SAIPAN – The Commonwealth Ports Authority opposes the U.S. Navy's request to take over control of airspace above Tinian's airport.
CPA Chairwoman Kimberly King-Hinds wrote a letter to Navy Secretary Richard Spencer in reaction to his April 30 memorandum to the Federal Aviation Administration.
In his memo, Spencer sought unspecified but "appropriate relief" from the restrictive area designation for the airspace in and around Tinian International Airport.
King-Hinds told Spencer the CPA board was "surprised and beyond disturbed" by the memorandum, and the manner in which CPA received it.
"In effect you are asking the FAA to remove airspace protections over one of our airports, effectively turning over control of this airspace to the Navy," King-Hinds wrote.
'Complete lack of courtesy and common decency'
"We don't understand how anyone would think that CPA would find this acceptable. The request is ridiculous enough on its face. That you and the Navy did not inform CPA in advance of this request before communicating it to the FAA – much less consult with CPA on the issue it raises – shows the Navy's level of audacity and complete lack of courtesy and common decency," she added.
She said from the CPA board's perspective, the Navy secretary's letter "reflects the historic callous policy of United States' westward expansion, seizing property as it justified for security or any other reason and in complete disregard of the interests of those already there."
She added, "Living here, we know the strategic value of our islands located on the western frontier of our country. That a primary justification for seeking this change was to facilitate unilateral live-fire military training on Tinian only further demonstrates the overall insensitivity of your action and callous disregard to not only CPA but the people who will be detrimentally impacted by this action."
CPA, she said, has cooperated in good faith with the U.S. military in its recent operations on Tinian and Rota. Despite its misgivings, she said CPA negotiated in good faith with the U.S. military on the recent lease of access to the Tinian International Airport for divert activities.
"Your letter is an apparent indication, if not admission, that the Department of Navy no longer seeks good-faith interactions or negotiations with CPA regarding future activities of the Department of Navy in the CNMI," King-Hinds said.
"Let me be plain. CPA opposes your request for 'appropriate relief' from FAA's requirement that restricted airspace must exclude airspace 1,500 feet above ground level and below within a 3-nautical-mile radius of the Tinian International Airport. I have already communicated this opposition to the FAA," she added.
'Just how little you ... know about the CNMI'
She said CPA also disagrees with the Navy's "unsupported and summary presumption that current FAA orders do not impact the airspace over Pagan."
CPA has jurisdiction over the ports of the CNMI, she added. "This includes the designated airfield on Pagan island. Our dismissal of CPA's interest in developing the Pagan airfield for public use is a clear indication of just how little you and the Department of Navy know about the CNMI."
King-Hinds asked Spencer to "respond to her letter in earnest, and attempt to rectify the significant amount of damage (his) memorandum – and more to the point, the method by which CPA learned of his memo – has done to CPA's level of trust in dealings with the U.S. Department of Defense."