Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Guam Port Gets DOD Funds to Begin Modernization Work

The United States Department of Defense has agreed to pay $50 million to complete upgrades at the Port Authority of Guam (PAG), according to Guam Congressional Delegate Madeleine Bordallo.

Speaking to a Rotary Club group on Monday, Bordallo said that the PAG has identified just under $160 million in infrastructure projects needed to meet the requirements of an impending U.S. military buildup on the island.

The port is undergoing a rapid expansion as it prepares for the U.S. government’s transfer of all military operations and personnel from Okinawa, Japan to Guam later this year. In May, 2008, Guam’s Governor Felix Camacho signed-off on an estimated $195 million 2007 Master Plan aimed at modernizing the PAG to accommodate the expanded military presence. An estimated 8,000 U.S. Marines and 9,000 dependents from Okinawa is expected to increase traffic through the Guam port by more than 100 percent, an increase that many fear the current infrastructure at the port will not be able to handle without serious modernization efforts.

Bordallo said that the PAG applied for $100 million in grants and loan programs through the U.S. Department of Transportation including a request for $50 million in national recovery grant funds, but the DOT denied request. Without the start-up funds, the PAG can not qualify for a $49 million low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Following the rejection of funding, Bordallo and Guam Gov. Felix Camacho took up the case directly with the Department of Defense. Bordallo said once she gave an impassioned explanation of what caused the failed grant applications, DOD officials said they would pay the $50 million in start-up funds. The money is expected to be available in the next several weeks. In addition, the DOD agreed with Bordallo's request that she be named "buildup czar," taking on a role as head of the buildup program on Guam.