The U.S. military will decide on the request to extend the review period for a draft environmental impact statement on military exercises in the CNMI by May.
Gov. Eloy S. Inos and members of the Legislature have asked the military top brass for a six-month extension of the review period instead of the military’s prescribed 45 days.
Rep. Angel Demapan (R-Saipan) said Craig Whelden, executive director of Marine Forces Pacific, acknowledged the request letter and has replied.
“Mr. Whelden has informed [me] that [the military] will hold off on making a decision regarding extending the comment period until after they have received input for the public hearings scheduled for next week. He noted that a decision may be forthcoming in the first or second week of May,” Demapan said.
The CNMI government requested for an extension of the draft EIS review to buy some time to review the document. It has also decided that experts outside the Commonwealth will be needed for the review.
The proposed funding for a review of a draft EIS on proposed U.S. military activities has reached $400,000.
This, after members of the Tinian and Aguigan Legislative Delegation adopted a resolution on Tuesday allocating $50,000 to the office of Tinian Mayor Joey San Nicolas to fund a review of the draft EIS for his municipality.
Earlier, Sen. Sixto Igisomar (R-Saipan) said the Senate is working on a $75,000 funding for Northern Islands Mayor Jerome Aldan for the same purpose.
Igisomar said he and his colleagues are looking at hiring an expert from Guam to conduct the review.
The proposed funding for Tinian and the Northern Islands is separate from a $275,000 federal funding for the Inos administration that will come from the Department of the Interior, through the Office of Insular Affairs.
The Inos administration has already issued a request for proposals for a third party consultant—with advisory functions—to analyze the draft EIS.
It is unclear if there will be a coordinated review of the draft EIS between the Governor’s Office and the mayors of Tinian and the Northern Islands.
One of the primary goals of the advisory consultant is to also “ensure that the Office of the Governor is well versed on the relevance of the DEIS and has a comprehensive understanding and appreciation of how the Department of Defense proposed action impacts the CNMI, including the direct and indirect impacts, especially those that are less obvious and potentially harmful over the long term operation of live-firing (high explosives) training ranges.”
The advisory consultant is also expected to ensure and enable the Office of the Governor “to make informed decisions on behalf of the CNMI.”
The consultant is expected to provide a “reasonable analysis” of the draft EIS and provide counsel and recommendations.
“We understand this is a complex and lengthy document that requires expert review. With this RFP, we are reaching out to potential experts in this technical field,” Inos, in a statement said.
The government has set May 6 as the deadline for anyone to respond to the RFP. It has also put up advertisements for the RFPs on April 17 and April 24.