Process of environmental assessment starts for new U.S. air base in Okinawa

The Naha Regional Defense Facilities Administration Bureau on April 28 made public a plan for environmental assessment on the construction of a new U.S. Marine Corps air base in Okinawa as a substitute for the U.S. Futenma Air Station.

People can take a look at the plan at eight locations, including the Naha City office until June 2. If approved, the government will assess the environmental impact for about a year, the first assessment on a U.S. military base in Japan to be carried out under the Environmental Impact Assessment Law.

The 2-cm thick document containing statements on how to conduct the research and assess the new U.S. on-sea base concerning 23 items, including coral reef and atmosphere. However, it failed to identify the type of U.S. military aircraft to be deployed. It only says U.S. rotary-winged aircraft and Japanese civil mid-sized aircraft are to be used.

Also, the plan avoided touching on more than 100 buildings to be built. Local newspapers are questioning the effectiveness of the planned assessment.

Many anti-base residents who are monitoring the government's boring in the coral reef at the base construction site examined the plan.

Miyagi Yasuhiro, Citizens' Assessment Nago secretary general, said, "The assessment plan couldn't show any details because they are U.S. military facilities. For Japan to start this preliminary step for the assessment means a simple gesture for the U.S. The plan needs to be completely reviewed. We will express our views in writing." His group last December published an alternative to the government policy.

Onishi Teruo, Nago Council against the Construction of U.S. On-Sea Heliport chair, blames the bureau for rejecting copying of the draft.

Shimazu Yasuo, Japan Society for Impact Assessment president stated, "Unless we know how the U.S. forces will use the air base, we cannot make a comment on the effect of the assessment." (end)

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