BY MAUREEN N. MARATITA
The U.S. Department of Defense and the Office of Governor Ralph DLG. Torres announced an amended proposal for military use of the island that has eliminated any training activities on the island of Pagan; construction of landing ramps at Chulu Beach; a High Hazard Impact Area for the use of artillery and aviation delivered munitions; an extensive range footprint; extensive fencing, and Special Use air space.
“The new notional proposal contemplates similar training activities that are already currently conducted on the island of Tinian but with an eye towards training for the future that is significantly less impactful and harmful to the environment and the way of life for the people of Tinian than the 2015 proposal,” an April 1 release said.
Major Gen. Mark A. Hashimoto of the U.S. Marine Corps – executive director for Marine Corps Forces Pacific; told the Journal at an April 8 press conference that the Environmental Impact Study will not be completed for a few years.
“The EIS process is very thorough. We would like to get through that process by 2025 and construction on the CNMI joint military training project that we’re talking about would occur following that.”
Training on Tinian will be on going, Hashimoto said. “We will continue – not just the Marine Corps, but the Air Force, the Navy and the Army have plans to continue training throughout that period prior to the signing of the Record of Decision. What we anticipate seeing after the Record of Decision … is that we would have standing environmental coverage for more comprehensive, more complex and more ‘future focus’ type of training,” he said.
Marine Corps Training does not need the divert airfield to be completed, he said.
According to Journal files, Black Construction Corp.’s Micro Corp. in the Northern Mariana Islands was awarded Nov. 30 a $161.82 million firm-fixed-price contract for “site development and for the construction of an aircraft parking apron and taxiway at the Tinian International Airport.” Work is due to be completed in October 2025. The groundbreaking was held Feb. 22.
The award was made after a long process, significant delays, and a re-fashioned bid for the fuel pipeline and fuel storage, which will be Phase 2.
In an interview on Feb. 26, Rear Adm. Benjamin Nicholson, commander of Joint Region Marianas; told the Journal that work would include “some significant improvements in the port to be able to pull in vessels to be able to hook up to the pipeline to fuel there,” Nicholson said.
From an engineering perspective, Nicholson said the pipeline is not easy. “It is not a short distance from the port to the airport and it’s not level ground. There’s a vertical distance and a horizontal distance that have to be covered; there’s some work to be done there.” Improvements to the port also could present challenges, he said. “Any time you’re doing any sort of underwater construction — there’s difficulty levels to that as well.”
As to the where potential trainees will come from to Tinian, Hashimoto told the Journal, “We see people coming from everywhere. The location of the Mariana Islands is very conducive to not only our forces, but some of our partner nation forces. By no means is it limited to the forces on Guam; we have forces that are transiting the Pacific on ships, others that might come West from their bases in North-East Asia, or East from the continental United States and Hawaii.”
For opportunities for local businesses and potential employees, Hashimoto told the paper, “I know one thing that has been part of the coordination is the course that have been offered – Contracting 101 – to help the local business community understand how you plug into the DoD enterprise to be able to work with DoD and take advantage of some of the opportunities that will arise from construction and operation of those facilities.
“When we think about [CNMI Joint Military Training], one of the highlights is the establishment of an austere base camp that will have a range control organization there that will be focused on the maintenance, the safety, the preservation of the training range. There will be opportunity there – the extent of which is to be determined,” he said. Referring to Microl Corp.’s job fair the day after the groundbreaking, Hashimoto said, “There should be some opportunities.”
Torres said of employment potential, “As of this moment, we don’t know the specifics of the occupations that’s needed – but even if it’s indirectly from DoD with other subcontracting – one thing we’d like to see is work with the mayor’s office and also work with our DoD partners in the meantime and our private partners that have got contracts to look at the work pools in Tinian and prioritize those work pools first and perhaps even go one step further and provide some sort of apprenticeships for the long run.” Opportunities for the Saipan workforce could also exist, he said.
As to an austere base camp, Hashimoto said, “The structures would be permanent. I wouldn’t characterize it as a base – like a collection of structures, but rather something along the lines of a permanent structure that could house transitory exercise forces and have probably some equipment storage facilities and some small offices to house the people who oversee the maintenance and the scheduling, and the safety associated with the activities going on in the military base area.”
No details were shared as to when further details related to the EIS would be shared.
The CNMI-DoD Technical Working Group – comprised of “subject matter experts from departments and agencies across the central and municipal government and DoD counterparts from U.S. Marine Forces Pacific, Joint Region Marianas, and the Pentagon” will continue to meet and address “mutual interests and concerns,” the April 1 release said. mbj