‘Two-thirds of Tinian will be blanketed with ammo’


If thousands of U.S. Marines are stationed in Guam, the northern two-thirds of Tinian will be blanketed with mortar and artillery bombardment, shattering the island’s peace, according to the lawyers for four environmental groups that oppose the U.S. Navy’s decision to relocate 5,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam.

Amphibious landing craft will invade Tinian’s beaches, destroying precious corals, said David L. Henkin of Earthjustice and Kimberlyn K. King-Hinds, who are counsels for Tinian Women Association, Guardians of Gani, PaganWatch, and Center for Biological Diversity.

“Much of the year, Tinian residents will be cut off from ancestral cultural sites, subsistence gathering and recreational beaches, profoundly degrading the quality of life on the island,” said Henkin and King-Hinds in the groups’ motion for summary judgment filed in federal court last Friday.

In Pagan, families with ancestral ties to the island will be barred from resettling there, said Henkin and King-Hinds, with the site of the former village overrun by live-fire amphibious assaults and nearly the entire northern part of the island converted into a target area for naval shelling, bombs, rockets, artillery and mortars.

The lawyers said that when the U.S. Navy prepared its final environmental impact statement for the relocation of Marines to Guam in 2010 and the supplemental EIS for the relocation in 2015, the U.S. Navy knew what those Marines would need to conduct in the CNMI and how highly destructive those trainings would be, yet it failed to disclose in either EIS the devastating toll its proposed course of action would inflict on the people of Tinian and Pagan.

Instead, the lawyers said, the Navy claimed that the only live-fire training that Guam-based Marines would conduct in the CNMI was relatively low-impact target practice on Tinian, with weapons firing only bullets.

“Pagan, the people of the CNMI were told, was not suitable for training Marines,” the lawyers said.

The groups challenge the Navy’s failure to be forthright about the dire consequences for the CNMI of relocating thousands of Marines to Guam, which, according to them (groups), subverted the command of the National Environmental Policy Act to “ensure that environmental information is available to public officials and citizens before decisions are made and before actions are taken.”

The lawyers said whether this highly destructive training is characterized as a connected action or a cumulative one, the Navy was obliged to take a hard look at its impacts in the same EIS that evaluated the relocation of Marines to Guam.

“The Navy’s failure to do so violated NEPA,” Henkin and King-Hinds said.

The Tinian Women Association, Guardians of Gani, PaganWatch, and the Center for Biological Diversity are suing the Navy, Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer, Defense, and Defense Secretary James Mattis over the Navy’s decision to relocate 5,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam and to conduct live-training on Tinian and Pagan.

The groups are suing the defendants for alleged violation of NEPA and the Administrative Procedure Act.

The groups claim the Navy and Defense failed to consider the relocation efforts and potential construction of live-fire training ranges on Tinian and Pagan as “connected actions” in a single EIS.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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