MILITARY EXERCISES RAISE CONCERN IN MARIANAS

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By Agnes Donato

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Dec. 27) – Lawmakers have raised concern about the environmental impact of military exercises on one of the islands north of Saipan.

Representatives Ray N. Yumul and Stanley T. Torres recently wrote a joint letter to the U.S. Naval Forces Marianas to express concern about the continued use of Farallon de Mendinilla as a live fire bombing range.

They said they were concerned the island had lost a significant amount of land mass due to the bombing exercises.

"[We are] requesting that you should immediately stop all live fire exercises on FDM until a thorough analysis is conducted," Yumul and Torres told Rear Admiral William D. French, commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Marianas.

Farallon de Mendinilla has been used a live fire range since 1976, pursuant to a lease agreement between the U.S. and CNMI governments. The lease is for 50 years with a possible 50-year extension.

The pair noted that under the terms of the Covenant, the CNMI had leased approximately 83 hectares. Based on "certain" government reports, the land mass is now evaluated as being only 72 hectares. The lawmakers did not specify the government reports they cited.

"[We are] gravely concerned that because of a prior lawsuit against the continued use of FDM as live fire bombing range resulted in a limited use of the area to prevent the loss of migratory birds, this has resulted in the destruction of one-fourth of the island's lass mass which is where the concentration of live fire is now conducted. How then does the Department of Defense through the Department of the Navy and Air Force plan to mitigate the permanent loss of land mass to FDM when the lease expires to the CNMI?" Yumul and Torres asked.

They asked the Navy to provide the CNMI Legislature all FDM-related data prepared since 1976, including aerial photos taken of the island and annual assessments done by and for the Navy.

They also asked for copies of annual reports on the total number and types of ordnances that have been dropped or fired upon FDM since 1976.

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