HONOLULU – The U.S. military has postponed two key decisions related to its buildup of forces on the Guam to ensure it's complying with environmental and historic preservation laws.
But it gave final approval to the single biggest part of the buildup: a proposal to move 8,000 Marines and their dependents from Okinawa, Japan to the U.S. territory in the Pacific. The decision was posted online Tuesday.
The Navy put off deciding where to build a live fire range for the Marines while it consults with preservation authorities on how the training area would affect the ancient village of Pagat. Stone bowls, fishing gear, spear points and other artifacts dating back more than a millennium have been found at the village, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The military acknowledged in a document called a "Record of Decision" that a significant new influx of population would affect the island's indigenous Chamorro population, and vowed to be sensitive to this issue.
At its peak, the buildup is expected to boost Guam's population by 79,000 people, or 45 percent, over its current 180,000 residents.
The Department of Defense "is cognizant of the concerns regarding the degradation of Chamorro culture and respects Chamorro social and cultural traditions and will continue to strive to be good neighbors," the document said.
The Navy also delayed deciding where in Apra Harbor it will place a new aircraft carrier berth so it can study how construction of the dock would affect the harbor's coral reef.
The Environmental Protection Agency in February said the military, in a draft environmental impact statement, had underestimated the effect the berth would have on corals that provide essential habitats for fish and endangered sea turtles.
The EPA told the Navy this month it would need to study the coral matter further before it selected a site within Apra for the carrier.
The Navy wants the new berth to accommodate the military's strategy of having its aircraft carriers spend more time in the western Pacific.
Guam is about 3,700 miles southwest of Hawaii and 1,500 miles south of Tokyo.