Landfill work and construction of an embankment proceed off the Henoko district of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, on March 12. (The Asahi Shimbun)

NAGO, Okinawa Prefecture--Landfill work for a new U.S. air station here continued on March 14, the three-month anniversary of the project, despite a prefectural referendum that delivered a resounding “no” to the plan.

About one-third of a 6.3-hectare portion of the planned site for the new base has now been reclaimed off the Henoko district of Nago.

The new U.S. military facility will take over the functions of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, also in Okinawa Prefecture.

Under a 1996 Japan-U.S. agreement, the Futenma station will close, and the land on which is stands will be returned to Japan.

However, the agreement also said the functions of Futenma will be relocated elsewhere in the prefecture. Okinawa residents and politicians have long demanded the Futenma functions be moved outside of their prefecture.

In the Feb. 24 referendum, 72 percent of voters opposed the landfill project off Nago.

Although Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would take the outcome of the referendum seriously, landfill work has never been suspended even for a single day since the first loads of dirt and sand were dumped into the water three months ago.

On March 4, the government went ahead with construction of a new embankment to prepare for a future landfill work.

Reclamation is also expected to begin in a 33-hectare segment neighboring the 6.3-hectare portion as early as March 25. That will allow the government to reclaim the southern part of the entire 160-hectare area.

However, landfill work on the northern side is expected to pose a challenge.

The government acknowledged that soft ground exists on an expansive area there, and reclamation will take more time to complete than initially expected.