The U.S. Navy has recently released the Mariana Islands Training and Testing Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement, or Draft MITT EIS. The two-volume document describes the proposed training and testing activities for the Mariana Islands Range Complex, which includes Guam, the CNMI, and the surrounding ocean. The proposed military activities may have impacts on the land and seas of the CNMI, as well as fishing, coastal zones, marine life, tourism, and other community resources.
The offices of the Governor and Lt. Governor would like the public to review the Draft MITT EIS and encourage individuals to submit their comments to the Navy.
“We would like to hear from the community about any concerns or worries they might have related to the potential environmental impacts of these new military activities proposed in the CNMI” said Gov. Eloy S. Inos.
The National Environmental Protection Act of 1969 requires federal agencies to carry out environmental studies to evaluate the potential environmental effects of proposed federal activities. NEPA provides the residents and community members of the CNMI (and any interested party) with the opportunity to comment on proposed federal activities.
The proposed MITT activities include increasing the size of the current military range of operations area to the north and west boundaries of the existing Mariana Islands Range Complex. Sea-based activities in and around the CNMI include sonar, torpedo, and missile testing. Land-based activities in the CNMI include: amphibious vehicle landing exercises at Unai Chulu, Unai Babui and Unai Dankulo beaches on Tinian, training activities at the Saipan Marpi Manover Area and the Rota International Airport, and increased levels of ordinance or weapons use at Farallon De Medinilla, or FDM. FDM is home to several seabird nesting colonies, including the largest Masked Booby nesting site and one of only two nesting sites of the Great Frigate bird in the Marianas. Two endangered species (the Micronesian Megapode and Marianas Fruit Bat) are also found on FDM.
As the information in the Draft EIS explains, the Navy proposes to increase the number of small-caliber rounds used on FDM from 2,900 to 42,000; the number of missiles and rockets from 60 to 2,085; the number of grenades and mortars from 100 to 600; the number of large-caliber projectiles from 1,000 to 1,200; and the number of bombs up to 2,000 lbs in size from 2,150 to 6,241 bombs. The Draft EIS also explains that an “Mk 84” 2000-lb bomb can kill or injure wildlife and disturb vegetation across a 60-acre area.
The Draft EIS addresses potential environmental effects of these proposed activities on Saipan, Tinian, Rota, Farallon de Medinilla, and the surrounding waters. These effects may include erosion of lands and subsequent sedimentation of reef systems, contamination of freshwater and marine water, air pollution, effects on fish populations, essential fish habitat and marine habitat areas of particular concern, effects of sonar and missile testing on whales and dolphins, interference with sea turtle nesting, impacts on seabird nesting colonies on FDM, changes to marine vegetation, impacts on coral reef species, impacts on federally and locally listed endangered species including the Micronesian Megapode and Marianas Fruit Bat, fishing restrictions, and limitations to accessibility to tourist sites, and impacts on cultural resources.
The Draft EIS is available for download at http://mitt-eis.com. Public meetings on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota, postponed during the recent federal government shutdown, will be rescheduled by the Navy. Comments can be submitted via the website, at the public meetings, or mailed to: Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Pacific, Att. MITT EIS/OEIS ProjectManager, 258 Makalapa Drive, Suite 100, Pearl Harbor, HI 96860-3134. The comments are due Nov. 12, 2013.
For more information about the draft EIS contact the CNMI’s Military Integration Management Committee in the Lt. Governor’s Office at 664-2300, firstname.lastname@example.org; Manny Pangelinian, acting director, Division of Fish and Wildlife at 664-6002 or 6003, email@example.com; Laura T. Ogumuro, acting State Historic Preservation officer, at 664-2584/2587, firstname.lastname@example.org; Lainie Zarones, CRM Lead Coastal Planner, at 664-8305, email@example.com; Becky Skeele, CRM coastal resources planner, at 664-8316, firstname.lastname@example.org; or Ryan Okano, DEQ ecologist, at 664-8524, email@example.com. (Office of the Governor)
There are six separate military projects in the CNMI that are in various stages of NEPA planning.