Core Tech International is “gaming” the system meant to benefit ancestral landowners, according to the Guam Waterworks Authority, which is seeking permission to bring an ongoing land dispute with Core Tech to the Supreme Court of Guam.
According to GWA, if Core Tech wins its case, GWA and its customers could be required to pay Core Tech as much as $220 million.
Superior Court of Guam Judge Elyze Iriarte last November ruled that Core Tech has an ownership interest in Dededo ancestral land that since 1980 has been used to operate GWA’s Northern District Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Iriarte’s ruling is incorrect, according to GWA, which last Friday told Iriarte that Core Tech got the land “through a series of questionable transfers.” Guam law prohibits the transfer of the wastewater plant to private owners, according to GWA.
Although GWA has petitioned the Supreme Court to decide the question of land ownership, Iriarte has not yet agreed to pause the ongoing Superior Court case to allow GWA to appeal.
She instructed Core Tech and GWA to file additional briefs, arguing for or against a pause, and GWA filed its final brief Friday.
According to GWA, Iriarte’s decision that Core Tech owns the wastewater plant site, “has stifled GWA’s ability to effectively negotiate a consent decree with the U.S. EPA regarding necessary upgrades to the Hagåtña wastewater treatment plant and the (Northern District Wastewater Treatment Plant).”
If those negotiations fail, GWA could face millions of dollars in fines which would be a “significant burden” on ratepayers and put GWA at risk of federal receivership, GWA stated.
Core Tech earlier this month objected to a pause, stating it is in the public interest for the court to protect the rights of landowners. If GWA loses in Superior Court and a judgment is issued, it can appeal then, according to Core Tech.
According to Core Tech, GWA failed to assert interest in the property when it was transferred from the government to private ownership. It sued GWA for alleged inverse condemnation, which is when the government takes private property without paying for it.
The wastewater site is on ancestral land — part of a former Air Force communications annex which the federal government later declared excess and returned to the government of Guam. The military, when it owned the property, leased it to GovGuam for use as a wastewater plant.
The Guam Ancestral Lands Commission deeded 257 acres of excess federal land to the estate of Jose Martinez Torres, including part of the communications annex.
The Torres estate in September 2007 sold 252 acres of its ancestral land to Kil Yoo Yoon for $21.4 million. Yoon in January 2010 deeded the land to his company, Younex Enterprises Corporation.
Core Tech acquired the property in May 2015, for $178.1 million, after Younex defaulted on its mortgage with Core Tech, documents state.
GWA on Friday told the court the land’s former owner, Yoon, in 2008 recorded a map which states the wastewater plant was “not returned to owner.”
“Despite this clear exclusion of the (wastewater plant) on the … map,” Yoon deeded the wastewater treatment lot to his company through a warranty deed, GWA stated.
“This warranty deed from Yoon essentially to himself is the first time the (wastewater plant) was ever purportedly transferred to any private party and serves as the sole basis for Core Tech’s claims of ownership,” GWA stated.
According to GWA, pausing the Superior Court case, “will result in no harm to Core Tech whatsoever.”