CPA board reiterates divert airfield should be on Tinian - 02/2013
Commonwealth Ports Authority
THE Commonwealth Ports Authority board reiterated on Friday their position that the proposed U.S. Air Force divert airfield facility be constructed on Tinian.
In last Friday’s board meeting, CPA board chairman Jose R. Lifoifoi instructed executive director Maryann Q. Lizama to confer with the legal counsel in drafting the communication to the U.S. Armed Forces.
The Commonwealth Ports Authority board and officials welcome the two newly confirmed directors Michael H. San Nicolas of Tinian and Benigno M. Sablan during a meeting at the Port of Saipan on Friday. Photo by Alexie Villegas Zotomayor
CPA board director Thomas P. Villagomez, during the discussion, brought up the issue of the divert-airfield facility stating that the CPA board had earlier taken a position in support of the use of Tinian for divert activities by the U.S. military.
Director Benigno M. Sablan said, “This board has disapproved the use of Saipan for divert exercises. We have approved the use of Tinian.”
He noted that what was lacking to reinforce the ports authority’s position is an official communication to the U.S. military “that the board has decided and reemphasized that we would like for them to use Tinian.”
He stated that this recommendation to use Tinian was predicated on the condition that an air-traffic tower and fuel-bunker storage be constructed at the airport on Tinian.
He also reiterated the request to expand the airport.
The CPA board took a position supporting the use of Tinian in their June 2013 board meeting.
In that meeting, Sablan stated that the board cast its support behind Tinian for the divert activities.
The Northern Marianas now maintains a unified position with respect to the decision to have Tinian as the preferred site for the divert-airfield facility.
CNMI leaders are leaning toward Tinian as the preferred alternative over Saipan because of concerns the noise will impact the villages of Koblerville, Dandan and San Antonio, the requirement for additional land leases on and around Commonwealth Ports Authority property and the adverse impact on As Lito/Isley Field, a National Historic Landmark.
Variety learned that the U.S. Air Force requested a budget of $29.3 million for three major construction projects in the Northern Marianas relating to the divert facility.
The Air Force wants the facility on Saipan and this was unanimously opposed by the Northern Marianas leaders.
Recently, the CNMI Historic Preservation Review Board concurred with Governor Eloy S. Inos’ position that Tinian be considered.
Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan also indicated his choice for the facility is also Tinian.
The USAF preference for Saipan will require purchase of 33 additional acres of land at the Aslito-Isely Airfield and may impact commercial airport operations and limit further economic development.
If the U.S. Air Force insists on having it on Saipan, it may trigger a new round of 902 talks.
Variety earlier reported that the U.S. military may invoke eminent domain; however, the CNMI government may invoke the Covenant.
Local historian and Tinian Mayor’s Office Chief of Staff Don Farrell explained during the CNMI Historic Preservation Review Board meeting that the Northern Marianas is guaranteed protection under Section 8 of the Covenant if the U.S. Department of Defense wants to acquire lands in addition to those they already have on Tinian and at Tanapag Harbor.
DoD 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.
“If they want to take anything they don’t already have, they will have to go to Congress to acquire that land. They want a purchase. They don’t want a lease. Purchase is not in the Covenant,” said Farrell.
According to Section 806(c) of the Covenant, “(c) In the event it is not possible for the United States to obtain an interest in real property for public purposes by voluntary means, it may exercise within the Commonwealth the power of eminent domain to the same extent and in the same manner as it has and can exercise the power of eminent domain in a State of the Union. The power of eminent domain will be exercised within the Commonwealth only to the extent necessary and in compliance with applicable United States laws, and with full recognition of the due process required by the United States Constitution.”