“While GEDA recognizes that 2,870 acres is only 8 percent of the 35,803.20 acres owned by DoD and that ancestral owners desire to regain ownership of all properties previously taken as a result of the injustices created during federal land takings, these properties are believed to be unnecessary for Marine relocation,” GEDA said in a June 2019 report which recommended the transfer of 17,031 acres of submerged land.
Among the properties identified as “releasable” includes a 30-acre parcel that sits on the northwest boundary of the old Federal Aviation Authority area which was previously returned to the civilian government.
“The property is not within the Radio Frequency Interference Free arc pursuant to the Navy’s GLUP ’94 update,” GEDA said. “This portion was not transferred along with the Old FAA area as the Navy Public Works Center was still utilizing a portion of the existing buildings. However, the buildings are no longer being utilized.”
GovGuam is also eyeing a 22-acre site located near the intersection of Route 3 and Route 3A (Potts Junction), which forms the northern boundary of the parcel that is surrounded on the east, south and west by private property.
“The Air Force has deactivated its fuel storage facilities,” GEDA said.
Leon Guerrero sent a letter to Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer, noting that the Navy has returned properties to Guam on numerous occasions beginning in 1950.
Notable returns also occurred as a result of the 1993 and 1995 Base Realignment and Closure Acts and the implementation of the Guam Excess Lands Act in 1994.
The 2019 NDAA provides that “the Secretary of the Navy shall maintain and update regularly an inventory of all land parcels located on Guam which meet the following conditions:
The parcels are currently owned by the U.S. government and are under the administrative jurisdiction of the Department of the Navy.
The Secretary has determined or expects to determine the parcels to be excess to the needs of the Department of the Navy.
Under Federal law, including Public Law 106-504 (commonly known as the ‘Guam Omnibus Opportunities Act’ 40 U.S.C. 521 note), the parcels are eligible to be transferred to the territorial government.”
The law also allows the governor of Guam to seek the return of excess federal lands by specifying a proposed public benefit or public purpose in writing to the Secretary of the Navy. Based on a June 2019 report of Potentially Releasable Federal Lands prepared by the
Guam Economic Development Authority (GEDA), Governor Leon Guerrero is requesting to add 2,596 acres of terrestrial land and 17,031 acres of submerged land to the Navy’s excess land inventory.
While the 2019 GEDA report does not specify public use for each land parcel, the Governor assured the Secretary of the Navy that she is committed to utilizing each of the properties for the public benefit of the island. The Governor also advised Secretary Spencer that she may seek the return of additional lands in the future.
"The need for Navy to retain land for its military functions is not questioned but any amount of property returned for civilian use is significant in furthering Navy and community relations and generating local jobs and revenue. Further, the Net Negative policy not only states that DoD will have a smaller footprint, but that DoD “will better utilize the lands and return underutilized land to the Government of Guam" GEDA stated in the report.