Air Force officials announced today the selection of Tinian as the preferred alternative for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands PACAF Divert Activities and Exercises Initiative. This is the modified Tinian only alternative described in the revised draft EIS.
The purpose of the initiative is to establish additional divert capabilities to support training activities, while ensuring the capability to meet mission requirements in the event access to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, or other western Pacific locations is limited or denied.
“I am pleased to announce Tinian as the preferred alternative for this initiative and greatly appreciate the contributions of the people of the CNMI community to our nation’s defense,” said Deborah Lee James, secretary of the Air Force. “We believe this initiative will provide critical strategic operational and exercise capabilities for U.S. forces and provide economic benefits to the local community.”
The initiative will also improve the Tinian airport infrastructure to support up to 12 tanker aircraft and associated support personnel for divert operations. Periodic exercises would be conducted up to eight weeks per year.
“The divert initiative in CNMI will create the only divert airfield in the Western Pacific and provide the U.S. Air Force the capability to conduct either temporary or sustained refueling operations from an additional location in the region,” said General Mark Welsh, chief of staff of the Air Force. “It will also give us another location to use when supporting contingency or natural disaster responses in the region.”
The modified Tinian only alternative was selected as the preferred alternative. Saipan and the Hybrid options remain reasonable alternatives. The EIS analyzes many factors for each alternative, including quality of life, noise, cultural and historical interests, safety, potential effect on natural and coastal resources, land use, effect on existing air traffic, effect on tourism, and recreation.
“During the comment period, we heard from government agencies and community members on both Saipan and Tinian. They expressed an overwhelming desire to have the divert initiative on Tinian,” said Gen. Lori Robinson, commander, Pacific Air Forces. “In addition to enhancing our national defense, the expansion of the airport on Tinian will enhance U.S. Pacific Command’s disaster relief and humanitarian assistance capabilities in the region.”
The Air Force will release the final environmental impact statement in the spring after which a record of decision will be signed.
Release No: NR-045-16
February 10, 2016