December 14, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo
December 14 marks one year from the day that the government started dumping soil into the bay for the new base construction in Henoko, Nago.
In the past year, roughly 1% of the total soil required for the land reclamation project has been filled in. Going forward, it will be necessary to reinforce the weak seafloor on the Oura Bay side where land reclamation has yet to take place, and there is no doubt that the construction period will be extended and construction costs will rise.
Six years have passed since the national government got permission from the prefectural government to carry out the land reclamation, but the national government has yet to indicate a clear forecast for the expected construction costs and construction period.
Presently, soil is being dumped in two relatively shallow sections off the coast on the Henoko Bay side.
According to the Ministry of Defense, as of the end of November, the section (roughly 6.3 hectares) for which reclamation was started last December is 70% complete, and the adjacent section (roughly 33 hectares) for which reclamation was started in March of this year is 10% complete.
The area on the Oura Bay side, which is deeper, has yet to be filled in, and simple calculation based on the total amount of space to be reclaimed (roughly 20 million cubic meters) indicates that roughly 1% of the reclamation has been completed.
According to the Okinawa Defense Bureau, around 147.1 billion yen has already been injected into the relocation project.
Relative to the figure of (according to then-Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera) “a minimum of” 350 billion yen set forth by the national government in 2014, around 40% of the budget has already been spent.
The prefectural government estimates, based on cases of reclamation works and ground improvement works in other prefectures, that the total construction cost, including seafloor reinforcement, will be 2.55 trillion yen.
In September 2019, the Ministry of Defense established a “Technical Investigation Committee” of experts to discuss reinforcement work on the weak seafloor.
Based on the committee’s deliberation, the national government expects to submit to the prefectural government an application for revised designs including the reinforcement work in the new year.
(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)