Gov. Ralph DLG Torres is expected to sign today a programmatic agreement with the Department of Defense for a proposed divert airfield in the CNMI.
Lt. Gen. Anthony Crutchfield, the single point of contact for Defense projects in the CNMI is set to meet with Torres this morning for the signing of the PA, which both have worked on over the last several months with Torres stressing language that favors Tinian as the preferred site of the project.
Programmatic agreements are essentially measures agreed to by consulting parties to protect and govern the use of historic properties affected by Defense projects.
The CNMI had sent its draft version Defense in early May and Torres indicated last week that they were in the final stages of the agreement. “Our request and our concerns have been addressed and so we are getting to where we believe it will protect the people of the CNMI—and not just today—but 40 years from now,” Torres earlier said.
The final draft of the agreement is expected to include language that urges the Air Force to consider Torres’ preferred siting of the divert project on Tinian over a Saipan option or a hybrid-use of both islands.
If the Saipan option was still chosen by Defense, the agreement is expected to require Defense to initiate another round of historic consultations, or Section 106 consultation process, with different parties to reach another programmatic agreement, potentially lengthening their project timelines.
Once the agreement is signed, the CNMI will wait a final “Record of Decision” on the project, which has been in work for years, and expects to undergo over a year-long negotiations through the Commonwealth Ports Authority with Defense for a lease of the required land on Tinian for the project.