Okinawa Prefectural Board begins to review Defense Ministry’s environmental impact assessment report for relocation of Futenma U.S. Marine Corps Air Station

Okinawa Prefectural Board begins to review Defense Ministry's environmental impact assessment report for relocation of Futenma U.S. Marine Corps Air Station

The first meeting of the Board for Reviewing the Environmental Impact Assessment Evaluation Report for the alternative facility construction project of the U.S. Marine Air Station Futenma was held in Nishihara, on January 19.

January 20, 2012 Ryukyu Shimpo

On January 19, the Okinawa Prefectural Board of Review for the environmental impact assessment report (EIA) for the alternative facility construction plan of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Henoko, Nago, convened in Nishihara. At the beginning of the meeting, Board Chairman Kuniharu Miyagi, professor at Okinawa International University, expressed his strong dissatisfaction that Okinawa Defense Bureau officials had delivered the EIA to the Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG) Office before dawn at the end of last year. Members of the board raised questions about the plan to deploy MV-22 Osprey vertical takeoff and landing transport aircraft being included for the first time in the evaluation report at the final stage of the assessment process. On almost all of the matters covered, members called for projections and assessments to be redone. About 120 people, including members of the public, sat in on the meeting, which was also attended by nine professors of universities in Okinawa.

It was pointed out that the reasoning is unclear as to why the shape of the flight path has been changed from trapezoidal to elliptical, taking aircraft closer to residential areas, and why the impact assessment of low-frequency sound and noise on the surrounding areas due to the irregular flight path has not been included. Many other issues were raised, such as the fact that there is no impact assessment of the tidal changes that would be caused by large-scale reclamation of 160 hectares of land and the effect that those changes would have on the surrounding natural environment nearby Oura Bay and Oura River. Members of the board suggested that the governor should clearly point out such issues in his statement of opinion on the EIA.

The OPG plans that the next meeting of the board will include an opportunity to hear the views of residents, because the governor is able to incorporate a wide range of people’s opinions in his statement. The OPG Department of Environmental and Community Affairs will accept written comments from residents, and details will be provided on the OPG’s website as soon as they are decided.

The meetings are held to discuss concerns regarding the airport construction project based on the Okinawa Prefecture Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance, but there is no provision on the same ordinance to require the board to meet and review the reclamation plan. Chairman Miyagi said, “The two projects of the airport and the landfill are inextricably linked.” Board members confirmed that their remarks on the landfill project should be also included as additional opinions.

The next meeting will be held on January 27, but the time and venue are yet to be decided. The members of the board will report their findings to the Governor of Okinawa at the beginning of February. Governor Hirokazu Nakaima is then required to submit a written statement of opinion to the Ministry of Defense by February 20.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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