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Open and transparent dialogue

Upholding laws to further protect and preserve Guam's natural and cultural resources


By Rear Adm. Benjamin Nicholson

The Joint Region Marianas (JRM) relationship with Guam and its people is very special and vitally significant. For more than seven decades we have faced challenges and adversities that are often unique to our small island community.


Together we have experienced super typhoons and natural

disasters; we have responded to regional crises and humanitarian assistance needs of our larger regional community; and most recently we came together to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.


This shared interest in taking care of our island community is the bedrock

of our common bond. Furthermore, this sense of Inafa Mao'lek is the impetus

for a deeper mutual understanding of our diverse military and civilian

populations and ultimately the foundation for stronger relationships between

them.


Admittedly, no relationship is perfect. We have our challenges, and there

will sometimes be differences in priorities and missions. However, as we

embark on new endeavors and initiatives in the defense of our island, region

and nation, we must always keep in mind open dialogue, shared trust and

mutual respect remain crucial to our ability to forge a path together to

ensure a free, safe, and thriving Guam.


To that end, JRM will continue to plan and execute the Marine Corps

relocation to Guam in a responsible, collaborative and transparent manner,

and we are committed to the same for any future military growth. We

understand that our actions will speak volumes in terms of seeking solutions

for the entire community. We remain completely engaged and dedicated to

fighting 'from Guam and for Guam' in an effort to fulfill our mission to

defend a free and open Indo-Pacific region.


Marine Corps Realignment to Guam, Archaeological Discoveries during

Construction On behalf of the Department of Defense (DoD), JRM, in partnership with the Government of Guam and several local community and cultural organizations, established the 2011 Programmatic Agreement (PA) to protect cultural resources during the Marine Corps Relocation.


Under this PA, and consistent with federal laws which protect cultural and

historic resources, the DoD is required to consult with the Guam State

Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) and Advisory Council on Historic

Preservation (ACHP) to ensure discoveries undergo rigorous archaeological

study and that known or new historic and prehistoric sites are properly

managed.


Recognizing that no pre-construction survey can be 100 percent definitive in its

identification of archaeological sites, the DoD and the government of Guam

established an archaeological monitoring process to provide further

assurance that any previously unknown sites would be detected, analyzed,

reported, and appropriately addressed. This monitoring process takes place

before vegetation clearing, during vegetation clearing and stump removal,

and again during construction grading, in an effort to ensure the

identification and appropriate treatment of any new discoveries.


The 2011 PA also requires the DoD to provide oversight of construction

activities by professional archaeologists, including site checks and

responding to and reporting discoveries. Following dispute resolution

agreements with SHPO in 2018 and 2020, the Navy implemented additional

monitoring requirements on five large projects, including two firing ranges,

the main cantonment area of the Marine base, water wells, and the urban

combat training complex (at Andersen South).


In concert with our consultative partners at the SHPO's office, JRM and our DoD agency partners have worked tirelessly to protect the historic and cultural heritage of Guam, and are proud of the hard-working people engaged in that important task.


The DoD team of professional archaeologists carefully records locations of

all archaeological discoveries throughout Marine Corps Base (MCB) Camp Blaz.

However, the confidentiality provisions in the National Park Service

Archaeological Resources Protection Act precludes us from releasing all of

the related information to the public.


The law specifically requires the protection of the information and locations of archaeological resources in order to avoid any risk of harm to those resources. This is not to hide heritage from the public, but to preserve heritage and ensure those without proper archeological training do not harm the sites.


We collaborate daily with the SHPO's office to maintain a fine balance

between sharing cultural information with the community and upholding the

regulations and laws designed to protect sensitive cultural resources.


Through this collaborative process, many significant cultural resources have

been preserved in place and/or avoided during the planning phase of the

Marine Corps relocation.


While the preference is to preserve sites and resources in place, in the event that avoidance is not possible, the 2011 PA has a provision that allows data recovery as standard mitigation in coordination with the SHPO. The careful and meticulous archaeological work allows us to permanently record the important details and physical evidence of Guam's history to share with the public and our future generations.


Additionally, we eagerly anticipate the opening of the Guam Cultural

Repository at the University of Guam and conservation of Guam's priceless

cultural resources and preservation of Guam's story for present and future

generations. This facility was made possible by a $12 million DoD grant,

and will serve as a key resource for ongoing archaeological research,

education, and interpretive activities by and for the people of Guam.


Investing in Environmentally Responsible Construction

Throughout the various construction projects on Guam, the DoD has

implemented protective actions to safeguard the island's precious resources.


In coordination with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a

host of federal and local resource protection agencies, the DoD conducts

thorough environmental reviews, including Environmental Impact Statements,

to assess and subsequently mitigate environmental hazards.


In the process of these environmental reviews, the DoD consults with federal and local agency partners to develop and implement environmental mitigation measures to address or avoid potential environmental impacts.


For example, in order to address the concerns regarding the possibility of

groundwater contamination from the construction and operation of the

Multi-Purpose Machine Gun Range, the DoD has developed a strict set of

environmental monitoring and range procedures.


Included in the plans for

the construction of the range complex are a multiple-celled ponding basin

systems approved by the Guam EPA that will ensure removal of pollutants such

as phosphorus, nitrogen and metals, including lead.


The DoD's Office of Economic Adjustment awarded a $3.7 million grant to Guam Water Authority to expand the Northern Guam Lens Aquifer's monitoring network, a measure that will benefit all the residents of Guam for years to come.


Additionally, and related to the military's construction on Guam, the DoD

has awarded nearly $4 million toward habitat preservation projects on Guam

through the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI)

program.


The program allows the DoD to partner with willing landowners to

preserve property for natural and cultural resources. Basically, the DoD

pays the landowner to not develop the land in order to preserve the

habitat. The award represents DoD's enduring commitment to protect and

preserve Guam's natural resources through mutually beneficial partnerships.

This effort builds upon our longstanding commitment to environmental

stewardship in our island community.


The DoD has similarly funded numerous upgrades to infrastructure on Guam, including roadway improvements, water and wastewater infrastructure

improvements, and the modernization of the Guam commercial port.


JRM and the DoD are committed to the protection and preservation of the island environment by continuing to work closely with our partners, listening to

community concerns, and to doing our part to maintain and upgrade Guam's

infrastructure for the benefit of the entire island.


We are thankful for Guam and its people for supporting our troops and the

national security mission. Your support is important to sustaining and

growing the military's capabilities to meet the unexpected, defend this

region, uphold our nation's ideals, and be counted amongst the readiest

and capable forces of the United States. Biba Guam!


Rear Adm. Benjamin Nicholson is the commander of Joint Region Marianas