U.S. military denies Okinawa’s request to enter military base for surveying, delaying highway construction

U.S. military denies Okinawa’s request to enter military base for surveying, delaying highway construction

Okinawa Route 24 Bypass will extend out from the Kuwae intersection. Without permission to enter the nearby Camp Foster, work on the highway cannot continue. Kuwae, Chatan

September 26, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo
Saki Yoshida

Part of the work on Prefectural Route 24 Bypass, which is Okinawa is constructing to connect Chatan and Okinawa City, is being suspended as Okinawa has not received permission from the U.S. military for the work.

Part of the planned construction site runs through former a U.S. military installation, for which there is currently no plan to return to Japan.

Okinawa is asserting that they had the consent for construction from the U.S. military, however the military clarified, “In observance of the land return agreement,” and has denied Okinawa’s requests to enter the base area for measurements and a soil survey.

The Okinawa Defense Bureau (ODB), which is facilitating conversations between the two sides, has indicated that a third party is necessary for coordination before beginning construction, and the difference in understanding between each party has created confusion.

One person with knowledge of the situation commented, “A consensus was not built prior to the start of the project between all of the stakeholders, and has led to a muddled handling of the situation.”

Prefectural Route 24 Bypass is planned to run for 3,140 meters between the National Highway 58 Chatan Town Hall Entrance intersection and the Okinawa Loop road in Yamazato, Okinawa City.

Okinawa Prefecture has been constructing a 1,720 meter commercial road between Kuwae in Chatan and Minamitobaru in Okinawa City since 2003, after a decision by city planning in February, 2002.

This year, approximately 200 million was appropriated as a single year budget for this year.

The new bypass has a section that is set to run through Camp Kuwae (Camp Lester).

In May, 2018, Okinawa applied for permission from the U.S. military via the ODB, to conduct activities such as surveys and measurements on the target area, for which the return to Japan from the U.S. is scheduled to complete by 2025, after which construction can commence.

However, since part of the area where Okinawa is planning to build, the upper plaza of Camp Zukeran (Camp Foster), for which there currently is no plant to return, the U.S. military did not give Okinawa permission to enter.

A representative from the prefecture said, “If we cannot conduct the survey, it will be difficult to continue with work.”

Currently, I takes about 11 minutes to get from the Jagaru intersection to the Chatan Junior High School.

After the construction of the bypass it will take only five minutes to get from the Kuwae intersection to Chatan Junior High.

(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)

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