Govt airs concerns on military’s draft EIS

Government officials met with representatives of the military to discuss the draft environmental impact statement on proposed military activities on Tinian and Pagan.

The closed-door meeting early Wednesday was attended by Gov. Eloy S. Inos and Lt. Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres, along with heads of the Department of Public Lands, Department of Lands and Natural Resources, Historic Preservation Office, Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality, and Senate President Victor Hocog (Ind-Rota), among others.

A statement from the Office of the Lt. Governor said the meeting provided members of the administration an opportunity to address the CJMT staff who led the drafting and coordination of the CJMT DEIS/OEIS.

Members of the administration raised key points during the discussion, including the unconstrained training concept that states that 45 weeks of live-fire training is being considered by the DEIS/OEIS for the island of Tinian and 40 weeks on Pagan; the desire for the military to acquire the entire island of Pagan for training activity; the rights of the residents of the island of Pagan to resettle on their homeland; the use of public lands and ground water on Tinian; and the significant impact to airspace use at both the Saipan and Tinian airports.

The statement further said a crucial discussion point centered on the Covenant agreement made 38 years ago in which the people of the Northern Mariana Islands entered into a political relationship with the U.S. with the presumption that the U.S. military would not seek to acquire additional interest in real property beyond two-thirds of Tinian and Farallon de Mendenilla.

Members of the administration stressed the desire for the rights of the people of Tinian and the Northern Islands to be adequately cared for, the statement said.

The EIS team, led by CJMT-EIS project manager Sherri Eng and Tim Robert, the CNMI Joint Military Training-EIS project team leader, met with lawmakers on Tuesday to discuss the draft EIS.

Lawmakers raised almost the same concerns, particularly land use and leasing for Pagan.

A 30-day review period of the draft EIS has been opened to the public. Comments will then be heard in separate hearings on April 29 on Saipan, April 30 on Tinian, and again on Saipan on May 1.

Lawmakers also said there might be a need for an outside expert to study the EIS as well as more time for the public to read and review the 1,000-page document.

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Joel D. Pinaroc | Reporter
Joel Pinaroc worked for a number of newspapers in the Philippines before joining the editorial team of Saipan Tribune. His published articles include stories on information technology, travel and lifestyle, and motoring, among others. Contact him at joel_pinaroc@saipantribune.com.

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