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3.3 million rounds of ammo to be fired annually on Tinian

By Gemma Q. Casas SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Feb. 19, 2010) – In the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), local lawmakers are raising concerns about the U.S. military’s plan to discharge about 3.3 million rounds of ammunition on Tinian every year as part of the Marines’ regular drills.

Senate President Paul A. Manglona, Ind.-Rota, and Speaker Froilan C. Tenorio, Covenant-Saipan, are also concerned about the impact of constant air exercises within the CNMI’s air space.

They submitted yesterday their joint official comments on the Guam and CNMI Military Relocation Draft Environmental Impact Statement, or DEIS.

"The CNMI Legislature generally supports the military relocation into the region, and the use of Tinian as a training area for the United States Marine Corps. However, the CNMI Legislature believes that many negative socio-economic impacts will be associated with the proposed action and recommends that concrete measures…be in place to mitigate the impacts to the people of the CNMI," Manglona and Tenorio said.

"The CNMI Legislature desires to engage in an open dialogue with the Department of Navy and the Joint Guam Program Office regarding all military matters affecting the CNMI especially Tinian in particular," they added.

The military expects to use 3.280 million rounds of ammunition annually on Tinian or over 273,000 a month, not counting those that will be used from other exercises involving other military units.

Manglona and Tenorio said the military should contract the removal of all expended lead from the firing to local contractors.

The two also asked that Tinian be equipped with every possible protection available against invasive species like brown tree snakes that may be introduced to the island from military activities.

"Serious agricultural pests exist on Guam that might be introduced to Tinian. U.S. Wildlife Services is predicting that [the] exercises may be bringing troops from Asia. Because the brown tree snake, the coconut rhinoceros beetle and other invasive species do not now exist on Tinian, every aircraft landing on Tinian must be inspected by a CNMI quarantine inspector, who has been [federally] trained and certified," the two said.

They also raised concern about the economic impact of the military’s training on Tinian’s tourism industry.

They said the training will require the closure of Broadway, the main highway leading to the northern part of the island, where many tourists and cultural attractions are located.

They said there was no offer from the military for any mitigation for its activities that impact Tinian’s tourism industry.

No mitigation was also offered to farmers and grazers that have been using military lease area for decades to farm for their subsistence.

Manglona and Tenorio also asked the military to work closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) about possible aerial military activities within Tinian.

The FAA had suggested that the military provide Saipan or Tinian a radar equipment because its aviation tools and that of Guam’s radar cannot detect all inbound and outbound aircraft below 4,000 feet.

"Private and commercial aircraft regularly fly over Tinian, particularly over the military land lease in order to land on Tinian and Saipan. The FAA raised concerns regarding the firing range and the air space surrounding the area," the lawmakers said.

"According to the DEIS…the FAA will not require the establishment of Special Use Airspace (SUA) over the proposed training area. However, in recent meetings with the Legislature, the FAA has raised serious concerns about the likely need to designate the area as SUA. This would have a profound and negative impact on commercial aircraft operating in and around Saipan and Tinian," they added.

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