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Henoko Ordnance Ammunition Depot
Okinawa, Japan

Henoko Ordnance Depot, which is adjacent to Camp Schwab, is an ammunition storage facility for the U.S. Marine Corps. Most of the ordnance depot is covered over with dirt. Henoko is the village closest to Camp Schwab.

Henoko - MCAS Futenma Replacement Facility (FRF)

In the Special Action Committee on Okinawa's (SACO) December 1996 Final Report, it was agreed upon that MCAS Futenma would be completely returned. With a land area of 4,806,000 meters squared, a total of 2,562 land owners were paid a yearly rental fee of 5.793 billion yen. However, if the Marine Corps presence was to be maintained with air and ground combat units and logistical support collocated on Okinawa, then a suitable replacement was required to maintain the operational capability of the III Marine Expeditionary Force's air combat element. A proposal was made to build a new 2,500-meter runway, to replace MCAS Futenma's facilities, over a reef that was almost 2 miles off the shores of Henoko.

The US military has had plans to construct a new heliport in Henoko. In December 1999 Nago City Mayor, Tateo Kishimoto accepted plans to move the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to Nago's southeastern district of Henoko. The Mayor's approval was considered to have cleared the final obstacle towards the relocation of Futenma. It also ended a debate that has been going on for more than three years. The isssue first came up in 1996, when the US and Japan decided to move Marine air operations to other, less developed areas of Okinawa.

Henoko heliport is planned to be the upgraded version of the major Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station, which is nestled in a crowded metropolitan area on the South End of Okinawa. Futenma has long been the object of controversy, as its noise pollution and other chemical contagion have been pinpointed as major causes of health problems in the area. Schools, hospitals, and thousands of homes are located within mere yards of this highly valued Marine transportation hub and supplies outpost.

The new air station, which would replace Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, would be built over a reef that is almost 2 miles off the shores of Henoko. The environmental assessment is the first step toward making the move northward. Government officials have been working on the plan and estimate that the size of the proposed facility will be about 195 hectares. It would be 2,600 meters long and 750 meters wide. The planners considered eight different proposals on different construction methods depending on the location. The construction work is estimated to take between eight to nine years. The total cost is estimated to be from ¥200 billion to trillion.

Surveys, expected to begin in December 2003 and to take about three years, will assess the area where land is to be reclaimed and the airport construction's environmental impact.

Some environmentalists expressed fear that the airport would harm the seabed grazing grounds of an endangered saltwater manatee, the dugong. Henoko city officials said the dugongs never really were a consideration in the decision. Most of the 18 confirmed dugong sightings in Okinawa waters since 1979 were beached carcasses. And officials said they know of no sightings inside the reef where the airport will be built.

In December 1996, after 12 months of study and consultations, the governments in Tokyo and Washington and their representatives on the Special Action Committee on Okinawa produced their final report concerning the return of US military base properties on the island. The plans for the Futenma Air Station - the single most important issue for Okinawans - were not finalized.

A floating heliport was the leading option, but its location and the construction method had not been determined. The focus of the December 1996 Special Action Committee on Okinawa final report was an accord is to relocate the major military heliport now at the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station to a 1,500-meter sea-based facility off the east coast of the main island of Okinawa. It envisaged developing and constructing the facility off Camp Schwab, located in the city of Nago. But an exact location for the heliport was not specified in the report, because agreement from local residents had not been reached. In the past, such marine super floating structure had been considered and talked about many times as a touch-and-go base as the replacenent of the Atsugi Airbase as well as a candidate for the Kansai Airport. At the meeting between President Clinton and Japanese Prime Minister Hashimoto, held in New York on September 24, Clinton commented on proposed sea floating heliport as a replacement facility for the Futenma Airbase by saying, "no matter where it would be moved, it should be done in a way that the US military system would not be harmed, and it must be solved in a way that in the future the problem like that of Futenma should never be resurfaced".

