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CPA board rejects study on Tinian airport improvement

THE Commonwealth Ports Authority board has rejected the feasibility study for improvements at the Tinian International Airport.

In a June 28, 2016 letter, CPA acting Executive Director Christopher Tenorio informed the Pacific Air Force or PACAF headquarters, the U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific or MARFORPAC and the Federal Aviation Administration that the CPA board of directors “has voted to decline to submit to the FAA the feasibility study for airport improvements at Tinian International Airport prepared by PACAF and MARFORPAC as it is contrary to the expressed position of CPA that it does not support the use of CPA facilities in conjunction with the military’s proposed….operations.”

Reiterating CPA’s stand against the CNMI Joint Military Training, Tenorio said the improvement of Tinian airport “could be used as the first step toward implementing CJMT.”

The proposal to use the Tinian airport, he added, has been “nearly universally rejected in the CNMI.” But PACAF and MARFORPAC “continue to blur the two proposals together into one. CPA cannot support this.”

Tenorio wrote his letter after CPA received the feasibility study for the proposed improvements for the Tinian International Airport that was prepared by the Air Force and the Marines.

“In both its comments on the CJMT Draft [Environmental Impact Study] and the Divert Revised Draft EIS, CPA pledged to work with the military, particularly PACAF, to find solutions to the needs of military training operations that are temporary, reasonable, and result in low-impact, coordinated military use of CPA facilities on Tinian,” Tenorio said.

“However, CPA has also made it clear to the Department of Defense that it is not in favor of CJMT due to its overall impact on both CPA facilities and on Tinian in general, as well as its concern that divert plans could be used to ‘open the door’ for CJMT-like use of the Tinian International Airport and the negative impacts on CPA and on Tinian associated with such use.”

Tenorio said the act of treating divert and CJMT as one plan is manifested in the feasibility study.

“The feasibility study does not attempt to hide this merger of consideration of the two plans. On the contrary, it is plain throughout the document and even in its title. As it is written, the feasibility study fails to provide adequate information to CPA that it can consider and faithfully submit to FAA as a preview of potential changes to the [Tinian] airport layout plan because it combines proposed changes based on divert plans and those based on CJMT into one plan.”

Tenorio said the feasibility study as written “is a step in the wrong direction on the path toward finding solutions to the needs of military training operations which require the use of CPA facilities that are temporary, reasonable, and result in low-impact, coordinated military use of these facilities.”

Tenorio said “although submission of the feasibility study would not indicate any level of support by CPA for what is in the feasibility study, or raise an expectation of what may be in a future layout plan, the blurring of both plans into the same feasibility study is a slippery slope that tempts such assumptions of support and future expectations. This is also something that CPA cannot support.”

On June 23, 2016, Gov. Ralph Torres and U.S. Pacific Command Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. Anthony Crutchfield signed a programmatic agreement for the establishment of a divert airfield on Tinian.

The administration said the agreement was the product of continuous talks with the U.S. military which initially wanted a divert airfield on Saipan.