Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) Pacific and NAVFAC Marianas, in partnership with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) government, are working to restore public access to Chiget Beach at the former Tinian Mortar Range. What was once part of a World War II battlefield, the mortar range was used as a training facility from 1945 to 1994. Following several site visits and assessments over the years, a remedial investigation began in 2015. “The range falls under the Department of the Navy’s Environmental Restoration Program, as an identified Munitions Response Program site, with the objective to clean up sites impacted by past military usage.” said Gregg Ikehara, NAVFAC Marianas remedial project manager.
“All bases in the U.S. have been moving toward the cleanup of both installation restoration and munitions response sites, which include former ranges, disposal areas, old dumpsites, storage areas and maintenance sites to protect human health and the environment from contamination due to past Navy usage, which would make property available for future needs.”
A non-time critical removal action started in 2018, and field work began in November 2020 in an effort to restore access to the beach. CNMI Gov. Ralph DLG Torres expressed his appreciation to the Department of Defense for their commitment in moving the project forward. “The Chiget range has been a persistent issue for the people of the Tinian and the CNMI as a whole,” said Torres. “I am pleased that the remediation work is finally happening. I thank Major Gen. Suzie Vares-Lum and Rear Adm. John Menoni for their partnership is seeing this through and look forward to its successful completion and for the eventual opening of the Chiget beach for access by our Tinian residents and visitors alike.” At the request of the current and former Tinian mayors, and the community’s desire to gain eventual unencumbered access to the beach for recreation and tourism, the Navy chose to address the Chiget Beach portion first before cleaning up the larger part of the remaining range as a consideration to the local community.
“Providing access to Chiget Beach for the people of Tinian is meaningful as that beach holds sentimental value considering our history on the island,” said Tinian Mayor Edwin Aldan. “With the Navy stepping in to assistwith the removalof munitions, the short-term impactto the community is that the people currently do not have access to the beach. In the long run, the benefits resulting from the Navy’s work outweigh the short-term impact considering that all munitions and explosives are addressed and removed for future generations to come.” A working group comprised of Department of Defense partners, the Tinian mayor’s office, CNMI Bureau of Environmental and Coast Quality(BECQ), and the Commonwealth Bureau of Military Affairs(CBMA) meet on a regular basis to discuss updates on project progression. “In support of the long-standing desire of our leaders and people of Tinian to gain eventual unencumbered access to the beach for recreation and tourism, Gov. Torres elevated his efforts through the Section 902 Consultation process and through the partnership that the governor, Mayor Aldan and the Tinian leadership built over the years with the DoD,” said Glenna Sakisat Palacios, CBMA special assistant.