DOD ditches bombing range project for Pagan, scales down footprint on Tinian



By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

The Department of Defense has scaled down its proposed activities on Tinian and dropped its plan to build a military training range on Pagan Island in response to the residents’ opposition to military expansion in Northern Marianas.


According to the Office of the CNMI Governor, the military's amended proposal eliminated at least six items from its draft plan.


Besides dropping the proposed training activities on Pagan, the amended plan also struck out the proposed construction of landing ramps in Chulu Beach, the use of high-hazard impact area for artillery and aviation-delivered munitions, an extensive range footprint, extensive fencing, and special-use air space.


“The amended proposal is drastically different in content and nature than the proposal submitted in 2015, achieving a closer balance to the type of development we see in the commonwealth, and is more aligned with the intent of our founding fathers in their work toward crafting our Covenant,” CNMI Gov. Ralph Torres said.


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According to a press release from the governor’s office, the eliminated items were among the proposals rejected by the CNMI residents, who submitted 27,000 comments on the DOD’s draft environmental impact statement.


“The new national proposal contemplates similar training activities that are already currently conducted on the island of Tinian but with an eye toward training for the future that is significantly less impactful and harmful to the environment and the way of life for the people of Tinian than the 2015 proposal,” the governor's office said.


The DOD footprint reduction was the result of a series of meetings between the CNMI leaders and defense officials.


Tinian Mayor Edwin P. Aldan welcomed the amended proposal, describing it as “a significant step in the right direction for the people of Tinian who will be most impacted by these training activities.”


He said the extensive reduction in range footprint will allow continued access and co-use of the military leased area.


The Tinian ranchers’ continued access to the defense land will allow the island’s cattle industry to grow, Aldan said.


“The exclusion of artillery and aviation delivered munitions and high hazard impact activities means no more bombs and howitzers type of weapons,” the Tinian mayor said.


“Because these activities are removed, there is no longer a need to restrict air space and allows for a greater public access to historical sites and beaches within the MLA which is critical to our tourism industry and our economy.”


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Last week, the CNMI-DoD Technical Working Group reconvened in a three-day series of meetings to discuss the revised training concept.


The Technical Working Group comprises experts from departments and agencies across the central and municipal government and DoD counterparts from U.S. Marine Forces, Pacific, Joint Region Marianas and the Pentagon.


Senate President Jude U. Hofschneider extends his appreciation to the Technical Working Group for their efforts in ensuring the CNMI’s red lines are addressed.


“The revised training concept presented is significantly different from the 2015 proposal,” he said. “This revised training concept recognizes the concerns of the community and speaks volumes of their commitment to our partnership.”


Northern Islands Mayor Vicente Santos is pleased that Pagan is off the table.


“Over the last few years, Pagan has been the choice of vacation destination for CNMI residents and I look forward to the continued efforts towards developing the island for rest and recreation and for the eventual resettlement of our Pagan residents,” Santos said.



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