The central government plans to launch new seawall work off the coast of the Henoko district in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, as early as September, as part of efforts to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station there from Ginowan in the prefecture.
Seawall construction is in preparation for pouring earth and sand into the water to reclaim the area, an activity the government plans to start around summer next year. The government claims that seawall work in the planned area does not require the approval of Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga, who opposes the relocation.
The government first started seawall work in the northern area of the reclamation site in late April. In July, it suspended the work because of the possibility that it would damage coral in the northern area of the site where there is a large number of coral reefs, according to a senior Defense Ministry official.
In order to resume the seawall work in the area, the central government must obtain special approval for collecting coral from the Okinawa governor and then transplant rare coral from the reclamation site for the purpose of environmental protection, as based on the prefecture’s fishing adjustment regulations.
However, as Onaga indicated that he would prevent the resumption of the seawall work by withholding approval, the government decided to prioritize seawall work in the southwestern area of the reclamation site where there are fewer coral reefs to evade the governor’s authority concerning coral.
Main construction work on the replacement facility for Futenma Air Station — seawall construction, dredging and land reclamation — is expected to take about five years. Even if all work goes as planned, the central government must be ready to overcome issues involving the governor’s authority at any stage, and is considering measures for this.
Meanwhile, at a plenary session Friday, the Okinawa prefectural assembly passed a bill to file a new lawsuit against the central government demanding that relocation work be halted. The prefecture plans to bring the case to the Naha District Court by the end of this month, after which Tokyo and Okinawa will again enter a court battle.