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Navy to review plan for building firing range over ancient village

By Audrey McAvoy / Associated Press


The Navy said it will re-evaluate a proposal to build a live-fire training range at the site of an ancient village on Guam after a lawsuit challenged its plans.

Joseph Ludovici, director of the military's Joint Guam Program Office, which is coordinating the U.S. military's buildup on Guam, said in a court filing Tuesday that additional analysis on the matter "was appropriate."

He said the Navy would begin to prepare a new environmental impact statement on the issue early next year.

The decision comes a year after historic preservation groups and Guamanians sued the Navy, alleging it failed to adequately consider locations that would have less of a harmful impact on the environment and historic sites.

It further alleged the Navy failed to adequately examine the environmental consequences of its actions.

The lawsuit said archaeological studies date the village, Pagat, to A.D. 700, while traditional knowledge indicates the village was inhabited 3,000 years ago. The village has up to 20 sets of carved stone pedestals, called "latte," upon which the indigenous Chamorro people set buildings.

The Navy wants to build the firing range complex on Guam so Marines due to move to the U.S. territory from Okinawa, Japan, will have a place to train.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a party in the lawsuit, welcomed the Navy's decision to reconsider.

"Pagat Village is a rare and extraordinary site, filled with history and culture," the group's president, Stephanie Meeks, said in a statement. She added, "The Navy made the right decision to re-open the public review process and we would like to thank them for reconsidering the location of these firing ranges."

The trust put Pagat on its 2010 list of the most endangered historic places in the U.S. because of the Navy's plans.

At its peak the military buildup on Guam is expected to boost the territory's population by 79,000 people, or 45 percent, from its current 180,000 residents.

Guam is about 3,700 miles southwest of Hawaii and 1,500 miles south of Tokyo.

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