U.S. Military Invites CNMI Leaders To See Hawaii Live Fire Ranges

Leaders interested in seeing impacts of training similar to that proposed for Tinian

By Dennis B. Chan

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, August 12, 2016) – Tinian lawmakers say they want to see real time use of the kinds of heavy artillery and firearms proposed for their small island of Tinian, in an upcoming trip to U.S. military training ranges in Hawaii.

U.S. Pacific Command has invited Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, the Tinian leadership, and the board directors of the Commonwealth Ports Authority for a tour of firing ranges in Hawaii, from Aug. 16 to Aug 20, according to the Office of the Governor yesterday.

Torres’ spokesperson Ivan Blanco said PACOM’s Lt. Gen. Anthony Crutchfield, the single point of contact for proposed U.S. Department of Defense projects in the CNMI, extended the invite to Torres and the CNMI officials.

Sen. Jude Hofschneider (R-Tinian) described the trip as a site visit and acknowledges they want a clear demonstration of the kind of guns the U.S. military proposes to fire on Tinian and see the clearance measures for these, for example, when they visit Hawaii.

“It’ll be good,” Hofschneider told Saipan Tribune in an interview yesterday. “This will be a trip to share potentially what they plan.”

According to environmental impact records on the proposed Tinian project, the military desires to house four range complexes on Tinian inclusive of grenade, tank, pistol, and mortar activity. The project comes with roads, fuel pipelines and tanks, and wastewater facilities, among others, for this training.

Rep. Edwin Aldan (R-Tinian) said the trip is to see what the military plans to use“…The fire arms, the small fire arms, and artillery that they are going to explode on Tinian, that they are going to use during the trainings,” he said. “We want to see actual live-firing scenarios, that’s the trip.”

“We want to make sure,” he went on to say, “we know what we’re dealing with when they start doing these things…That’s what we want to know, how powerful, how the impact [is] on the surroundings and the environment.”

He stressed concern about the noise pollution of the weaponry, saying that on Tinian, “you have an airport, a village five to six miles away” from the proposed ranges.

Recently, groups from the CNMI and the environmental group, Earthjustice, filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the Department of the Navy’s decision to station permanently thousands of U.S. Marines in Guam and to conduct live-fire training for those Marines on Tinian and Pagan.

The groups allege the military violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to consider in their Environmental Impact Statement the overall cumulative impact of relocating Marines to Guam and the live-fire range construction and operations on Tinian and Pagan; that the Navy refused to give detailed consideration in its Final EIS or Supplemental EIS to any alternate location outside the Mariana Islands to station or train the Marines relocated from Okinawa, among other allegations.

The Tinian Women’s Association, Guardians of Gani, PaganWatch, and Center for Biological Diversity, are suing the U.S. Department of Navy, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, U.S. Department of Defense, and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

The groups say the proposed military training on Tinian would cause damage that would drive the residents out of Tinian; would cause devastating noise, pollution and health risks as well as loss of native species, loss of agricultural land, damage to coral reefs and other marine resources, loss of traditional fishing areas and lost productivity of traditional fisheries, loss and damage of access to cultural and historical resources; and harm to the tourism industry that is vital to the economy.

Aldan, for his part, says this has always been the position of the Tinian leadership. “The lawsuit of Tinian Women’s Association—I am in support of that,” he said.

“The NEPA studies were not done right. A lot of those were fast-tracked. Not enough studies were done for that report,” he said.

Saipan Tribune
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