Marianas Variety

Wednesday, April 23, 2014-10:40:30A.M.

Last updateWed, 23 Apr 2014 12am



DEQ concerned about military plans for Pagan, Tinian

ANY military training activities will impact the existing lakes on Pagan and must be avoided, the Division of Environment Quality said.

“These surface waters may be potential drinking water sources in the future for…Pagan,” DEQ said.

DEQ has joined other regulatory agencies in the CNMI in expressing their concerns regarding the U.S. military’s plans to use Tinian and Pagan as part of its Western Pacific Military Training areas.

The proposed military training on the volcanic island would include air warfare, amphibious warfare, surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare. mine warfare, strike warfare, electronic combat and naval special warfare.

In his comments, DEQ Director Frank M Rabauliman said such activities may result in direct damage to the coral reef ecosystem balance as well as to the shoreline marine organism habitat.

The activities may also destroy historical village sites and latte stones, he added.

DEQ said there should be a valuation of Pagan and the cost of the potential loss of natural resources including minerals, geothermal energy and eco-tourism for the CNMI in order to understand a potential economic cost-benefit analysis involving such a large U.S. military undertaking and long-term presence in the CNMI.

DEQ noted that the proposed surface safety danger zone perimeter will limit access to the remaining Northern Islands including the National Marine Monument.

“This limited access will put constraints on future economic development on these islands for the benefit of CNMI residents,” DEQ said.

An increased cost to get to the National Marine Monument and to Tinian with the expanded surface safety danger zone will impact tourism ventures in the future, especially those to the Northern Islands “because of the additional travel distance to avoid the surface safety danger zone during training exercises or the complete restriction during such military exercises to the other northern islands,” DEQ added.

Likewise, “there would be loss of available habitable land for residential homesteading,” DEQ said, adding that available public land on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota is very limited with many CNMI residents still waiting to receive homestead lots as provided by law.

“Available habitable land on Pagan will be lost for years should the military take over the entire island,” DEQ said.

For Tinian, DEQ said one-third of the island has been leased to the U.S. military which now wants to get back the “lease-back” areas from the CNMI, “again reducing available public land for future homesteads for the younger generation.”

DEQ said if the military plans to conduct earthmoving activities, erosion-control measures will need to be taken.

Moreover, construction sites larger than one acre are now required to obtain coverage under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency discharge-elimination-system construction general permit.

Concerning the wastewater impact, DEQ said program regulations will need to be considered for construction of facilities for the permanent or long-term habitation of military personnel on the islands that would result in the generation of wastewater.

Solid-waste-management regulations must be considered if the proposed military activities on Tinian and Pagan generate solid waste, DEQ said.

There is no DEQ/EPA permitted solid-waste-disposal facility on Pagan and Tinian.

“In the absent of any permitted solid-waste-disposal facility, all solid waste generated by military training activities will need to be taken off-island; no disposal by burying waste will be allowed,” DEQ said.

If military activities on Tinian and Pagan generate hazardous waste, then hazardous-waste-management regulations will need to be considered, DEQ said.

It added that no hazardous waste should be buried on island and all spills of hazardous waste must be cleaned up properly following CNMI and EPA laws and regulations.

DEQ and EPA must be notified of any spills that occur.

If military activities require the importation of hazardous material, then hazardous-substance regulations will need to be considered.

DEQ said storage tank regulations are necessary if the proposed military activities on Tinian and Pagan require the construction of underground storage tanks or above-ground storage tanks for fuel to support the training activities.

DEQ said program regulations are needed if the proposed military activities will require the acquisition of groundwater through construction of groundwater supply wells to support permanent military facilities on island.

“There are currently two hand-dug wells on Pagan that provide a limited amount of brackish water. These historic wells must be persevered and protected from destruction by military activities,” DEQ said.

DEQ recommended that pre- and post-baseline water data be collected from the two hand-dug wells to determine water condition before and after any military training activity on the island.

DEQ said any alteration of the upland topography would result in erosion of soil material into the marine water, causing a buildup of silt and introduction of unwanted organic nutrients.

Program regulation is necessary to determine the impact on air quality if military activities on Tinian and Pagan require the installation of a power-generation plant, DEQ said.