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U.S. military considers remote Pacific island for live-fire training

By Anita Hofscheider

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 04:34 p.m. HST, May 15, 2013


The remote island of Pagan in the western Pacific is home to volcanoes, endangered species and the remnants of an ancient civilization.

For biologists, the island about 330 miles north of Guam is the perfect place for ecological research.

But for the U.S. military, Pagan could be the solution to a search for new training grounds to practice shelling, dropping bombs and other large-scale exercises.

The proposal, which is still in the early stages, is part of the U.S. military's broader effort to focus more on the Asia-Pacific region. Pagan is one of 14 islands in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory that is just a few hours by plane from China, Russia and Korea.

Maj. Neal Fisher says the process is just getting started and the military has been seeking input from all stakeholders. He says the military is committed to being a good neighbor and a good steward of the environment.

But the proposal has already been criticized by some who worry about how the project could hurt the island's natural and archaeological resources.

The commonwealth's Gov. Eloy Inos says the proposal could harm the island's wildlife, damage historical sites, curb fishing and tourism and displace the handful of people living on the island.

Inos says the military should conduct additional studies to address the issues. But some residents say there would be no way to mitigate the damage.

"It would be total destruction," said William Torres, a former lawmaker in the Northern Marianas who has been active in raising awareness about the proposal.

Torres says that in the past, he has supported developing a military presence on Pagan. But he says the current plan for continuous live-fire training across the entire island crosses the line.

Torres is worried the island could turn into another Kahoolawe. The Hawaiian island served as military training grounds for decades and is now littered with unexploded ordinances.

Fisher says such concerns don't take into account the Marine Corp.'s disciplined training exercises and its commitment to leaving places better than they were found.

"It's very focused, very detailed firing," he said. "It won't be willy nilly all over the island."

Fisher says the proposal could also boost the economies of neighboring islands such as Saipan and Guam.

Pagan residents who were evacuated following a 1981 volcanic eruption are also worried the plan could prevent resettlement.

Jerome Aldan left Pagan when he was 8 years old. He has been urging the local government to move forward with a plan to help former residents like him move back to the island and he is worried the military training exercises could leave it uninhabitable.

Fisher says the military is in the process of drafting an environmental impact statement to analyze the potential effects of the plan, which would also affect parts of the neighboring island of Tinian.

Because the proposal is in its initial stages, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation don't have official positions on the issue. They say they plan to keep watch on the plan as it develops.







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bigislandkurt wrote:
My former room mate was from Pagan. He and his family were evacuated when he was 13 years old. I'm sure they are not happy with this proposal. All of them had hope to move back to Pagan (pronounced Pah-gen) when given the all clear from the USGS.
on May 15,2013 | 04:55PM
false wrote:
No they are not happy and so the US Government will pay more in benefits through and Organic Act. Hawai`i will pay for their loss of land and homes. We will support them with our tax money which is not reimbursed by the Feds. We lose people. Stop this insanity. Racism still exists and we are the excluded.
on May 16,2013 | 05:39AM
bender wrote:
I doubt the island will ever be resettled, at least not in our lifetime. But that doesn't mean we should make it unihabitable because of unexploded ordnance.
on May 16,2013 | 05:40AM
ValleyOhana wrote:
I wouldn't want to see the story of Kahoolawe repeated.
on May 15,2013 | 05:06PM
Aieagrl wrote:
Micronesia would be a great place. After we move all the cancerous ones from here back home that is.
on May 15,2013 | 05:26PM
copperwire9 wrote:
Shame on you.
on May 15,2013 | 06:35PM
8082062424 wrote:
she said what most folks feel and think.
on May 15,2013 | 08:14PM
eoe wrote:
Not me. I take it as a blood oath when muy country decides to turn an island chain into an uninhabitable radioactive wasteland and tell its people "we will take care of you."
on May 15,2013 | 09:20PM
cojef wrote:
The problem is that those residents will be welcomed to Hawaii and the Federal Government, then expect the taxpayers of Hawaii to fund all benefits that the Washington agreed to provide, just like with the Bikini bomb tests. The health care costs, education, food stamps, and list goes on will be borne by the local community.
on May 16,2013 | 06:48AM
hanalei395 wrote:
What most white Americans feel and think about indigenous peoples.
on May 16,2013 | 08:21AM
SteveToo wrote:
Gotta have some place to practice. Go for it.
on May 15,2013 | 11:20PM
sailfish1 wrote:
How about the military do their live-fire practice on the Mainland - like in the deserts there.
on May 16,2013 | 01:14AM
bender wrote:
Navy ships can't reach the deserts.
on May 16,2013 | 05:37AM
sailfish1 wrote:
Navy ships don't drop bombs.
on May 16,2013 | 05:44AM
SteveToo wrote:
But aircraft from navy ships do dummy.
on May 16,2013 | 07:12AM
LMO wrote:
"...the Marine Corp.'s disciplined training exercises and its commitment to leaving places better than they were found." Like Kahoolawe & Makua Valley? Goodbye, Pagan....
on May 16,2013 | 01:49AM
Terii_Kelii wrote:
AND Waikane Valley. What an outright lie that they leave places BETTER than they were found. That just shows how little they can be trusted.
on May 16,2013 | 03:52AM
svkamahoi wrote:
Hopefully this can still be stopped.
on May 16,2013 | 08:50AM
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