Okinawa governor plans to reject US base design change
NAHA – The smoldering confrontation between the central government and Okinawa is about to ignite again.
Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki said on November 25 that the prefecture would reject a proposal to change the design of the landfill works for the construction of a US military base when he met with the prefectural assembly group. to the power that sustains it.
The central government is expected to counter this move, likely sending the two sides into yet another legal battle, which would be the latest in the ongoing saga over the highly controversial project that Tamaki has firmly opposed for years.
He cited what prefecture officials perceive to be flaws in measures to bolster weak seabed in the planned recovery area, located off the Henoko de Nago district in northern Okinawa Prefecture, as well as the measures described to protect the surrounding environment.
The landfill works are part of the central government’s plan to build a new US base that would take over the functions of US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, also in the prefecture.
A majority of Okinawans have repeatedly expressed their opposition, through referendum and elections, to the relocation of the facility to the southernmost prefecture.
The project started when Governor Hirokazu Nakaima approved a request made by the central government in 2013 for the reclamation work needed to build the base.
But a weak seabed, described as “as soft as mayonnaise”, had been discovered in the northern part of the planned reclamation area during a drilling study completed in 2016.
This was not revealed publicly until March 2018, after a group of Okinawans lobbied for documents through an access to information request.
However, the central government began the rehabilitation works in December 2018, proceeding to the southern part of 39 hectares.
In 2019, he finally recognized the need for additional large-scale work to strengthen the unstable seabed in the northern part of the 111 hectare area.
The central government requested a change in the design of the landfill works in April 2020, in accordance with the Law on Public Water Harvesting.
About 71,000 structural piles will be needed to secure the problem area under the updated plan, raising doubts about the completion of this work due to the enormous technological difficulties involved.
At the end of 2019, the central government revised upwards its estimate of the overall cost of building the base to 930 billion yen ($ 8.08 billion), or about 2.7 times the initial estimate, due to additional work needed to strengthen the seabed there.
The return of land for the installation of Futenma is expected to be postponed to the second half of the 2030s from fiscal year 2022 at the earliest.