The United States established a runway length requirement of about 4,200 feet for the sea-based facility. Arresting gear would be located about 1,200 feet from either end of the runway to permit carrier aircraft to land. In addition, the runway would have 328-foot overruns at each end to provide a safety margin in case a pilot overshoots the optimal landing spot during an approach and a parallel taxiway about 75 feet wide alongside the runway. Additional aircraft facilities include a drive-through rinse facility for aircraft corrosion control, an air traffic control tower, and aircraft firefighting and rescue facilities. Up to 10,000 pounds of ordnance would be stored in a magazine collocated with an ordnance assembly area aboard the sea-based facility. Also, flight simulators and security and rescue boat operations, among other capabilities, are required aboard the sea-based facility. The "DoD Operational Requirements and Concept of Operations for MCAS Futenma Relocation, Okinawa, Japan (final draft)" stated that the sea-based facilities of the new military base and all associated structure shall be designed for a 40 year operational life with a 200 year fatigue life.

The United States planned to locate the headquarters, logistics, and most operational activities aboard the sea-based facility and most quality-of-life activities, including housing, food service, and medical and dental services, ashore at Camp Schwab. US officials estimate that over 2,500 servicemembers currently stationed at MCAS Futenma would transfer to the sea-based facility and Camp Schwab. To accommodate the incoming arrivals from MCAS Futenma, Marine Corps Bases, Japan, plans to relocate about 800 to 1,000 servicemembers currently housed at Camp Schwab to Camp Hansen and absorb the remainder at Camp Schwab. US engineers estimated that about 1,900 people would work on the sea-based facility.

In August 1997 the Okinawa Prefectural Government officially accepted a central government request to conduct borings at a site off Nago on the east coast of Okinawa Island as part of a survey for a sea-based US military heliport facility. Despite strong pressure from Tokyo, local people in Nago voted against the heliport proposal in a referendum in December 1997.

By November 1997 the Japanese government was considering two methods of construction for the sea-based facility, which would be approximately 1,500 meters long and 600 meters wide. One called for a pontoon platform, protected by breakwaters, moored outside a coral reef at a point approximately 3 km from Henoko, the nearest residential area. The other entailed a platform supported by stilts sunk in the sea bottom inside the reef and about 1.5 km from Henoko. Within the reef, the water is less than 3 meters deep, while outside the reef it is 10 meters to 70 meters deep. A thir method, dubbed the "semisub" system, had been dismissed due to potentially exorbitant costs. Both methods included construction of a runway about 1,300 meters long and 45 meters wide, along with a control tower, hangers, an apron, repair facilities and warehouses. Additional residential facilities would be built at nearby Camp Schwab to accommodate some 2,500 Marines and their families.

According to the proposal, about 60 aircraft would be deployed at the sea-based facility, including UH-1 utility helicopters, AH-1 attack helicopters, and CH-53 and CH-46 cargo transport helicopters.

A March 1998 report by the General Accounting Office noted that the sea-based facility, planned to replace the Marine Corps Air Station at Futenma, faced three major technological, financial and operational challenges. Annual operations and maintenance costs for the sea-based facility were initially estimated at $200 million based on a $4-billion design and construction cost, significantly higher than the $2.8 million being paid by the United States at Futenma.

The area planned for the new base is in a natural conservation area dedignated by Okinawa Prefecture. The area, where a diverse ecosystem is maintained, such as coral reefs, tideland and sea weed grounds, is given high priority for conservation. The sea area is the northern habitable limit of dugongs, an internationally protected animal.

In June 2001 the Futenma Relocation Committee was presented with eight different designs and three different methods of construction. The conceptions were for structures either within the coral reef or beyond it. Generally the methods are based on structures connected by piers, floating pontoons or land reclamation.

The United States and Japan agreed in 2006 to move Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to another part of the island in 5 years. The new Japanese administration, however, wanted that plan put on hold. In 2006, Japan and the United States agreed to close Futenma and move its facilities to another Marine base with a heliport built on reclaimed land offshore. That agreement also called for 8,000 marines to be moved off Okinawa, to the US territory of Guam. The plan came after 15 years of negotiations, but Japan's new government wanted to reconsider it. Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and his Democratic Party of Japan won a historic election in August 2009, in part by calling for a review of that 2006 agreement. Four DPJ members from Okinawa won parliamentary seats with promises of reducing the US troop presence on the island.

