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    Sunday, December 17, 2017-9:09:41P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Lt. governor, mayor to meet Marine officials in Hawaii

LT. Governor Jude U. Hofschneider is leading the contingent of Northern Marianas officials as they meet with Marine Forces Pacific officials in Hawaii next week.

Tinian Mayor Ramon M. Dela Cruz said they will be meeting with Marine Forces Pacific executive director Retired U.S. Army Major General Craig Whelden in Hawaii on July 22.

A U.S. Air Force C-130 aircraft sits on the Tinian airport runway during the Cope North Exercise in February.  Photo by Alexie Villegas Zotomayor

“We are going to discuss several issues,” he said.

Dela Cruz said he will be going with Hofschneider and Military Integration Management Committee director Joe Mafnas.

He said they will be there for a couple of days.

“I have three top issues that I would like to discuss with the military,” he said.

Dela Cruz said he would like to raise the issues of (1) the solid waste landfill in Atgidon, (2) the maintenance of roads; and (3) a cleanup of Chiget firing range.

In an earlier communication to Hofschneider, Dela Cruz said they have yet to hear a final decision from the U.S. Navy as to the sanitary landfill planned for the Atgidon area.

Tinian, he said, spent capital improvement project funds over the last 10 years to prepare the site for construction.

With the site 90 percent complete, they could not issue construction bids pending a decision from the Navy.

As to the yet unresolved closure of the old mortar range at Chiget, Dela Cruz is concerned over the yet-to-be cleaned range which is still littered with unexploded ordnance.

“When they finished using the place, they never cleaned it up,” he said.

The area where the former firing range was located is a fishing area.

For Dela Cruz, despite the area being fenced, many residents are still drawn to the area for fishing, and the collection of herbal medicines, coconut crabs and Tinian pepper.

“Now they are proposing a firing range on Tinian but they haven’t cleaned the first one they used. It is something that disturbs me,” he said.

He also said he would like to discuss the maintenance of roads leading up to the national historic landmark.

“The municipality does not have the capacity to continue maintaining the roads,” said Dela Cruz.

Dela Cruz said he would like to bring up these issues with the top commanders so they are aware that these issues remain unresolved.

By bringing them up, Dela Cruz said he hopes that these issues will finally be resolved.

The U.S. military is currently considering the development of live-fire ranges and training areas.

The U.S. Department of Defense currently leases 15,353 acres on Tinian: the Exclusive Military Use Area, or EMUA, 7,574 acres and the Leaseback Area, or LBA, 7,779 acres.

The DoD’s lease of two-thirds of Tinian is set to expire in 2033 but is subject to renewal for another 50 years.

The U.S. military intends to make full use of the leased lands, that which has been leased back to the CNMI government for agricultural purposes.

Currently, the U.S. military —with Marine Forces Pacific as the lead agent— is going through a National Environmental Policy Act process for the proposed firing ranges and training areas on Tinian and Pagan.

A draft Environmental Impact Statement/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement is being prepared.

As to the proposal, the preliminary alternatives call for (1) full capability and capacity of unit level training, including, separate company-sized and platoon-sized training areas; a designated impact area for live ordnance; fixed small arms ranges; amphibious training at the Military Lease Area beaches and relocation of the International Broadcasting Bureau; (2) reduced capability with no separate platoon-sized training complex; and (3) further reduction in capability compared to the two alternatives, indicating no separate company-size training.