Construction of new base in Henoko constrained by prefectural ordinance concerning soil

November 1, 2015 Ryukyu Shimpo

On November 1, an ordinance on invasive species within soil hauled from outside Okinawa was enforced for the land reclamation project in public waters. It requires the business operator to submit soil-and-sand transportation plans and take measures to ensure that no alien species are included. Under the ordinance, the governor is authorized to order the cancellation of such plans and make on-site inspections.

For the purpose of protecting Okinawa’s biodiversity, fixed limits on soil and sand hauled from outside the prefecture for use in construction of the new U.S. base in Henoko are being called upon, and there is a possibility this will affect construction work.

The business operator must report project details to the governor of Okinawa 90 prior to bringing in materials. At the present point there are two target projects: construction of a replacement facility for U.S. Marine Corp Air Station Futenma by Okinawa Defense Bureau (Ministry of Defense) in Henoko and Naha Airport runway expansion by Okinawa General Bureau (Cabinet Office).

According to the Division for Promotion of Nature Conservation and Afforestation (Environmental Department, Okinawa’s prefectural government), as of October 30 the business operators of the target projects have not made inquiries about Okinawa’s regulations in regard to the projects.

There is confirmed documentation of at least nine types of invasive species in the soil, sand and stone provided by places outside the prefecture, including Argentine ants.

The Division for Promotion of Nature Conservation and Afforestation simultaneously enforced regulations on bringing in invasive species and took on two more personnel in order to advance investigation into the condition of the introduced species’ dispersion.

Prefectural personnel and persons entrusted with the investigation will enter sites where soil liable to contain introduced species was deposited and conduct their work. There are no provisions to penalize those responsible should there be introduced species, but should the business operators not comply with prefectural measures, their names can be publicly announced.

This ordinance is in accordance with the intent of the Invasive Alien Species Act, which prohibits the transfer of non-native species and other such actions. In June 2015, the ordinance was proposed at a regular meeting of the prefectural assembly by the ruling party, adopted by a majority vote, and put into effect.

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)

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