A new Japanese proposal on relocating the heliport functions of the air base was made in October 2005. The heliport would be built partly within Marine Corps Camp Schwab in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, extending out into the shallow waters. This reflected a modification of Japan's proposal that it be built completely within Camp Schwab. Japan considered a revised version of the Henoko proposal with a shorter, 1,500-meter runway. Critics charged that even the shorter runway off Henoko would cause irreparable damage to the environment.

On 5 April 2013, the US Department of Defense released a Consolidation Plan for Facilities and Areas in Okinawa. The realignment described in the plan, including consolidation, of US forces within Okinawa was a significant effort by the US and Japanese Governments, which recognized the importance of enhancing Japanese and US public support for the security alliance, which contributed to a sustainable presence of US forces at facilities and areas in Japan as stated in "U.S.-Japan Alliance: Transformation and Realignment for the Future," a document of the Security Consultative Committee (SCC), dated 29 October 2005. When implemented, the realignment would ensure a life-of-the-Alliance presence for US forces in Japan as stated in "United States-Japan Roadmap for Realignment Implementation," also known as the Realignment Roadmap, another SCC document, dated 1 May 2006. The realignment would also maintain deterrence and mitigate the impact of US forces on local communities. In order to realize the realignment, the US and Japanese Governments developed and would implement the consolidation plan.

In a SCC Joint Statement on 27 April 2012, the US and Japanese Governments confirmed that the total or partial return of the 6 facilities and areas designated in the Realignment Roadmap remained unchanged and that the land of aforementioned facilities and areas utilized by US forces were eligible for return under the Consolidation Plan in 3 categories: 1) Areas eligible for immediate return upon completion of necessary procedures; 2) Areas eligible for return once the replacement facilities in Okinawa were provided; and, 3) Areas eligible for return as US Marine Corps forces relocate from Okinawa to locations outside of Japan. MCAS Futenma, a significant point of contention, was included in the second category. The total area designated for return was approximately 481 hectares. To prepare for the land return, Marine Corps airfield related facilities would have to be relocated to Camp Schwab; Marine Corps aviation unit and command function, and related facilities would have to be relocated to Camp Schwab; facility improvements for contingency use of the Japan Air Self Defense Force's Nyutabaru and Tsuiki Air Bases related to the replacement of MCAS Futenma capabilities would have to be implemented as necessary; improved contingency use of civilian facilities for long runway operations that cannot be replicated at the Futenma Replacement Facility (FRF) would have to be taken into account; measures would have to be taken to avoid creation of traffic congestion and related irritants that might otherwise detract from the quality of life of local residents; necessary adjustments would have to be made to adjacent water surface areas; the facility would have to remain fully operationally capable; and the Marine Corps KC-130 squadron would have to be relocated to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni. It was said that MCAS Futenma could be returned upon completion of conditions and necessary procedures for return in JFY2022 or later.

On 3 October 2013, a Joint Statement by the US-Japan Security Consultative Committee (SCC) noted that US and Japanese Ministers confirmed that the plan to construct the FRF at Camp Schwab-Henokosaki area and adjacent waters was the only solution that addressed operational, political, financial, and strategic concerns and avoided the continued use of MCAS Futenma. The SCC members reaffirmed the strong commitment of both Governments to the plan and underscored their determination to achieve its completion, which would permit the long-desired return of MCAS Futenma to Japan. The United States welcomed recent developments including the submission of the request for approval of public water reclamation permit to Okinawa Prefecture by the Government of Japan in March 2013.

On December 27, 2013 the governor of the southern Japanese island of Okinawa approved the relocation of a U.S. Marine Corps air station to reclaimed land along the coast, but said he will continue pressing to have the base moved completely off the island. Governor Hirokazu Nakaima approved the Japanese Defense Ministry's application to reclaim land for a new military base on Okinawa's coast. It would replace the U.S. Marine Corps base in Futenma, a more congested part of Okinawa's main island. However, the governor told a news conference later in the day that he still believed the quickest way to move Futenma troops would be to locate the base to some existing facility with runways outside Okinawa. Nakaima vowed during his campaign for office to have the U.S. base removed from the island. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe persuaded Nakaima to approve the move in a meeting December 25, 2013. As part of the agreement, the central government will provide increased financial assistance to the island.

