United States military from the Pacific Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center (AFI &MSC), with contractors working on the Tactical Multi-Mission Over-The Horizon Radar Transmitter Facility to be built in Ngaraard, held a public hearing with Ngaraard citizens and residents last evening, October 26, 2023, over the contents of the draft Environmental Impact Statement study on the project.
The team, led by Colonel Mike Staples of the AFI & MSC, went through the draft report and solicited questions and comments from about 50 individuals attending the hearing. The report covered the design plan for the TACMORE project site, planned activities over the two-year site preparation and construction, and impacts of the construction phase and post-construction operations. It also covered mitigation efforts to address potential impacts on the environment and minimize the impact on Ngaraard residents’ lives.
Members of the Ngaraard community sought clarity on the environmental impact and mitigation plans. The project will be removing over 290,000 cubic meters of soil and over 49,000 cubic meters of basalt rock, which will be relocated to another location. The question of whether the removal of such a huge amount of soil will have an impact on the environment, biologist Matthew Welsh, contracted by the US military for the project, said that mitigation measures employing different forms of sediment control will be used throughout the construction phase to ensure no sediment runoff into the marine environment.
Mr. Welsh said the US military contracted Palau International Coral Reef Research Center (PICRC) to conduct baseline studies in two marine sites near the construction site. “There will be another study conducted during the construction phase and one after the construction to monitor sediment runoff into the marine environment. We know this is very important to you,” said Welsh.
“What benefits do Ngaraard State gain from having this radar site?” questioned Ses Ikyasang, a citizen attendee at the hearing.
Colonel Staples responded that the project benefits not just Palau but the entire region by ensuring a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” But specifically for Ngaraard State, Colonel Staples mentioned the direct benefits from the project’s construction phase, such as providing food and services to over 140 workers that will be staying in Ngaraard during the construction.
Ngaraard state traditional leaders and some of the elected leaders met with the US military earlier and raised similar questions. One was why the US military and contractors were proceeding with project preparations when the Environmental Impact Statement had not been approved.
The timing of the project mobilization is based on the US funding cycle, but this does not mean that the military will proceed with the project if issues are to be resolved with the EIS, assured Colonel Staples.
The TACMOR project to be constructed in Ngaraard is the other half of the TACMOR in Angaur; both sites are complementary.
Meanwhile, the work to clear the site of the TACMOR project in Angaur continues while the lawsuit filed against the Palau government and contractors and subcontractors on the project is pending.
Angaur State Governor had sued the US government, Palau Government, EQPB, and the contractors over the clearing work, saying it did not comply with environmental mandates of the Compact Agreement and the United States. The United States government is no longer part of the lawsuit.