The Commonwealth Ports Authority is looking at the end of this month to finally decide on the U.S. Department of Defense’s proposal to put up on Tinian an alternative landing site—or divert airfield—for the U.S. Air Force.
CPA board airport operations committee chair Barrie C. Toves disclosed in an interview with the Saipan Tribune over the weekend that they are going to finalize their decision on Oct. 29 during a committee meeting.
The following day, Oct. 30, Toves said, they will hold a board meeting on Tinian where they are going to disclose to the public whether they approve or not the Air Force’s divert airfield’s plan.
A source said CPA’s decision will be historic for Tinian and the CNMI.
Toves said they assigned CPA board financial affairs committee chair Kimberlyn King-Hinds to lead and chair the negotiation with the Department of Defense as the matter is close to her heart as she is representing Tinian and that she is also a lawyer.
He said the pending issue that they have been looking at and continuing the talks is the mechanism of the lease.
He said the plan is that the northern part of the Tinian airport is going to be associated with the divert airfield.
“We have not made any decision yet,” said Toves, adding that they have been going back and forth with DOD, talking in terms of what CPA and the Commonwealth require in order for them to agree to what terms.
Toves said there are some things that they asked to be precluded in the terms and conditions of any agreement that is going to come out.
“We did our in-house appraisal of the property as we requested to see what the market value is,” he said.
Toves said they also looked at DOD’s offer to them in terms of access to infrastructure like fuel tanks and the lines for the jet fuel that run between the harbor on Tinian up to the airport for the Air Force or military’s use.
“Those are the things that we put on the table, that we would like to have access to those pipes and be able to provide jet fuel to commercial airlines,” he said.
Toves said those are the things that kind of delayed their negotiations.
He said DOD later told them they could not do that because the military cannot compete with commercial operators such as Shell and Mobil.
Toves said that, according to DOD, they should not be engaged in commercial competition with the private sector.
In October 2017, the CPA board unanimously approved the Air Force’s layout plan for the divert airfield on Tinian.
The U.S. Air Force prepared the Pacific Air Force Divert and Exercise airport layout plan and feasibility study for the CPA in December 2016.
The divert airfield is intended to become an alternative landing site for U.S. Air Force planes in case the airfield on Anderson Air Force Base in Guam is inaccessible for whatever reasons.