Governor Nakaima, who was reelected in 2010 based on his campaign pledge to have any alternative base facility moved outside the Prefecture, approved land reclamation, which presupposes relocation of the facility within Okinawa Prefecture, in 2013. Governor Onaga pledged in his gubernatorial campaign not to allow construction of a base at Henoko and defeated former governor Nakaima in 2014.

On 22 March 2015 Okinawa’s governor ordered a halt to an underwater survey needed for reclamation of land for a new $8.6-billion base, which would host US troops after the Futenma facility on the island is closed. Takeshi Onaga was delivering on a promise he made to voters to oppose the construction, after his election in November 2014. At a media conference, he announced that defense ministry contractors had to stop the survey withing one week due to the damage it was causing to corral reefs, saying that failure to do so would force him to revoke approval for drilling operations given by his predecessor in December 2012.

In response, Japan's Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said the drilling survey was being conducted under appropriate procedures, that consultations had been held previously on the destruction of reefs between Okinawa Prefecture and the Defense Ministry and that, as a result, the prefecture had told the government permission for destruction was not necessary. Defense Minister Nakatani said that the reclamation work would continue.

On October 13, 2015 the governor of Okinawa followed through with a promise to revoke permits for construction of the new US air base on the island, setting up a possible legal showdown with the central government in Tokyo. Takeshi Onaga announced the move a month after he said his government would take the action after discovering "defects" in the original permits issued by his predecessor. Onaga was elected late in 2014 on a campaign pledge to block the relocation of the US Marine Corps' Futenma Air Base from a heavily populated area of Okinawa to a less-developed area named Henoko.

Japan's central government and Okinawa Prefecture reached a settlement on 04 March 2016 in the legal battle over the relocation of a US base within the southern prefecture. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told related Cabinet ministers of his decision to accept a new court proposal to settle the case over the reclamation work at Henoko in Nago City.

The government has said that the landfill work is needed to build a facility to replace the US Marine Corps Futenma air station, which was located in a densely populated area of Ginowan City. The court proposal required the two parties to drop the 3 lawsuits they filed against each other over the issue. It also calls on the central government to suspend the reclamation work and then instruct Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga to cancel his revocation of a reclamation permit that was issued by his predecessor.

The proposal also said the prefecture should file a new suit against the central government's instruction if the prefecture has an objection. But it says both parties are supposed to follow a ruling in the case.

On 31 August 2018 the Okinawa prefectural government revoked a landfill permit for a new US Marine Corps base in a coastal area of Nago City. The move is aimed at blocking reclamation work by the central government. The land was being reclaimed to relocate the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Ginowan City to the less-populated Henoko district. The prefectural government notified the Defense Ministry's regional bureau of the revocation. The prefecture said it decided to revoke the permit to respect the wishes of former Okinawa governor Takeshi Onaga, who died of cancer on August 8th.

Okinawa's Vice Governor Kiichiro Jahana told reporters that measures by the central government to protect coral and an endangered species were problematic. He said that after the permit was issued, the prefecture discovered that the site will not be able to adequately support seawalls.

The prefectural government had planned to revoke the permit before August 17th, the scheduled starting date for putting soil and sand inside seawalls at the site. But the move was delayed following Onaga's death and postponement of the landfill work.

The central government apparently wanted to resume the reclamation soon after Okinawa's gubernatorial election on September 30th. It is expected to ask courts to nullify the prefecture's revocation of the permit. Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said the government has carried out the reclamation work paying the utmost attention to the nature and people's living environment. He said the prefecture's move is deeply regrettable because many people have made efforts to remove the danger posed by the Futenma base. He then said the ministry's Okinawa bureau will take a close look at the reason for revocation and take legal steps, adding that the central government will consider various factors before deciding on its action.

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Page last modified: 07-09-2018 07:18:24 ZULU