U.S. Military To Revise CNMI Live Fire Training Review

admin's picture

Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Addressing 30,000 comments, DoD hopes to complete process by 2018

By Dennis B. Chan

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Feb. 19, 2016) – The Department of Defense expects to close an environmental review process for training on the islands of Tinian and Pagan by 2018, and eyes a release of revised training plans and impact studies in March of next year, according to a statement from Joint Region Marianas yesterday.

Military planners have focused, since a formal comment period closed last October, on nearly 30,000 comments from private citizens and U.S. federal and CNMI agencies on the proposed expansion of military training activities on Tinian and Pagan.

The Department of the Navy in October ordered a new round of studies on the heels of concerns from local and federal agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"Given the amount of feedback from the community, it became clear early in the planning process that we needed to revise this study," said U.S. Pacific Command Deputy commander Gen. Anthony Crutchfield in the statement yesterday.

"Only through a revised EIS would we be able to address concerns from CNMI leadership and agencies for the best possible alternative," he said.

The Marine Corps Force Pacific, under the Navy, disclosed this month they had completed their studies on the Tinian groundwater aquifer, studies found lacking in the original environmental impact documents.

Jim Keany, director of Environmental Science Associates, told Saipan Tribune in an email that "robust" studies are "needed considering there are human health issues." ESA is consultant to the CNMI government on the military plans.

"In the time since comments were received by the Navy and now," Keany said, "there has hardly been time to read the comments and come up with a detailed study plan."

According to Keany, these robust studies would:

The EPA, for their part, said in October that the highly permeable Marianas limestone, which underlies most of the military project area on Tinian and "creates high susceptibility to contamination, was not fully considered in the Navy’s earlier studies.

The EPA withheld a rating of the military plans until further studies were done.

‘Remain cognizant’

The administration of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said, in statement yesterday, that they are "genuinely pleased" that the Navy will listen to concerns from "our own people" and agencies.

"We remain cognizant that any military project on our islands may represent a threat to our economy, particularly, our tourism industry, which is driven by our environment and the natural beauty of these islands," the Torres administration said. "We look forward to continued and constructive dialogue with the Navy and are hopeful they reconsider their proposal."

Defense leaders are expected to sign a "Record of Decision," to close the formal environmental review process, in 2018, according to the JRM statement.

Another round of public comment and meetings will follow the release of the draft studies in March 2017.

The "public’s input will significantly contribute to the refinement of the proposed activities," said Joint Region Marianas in its statement.

Military decision makers will also "consider all alternatives and their impacts before declaring a preferred alternative," they said.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment