Residents' sentiments would help the U.S. Air Force in making a final decision in designating either the Saipan airport or the Tinian airport as a divert or contingency airfield in support of expanding the Air Force's mission requirements in the western Pacific in the event that access to Guam's Andersen Air Force Base is limited or denied.
Saipan is the “preferred Alternative 1,” while Tinian is the “preferred Alternative 2.”
The administration reiterated yesterday that Gov. Benigno R. Fitial “still prefers that the Air Force use Tinian,” press secretary Angel Demapan said.
Senate President Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota), who offered Rota airport in his formal comment last year, said yesterday the final decision rests with the Air Force although he welcomes designating any of the CNMI islands.
“But if the people of Tinian, for example, want to make it clear to the Air Force that they want to see more military activities on their island, the Air Force will consider that. In the same manner, if Saipan residents voice out that they want the divert airfield here, then that would also be considered. So it's important that residents participate in the public hearings or submit written comments. Our leverage is people's sentiments,” Manglona told reporters yesterday.
The Air Force considered four airports: Guam, Rota, Tinian, and Saipan. But Guam and Rota were dropped because they do not meet the selection standard for “storm radius.”
The following selection standards were developed for the divert airfield: Be located in a U.S. territory; not be located within the average diameter of the eye of a typhoon having damaging winds affecting Andersen Air Force Base (storm radius); provide existing land and infrastructure with expansion capabilities; be located within the Mariana Islands Range Complex training area; and provide existing fuel-receiving capabilities at the port of debarkation.
Unlike Saipan which met all the five, Tinian met only four because it lacks access to fuel vessels.
A Tinian official said having the divert airfield on Tinian is very important for two reasons: First and foremost, the technical agreement to the Covenant virtually guarantees that all future military development in the CNMI will take place on Tinian leased lands; and second, this development will drive forward the development of the Tinian West Field airport as a true international airport.”
“It is most important that our people attend the scoping meeting and speak their piece,” the Tinian official said.
The community outreach sessions is from June 23, Saturday, to June 27, Wednesday.
Outreach sessions in Koblerville and Dandan have been scheduled as those two communities will have the most direct impact from noise if Saipan is indeed the chosen location for the divert airfield.
The other outreach sessions include: Saipan, Monday, June 25, from 5pm to 8pm at the Multi-Purpose Center; Tinian, Tuesday, June 26, from 5pm to 8pm at Tinian Elementary School; and Rota, Wednesday, June 27, from 4pm to 5:30pm at the Mayor's Office.