Military proposes leasing entire island of Pagan
Under the two proposed alternatives for Pagan, the U.S. military is proposing to lease the entire island of Pagan, according to the draft CNMI Joint Military Training Plan-Environmental Impact Statement/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement.
Since there aren’t any current federal lands or privately owned lands on Pagan, “the federal government would seek to acquire a real estate interest for the entire island of Pagan (approximately 11,794 acres or 4,773 hectares) from the CNMI government,” the document states. “This would result in a substantial increase of acreage under federal jurisdictional control. Therefore, implementation of Pagan Alternative 1 would result in a significant impact to land use with regard to changes in jurisdictional control.”
When asked about the proposed acquisition of Pagan, Lt. Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said there were discussions about the subject.
“But in terms of value and so forth, that is not on the table at all. I understand that is one that they are looking into,” he said, adding that there hasn’t been any detailed proposal yet.
In a separate interview, Northern Islands Mayor Jerome Aldan said his position on Pagan remains as far as live-fire training or bombing on the island in concerned. He said he wants the people of the Northern Islands to resettle Pagan.
Aldan said he would be sending a letter to call for a separate public hearing with the people of the Northern Islands.
“I urge people—aside from those from the Northern Islands—but also the CNMI as a whole to be present at all public hearings and say something about this,” he said.
The military views Pagan as a remote, difficult-to-reach island with no infrastructure or usable docking facilities, despite the establishment of homesteads in accordance with the CNMI Constitution and implementing statutes that had been approved.
However, due to lack of funding, no deeds have been given. The U.S government controls no land on Pagan. The CNMI Department of Public Lands is mandated to manage the land for “economic development and the benefit of the indigenous population.”
The military also views Pagan as uninhabited per the latest U.S Census.
The military proposes training within the High Hazard Impact Area under alternative 1, but this would not be compatible with the existing conservation land use. Therefore, alternative 1 operations would result in a significant impact to the conservation land use.
The CNMI Public Land Use Plan was prepared after the evacuation of Pagan when there was no permanent population present. This was prepared in 1989. In 2013 DPL created a five-year land use plan for Pagan, but has not selected any of the three potential land use plan options.
CJMT hearing on Capital Hill
On April 8, 2015, members of the 19th Legislature, some government officials, and the Administration met with the CJMT Technical Committee for a briefing on the CJMT.
This provided the opportunity for CNMI government to address CJMT staff who led the drafting and coordination of the CJMT EIS/OEIS. Several key points were raised, one that included the Pagan being acquired.
A discussion on the acquiring of Pagan cited the Covenant agreement that the CNMI government hammered out with the U.S. government, 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 Medinilla.
Article 8 under the CNMI Covenant, in summary, says that all right, title, and interest of the Government of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in and to real property in the NMI will be transferred to NMI upon the termination of the Trusteeship Agreement.
Section 802 states that the U.S will carry out its defense responsibilities by leasing two-thirds of Tinian, 177 acres on Saipan (Tanapag Harbor), FDM (the entire island), and waters adjacent.