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By Lindablue F. Romero

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (October 13, 1998 - Saipan Tribune)--- Negotiations between the U.S. Navy and the CNMI government over expansion of West Tinian Airport may be further delayed with the appointment of a new Commander for the U.S. Naval Forces in the Marianas.

With the turnover of command to Rear Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, however, the Commonwealth Ports Authority remains optimistic that the U.S. Department of Defense, which owns the property, will give the go-ahead signal to the project.

Carlos H. Salas, executive director, said the ports authority is seeking an additional 15,000 acres of land for the expansion of West Tinian Airport. Of this, 500 acres will be used for the airport terminal and runway modernization, with 900 acres for mitigation and conservation.

Lt. Gov. Jesus R. Sablan had sent a letter to Rear Adm. Martin E. Janczak, former Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Navy in the Marianas, but even before talks could push plans forward, a new Navy head had been appointed.

CPA officials are working closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife to mitigate the impact of the planned construction of Tinian Airport, although results of the environmental assessment show that the project will not have any adverse effect on the area.

The ports authority will begin the interim West Tinian Airport terminal expansion this month after a Chinese firm, Checo Corp., won the bidding for the project.

CPA has set aside some $350,000 for the project, which covers the expansion of the arrival area to accommodate immigration/customs counters, four ticketing counters, a security screening area and a covered walkway.

The Federal Aviation Administration has also provided a $3.8 million funding for the first phase of expansion of Tinian runway covering some 1,000 feet.

The total project cost of the runway expansion is $20.2 million, while construction of a terminal building with a jetway will be extended from 5,600 feet to 8,600 feet to accommodate a B747.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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