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Private meetings to discuss massive buildup

By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, July 30, 2008) – Representatives of the Joint Guam Program (JGPO) Office held yesterday a closed-door meeting with federal and local environmental regulatory agencies about the military buildup project on Guam and the Northern Marianas.

The group is scheduled to visit Tinian tomorrow.

[PIR editor’s note: Tinian is one of the three principal islands of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. It is perhaps best known for being the base from which the American atomic bomb attacks on Japan during World War II were launched. There have been prior petitions for the use of Tinian by the military. Tinian is about 5 miles southwest of its sister island, Saipan, and has a land area of 39 sq.mi.]

Two-thirds of public lands on the island are leased to the military up to 2028.

The visiting JGPO delegates are scheduled to visit Tinian’s San Jose village, the proposed site of the Pulan Casino and Golf Beach Resorts, the island’s dumpsite, the harbor and power plant, several beaches, the Carolinas Lookout Point, the project site of the Tinian Oceanview Resort & Casino and Condominium, the atomic bomb pits and Suicide Cliff.

They will also make a brief stopover at different tourist and World War II sites as well as drive by the Voice of America station.

Lisa Fiedler, environmental director of the JGPO Forward, which is under the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, told Variety this is their fifth partnering meeting for the CNMI.

The meeting was held yesterday at the Fiesta Resort & Spa in Garapan.

"We discussed upcoming plans. People provided inputs in terms of issues and their concerns and we’re doing environmental assessments of the work that we plan on doing on the military buildup," she said.

"So we have folks that are from federal agencies, local agencies, people from the military, people from Guam like me, who live on Guam and visit CNMI frequently, and also people from Washington, D.C. So we represent all sorts of interests. We’re getting concerns from our regulatory partners," she added.

Concerns from the public have been gathered months ago through a series of scoping meetings held in the CNMI and Guam.

Fiedler said more than a thousand comments were received, mostly concerns about the socio-economic impact of the military buildup.

She said they want to hear from concerned regulatory agencies how the project could be accomplished without sacrificing public concerns.

Another series of scoping meetings is scheduled to be held on Saipan, Tinian and Rota within the year or before the master plan for the CNMI’s military project is completed.

More than 12,000 U.S. Marines from several U.S. bases in Okinawa, Japan are scheduled to be relocated to Guam from 2012.

Authorities are aiming to begin in 2010 the construction phase of additional infrastructure and facilities that will accommodate the Marines and their families who will be relocated to the U.S. territory.

Northern Marianas expect a spillover of military activities from the relocation project, believed to be the largest since the Vietnam War.

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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