|Wednesday, Aug 12, 2009|
Congressman Nick Rahall (WV) is leading a delegation from the House Committee on Natural Resources on a tour of the Pacific Islands including American Samoa, the Republic of Pelau, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Guam, and Hawaii. The group laid wreaths at the Court of Honor Flag Circle at American Memorial Park on Saipan and at the Asan Bay Overlook memorial wall at War in the Pacific NHP on Guam.
Rahall, accompanied by committee members Henry Brown (SC), Madeleine Bordallo (GU), Gregorio âKililiâ Sablan (CNMI), Donna Christensen (VI), and Eni Faleomavaega (AS), paid tribute to the U.S. servicemen and Chamorros who gave their lives during the Battles of Guam and Saipan 65 years ago in the Pacific Theatre of World War II.
The Committee, which has oversight on insular possessions of the U.S., including American Samoa, CNMI, Guam, Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, is spending 3 days on Guam to learn more about the effects of the military buildup as the Department of Defense makes plans for the transfer of 17,000 Marines and their dependents from Okinawa to Guam (pop. 171,000), along with thousands of other military personnel and contractors. The National Park Service has been a participant in the scoping and review process, with the final EIS expected to be released in January 2010.
After a helicopter tour of the island, the delegation was briefed by members of the Joint Guam Program Office, Navy, and Air Force as well as the Civilian/Military Task Force and the Consolidated Commission on Utilities. From Guam, they will travel to Hawaii to learn more about the military buildup from the U.S. Pacific Command. On Saipan, they heard concerns from guest works as the federalization of immigration is set to take place in November, affecting both guest workers and tourists, who will need visas from countries such as China and Russia. The park has noticed an increase in tour groups from those countries recently as the CNMI attracted budget conscious Asian visitors seeking nearby destinations to soak up warm winter sunshine.