JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii --
The Commonwealth Ports Authority, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands government and the U.S. Department of Defense finalized and signed a 40-year lease agreement worth $21.9 million for the U.S. Air Force’s divert airfield on Tinian Island, May 3.
The CPA board of directors, led by chair Kimberlyn King-Hinds, approved a CPA resolution on the lease agreement with the DoD during the CPA board meeting at the Tinian International Airport’s departure terminal.
“This lease agreement is the product of many years of close collaboration,” said Col. Michael E. Gimbrone, Pacific Air Forces Force Posture Division chief. “It reflects a long-term commitment to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands filled with exciting opportunities that will further strengthen the mutually beneficial partnership between the Department of Defense and CNMI.”
The divert project is designed and designated to provide strategic operational and exercise capabilities for U.S. forces when needed and offer humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in times of natural or man-made disasters.
The Record of Decision for the Divert Activities and Exercises Environmental Impact Survey was signed on December 7, 2016, and announced the U.S. Air Force decision to select the Modified Tinian Alternative and specifically the North Option, as a future divert location. The signing of the leasing agreement now puts more than four years of coordinated planning to action.
“We’re going to see a lot of construction,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Allison Sands.
The proposed actions consist of constructing a fuel pipeline and support infrastructure for a safer, more reliable, secure and efficient method of fuel transfer eliminating the need for fuel tanks at the seaport and performing roadway improvements to facilitate heavy vehicle traffic and ensure the roads continue to provide adequate service to the local community.
"We'll see a flow of people into Tinian to begin the design and construction work, and after that, we will see more military people coming in to perform exercises on Tinian," said Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield, Joint Region Marianas commander.
One of the first construction projects will be the fuel pipeline that will run from the seaport to airport and allow for commercial aircraft to access fuel at Tinian’s airport, something currently not possible “… that is critical for bringing in commercial flights,” Sands said.
Chatfield said, this will enable them to put down concrete on the north side of Tinian’s airport to allow for larger aircraft to land—aircraft that can be used for refueling missions.