Tinian mayor concerned about US military's training plans - The Okalahoman - 04/16/2015
Associated Press Published: April 16, 2015 6:51 PM CDT Updated: April 16, 2015 6:51 PM CDT
HAGATNA, Guam (AP) — Officials from Tinian are voicing concerns about the U.S. military's plan to turn most of the small Pacific island into a training area.
Tinian Mayor Joey San Nicolas told the Pacific Daily News (http://bit.ly/1yx4SB9 ) newspaper on Guam that officials are concerned about a proposal to build a live-fire training range on the northern part of the island. Tinian's elected officials plan to issue a joint statement on Monday.
The U.S. military holds a lease on two-thirds of Tinian's entire land area, which is about 10 miles long and about 5 miles at its widest point.
Tinian, which is part of the Marianas island chain, is about 100 miles north of Guam.
In 1975, a covenant established the Northern Mariana islands, including Tinian, as a commonwealth under the American flag. As part of the covenant, the U.S. government and Northern Marianas leaders agreed for two-thirds of Tinian to be under U.S. military lease for 50 years, ending in 2025. The U.S. government has an option for an additional lease for another half a century.
Because the U.S. government has secured the lease of two-thirds of Tinian, Tinian's local leaders don't have an option to say "no" to the military, said Don Farrell, a longtime Tinian educator and Marianas historian.
What Tinian officials, can do, Farrell said, is actively participate in discussions to ensure that the economic and social impacts of the military's plan on the local community will be addressed.The military has proposed training Tinian, which has a population of less than 2,000 people, and on Pagan, which doesn't have long-term, permanent residents because it hosts two active volcanoes. The training facilities are linked to a proposed U.S. military buildup on Guam.
The U.S. plans to move 5,000 Marines to Guam from Okinawa under an agreement with Japan to reduce the presence of U.S. forces there. Japan is paying about $3 billion of the nearly $8 billion relocation tab.
"This is an international event. It's not a local event," Farrell said.
Public comments on a revised environmental impact statement for Tinian and Pagan will end June 2. The military has scheduled public meetings on Tinian and Saipan about the study later this month and early next month.