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198 scoping comments on Pagan, Tinian proposed training sites

THE Marine Forces Pacific on Friday released the results of the final scoping summary report prepared by the U.S. Navy’s Naval Facilities Engineering Command on the proposed joint military training on Pagan and Tinian.

There were 198 “unique comment submittals” received on the military’s proposal to improve existing and develop new-live-fire military-training areas on Tinian and Pagan.

MARFORPAC is the executive agent as the military works on the environmental impact statement/overseas environmental impact statement for the proposed enhancement and construction of new live-fire training ranges on Pagan and Tinian.

The 198 comments were received during the scoping period that began on March 15 and ended May 13.

There were eight duplicates found and removed.

According to the report, a total of 30 written comments were sent via U.S. mail; 47 audio comments via U.S. mail; 5 comments collected from the Dandan scoping meeting; 6 comments from Tinian scoping meeting; 6 comments from the Carolinian Utt meeting; 7 audio comments from the Carolinian Utt scoping meeting; 9 video comments from the Carolinian Utt meeting; 84 were comments through the website; 4 via email.

According to the report, comment submittals were assigned identification numbers for tracking purposes and duplicates were removed; however, these duplicates were kept for inclusion in the administrative record.

Of those who made the comments, 134 were individual citizens; 29, CNMI government agencies; 5, federal government agencies; and 30, non-governmental organizations.

Based on the summary report, the comments were tallied based on the Environmental Impact Statement topic: description of the proposed action, 48; National Environmental Policy Act, 44; action alternatives, 49; location, 198; cumulative impacts, 95; ecological effects, 91; geology and soils, 28; water resources, 25; air quality, 9; noise, 15; air space, 17; land use, 109; recreation, 31; terrestrial biology, 66; marine biology, 49; Section 106 or cultural resources, 64; visual resources, 25; transportation, 28; utilities, 21; socioeconomics/general services, 119; hazardous materials and waste, 58; public health and safety, 61; environmental justice, 93; and mitigation, 20.

As to comments made on the description of the proposed action, there were requests for separate environmental impact statements or overseas environmental impact statements for Pagan and Tinian.

Some comments questioned the need for live-fire training with the advent of computer simulation technology and the existing training ranges on Farallon de Medinilla, Guam and Hawaii.

As to the NEPA process, some asked for an extension of the scoping period.

Moreover, there were comments relating to the action alternatives: some asked how each alternative complies with the Covenant.

There were requests made for the inclusion of a full discussion of other viable alternatives.

As to location, there were comments proposing that training be conducted in areas other than Pagan or Tinian.

There were also comments on the potential degradation of the natural environment.

Some raised the issue of soil erosion and sedimentation effects on coral reefs.

Others questioned how the proposed action will impact water quality and air quality.

Among the concerns also was the noise impact of the proposed live-fire training.

There were comments on the potential impact on air travel from airspace restrictions.

Among the comments were questions about whether resettlement of Pagan would be possible and whether there would be continued access to leased lands on Tinian.

There were comments received asking how extensive the military’s control on land will be and if agricultural uses of the land will continue to be permitted.

As to recreation, comments focused on concerns the proposal would have on tourism, fishing, hunting, cultural activities, beach access and boating.

Moreover, some comments identified threatened and endangered species, migratory birds, sensitive species and biological diversity.

The comments also raised the issue of the impact on marine biology.

As to Section 106 or cultural resources, comments were on the impact and access to cultural, archaeological and historic resources and medicinal herbs.

There were also comments on the impact on the visual landscape.

There were concerns about changes to ground, marine and air transportation routes.

Some raised the issue of whether the local utilities could meet the demand of population growth and whether there is a need to improve infrastructure, fuel availability and storage and develop new energy sources.

The future of the wish of Northern Islanders to reside again on their islands was also raised.

Some questioned whether they would still have the ability to homestead on Pagan.

Other concerns on Pagan were questions about opportunities for commercial fishing, eco-tourism, travel, pozzolan mining, and food production.

Some also raised the issue of the impact of used and unexploded ordnance, residual munitions constituents, heavy metals and other contaminants related to the training activities being proposed for Tinian and Pagan.

There were comments that related to fears of an increase in the incidence of cancer in the islands.

According to Marine Corps Activity Guam public affairs chief Master Sgt Pauline Franklin, the comments made during the scoping period “will assist the U.S. military in developing the CJMT Draft EIS/OEIS.”

Next in the process is the issuance of the draft EIS/OEIS.

The U.S. military will issue a notice of availability in the Federal Register of the draft.

Then another 45-day comment period ensues.

MARFORPAC sees issuing the final draft sometime in late 2015.