Okinawa gov. nixes design changes related to U.S. base relocation

The Yomiuri Shimbun

NAHA — Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki announced on Thursday that he disapproved the Defense Ministry’s request for design changes to a land reclamation plan related to the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station from Ginowan to the Henoko district of Nago.

The design changes include improvement of the soft seabed that was found at the landfill site. In response to Tamaki’s decision, the central government is considering countermeasures, which are expected to lead to a new legal battle with the Okinawa government.

 At a press conference at the prefectural government office in Naha, Tamaki cited some points including environmental impact as reasons for his disapproval. He claimed that a plan for the design changes does not give sufficient consideration to disaster prevention, and that measures to avoid impact on the environment, such as rare marine mammals called dugongs, have not been properly considered.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki, center, speaks at a press conference in Naha on Thursday.

“With the disapproval, the prospect of completing the landfill work is no longer possible. The meaningless construction work is not allowed,” Tamaki said.

The Defense Ministry is considering filing an appeal with the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister to request a reexamination and asking the land minister to issue recommendations or instructions to the Okinawa government to take corrective measures.

It does not appear that Tamaki will back down, and he may file a new administrative lawsuit to appeal the land minister’s expected decision.

The landfill work along the Henoko coast for the relocation has been completed it its southern area, covering about 41 hectares of the entire 152-hectare planned sea area. However, soft seabed was found on the north side of the site, and it became necessary to strengthen the seabed on about 66 hectares.

Over four years, the Defense Ministry drew up a plan to drive about 71,000 piles into the seabed and applied to the Okinawa government for approval of the design changes in April last year.

The Okinawa government, in reviewing the application, submitted about 450 questions to the ministry’s Okinawa Defense Bureau regarding technical issues and environmental impact of the construction.