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    Saturday, April 20, 2019-2:37:03P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Navy’s danger-zone plans fly under the radar

JANUARY 14th marked the end of the public comment period for the Navy’s plan to establish a danger zone adjacent to their Finegayan Small Arms Range on Guam. On Jan. 13th, the page introducing the plan on regulations.gov (which can no longer be accessed) listed only 24 comments.

According to Kisha Borja-Kicho’cho’, that’s because the Navy’s announcement managed to slip under the radar.

“A letter was sent to one of our senators and he disseminated it on Dec. 13th,” she said, “but it wasn’t made public in terms of our media until Dec. 18th — and it was only that one PDN article that was published — and then the comment period ended [Jan. 14th], so we’ve had less than a month to send the comments.”

Borja-Kicho’cho’ said she put a reminder on her calendar after reading the Dec. 18th article, but it wasn’t until a week before the deadline that she combed through the public notice herself.

“There was no real big movement in terms of comments just because it hadn’t been made to be such a big deal,” she said. “But it is…I was getting really bothered by it, so I started posting on Instagram and Facebook and tried to spread the word, and people from there kept spreading the word too, so that’s how we’ve established some form of resistance.”

The plan would create entry restrictions across 892 acres of sea off the Northern coast of Guam, including islanders’ fishing grounds and endangered species’ ocean habitats. The plan may also threaten an Essential Fish Habitat or EFH.

In her comment, Borja-Kicho’cho’ takes issue with the fact that these entry restrictions are not specified as far as day, time, or duration, nor is there any mention of mitigation measures regarding the endangered species.

She also expresses skepticism regarding the Navy’s plan to alert islanders that the range is in use by hanging “a red flag from a conspicuous and easily-seen location along the nearby shore” or flashing a strobe light at night:

“What if the red flag or the strobe light is not clearly visible to commercial, public, or private vessels?” she asks. “What if the strobe light malfunctions? What then of the safety of the people onboard those vessels?”

Finally, Borja-Kicho’cho’ criticizes the notice’s failure to truly reach the public:

“There was not ample time provided for the community to respond,” she writes. “We need more time to read about and provide comments for the possible long-term damaging effects this proposed danger zone may have on our environment, aquatic life, and overall health. We deserve this right.”

Newly elected Guam Sen. Sabina Perez echoed that sentiment in her appeal to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

“We’re seeking a public hearing because of the large amount of impacts to our community,” she said. “Just like Ritidian, it’s very similar. We’re seeing impacts to endangered species and they have yet to do a biological opinion, complete study on the impacts to endangered species.”

Guam Sen. Clynt Ridgell also submitted a comment asserting that “the U.S. Navy should conduct further research and should first produce a separate environmental impact statement, specific to the expansion.”

U.S. military representatives have yet to respond.

“As usual, it doesn’t seem like our health or our environmental safety are the priority of the military,” Borja-Kicho’cho’ said.

“But we still have to [leave comments] because we have to show them we are capable of reading and keeping up and calling them out on the terrible things that they’re doing to our community and our island.”