Gov Inos deals with land issues

US withholds transfer of 5 offshore lands

U.S. President Barack Obama signed on Sept. 18, 2013 a law conveying 3-mile submerged lands to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, only to temporarily withhold the transfer to local control of five offshore lands four months later or on Jan. 15, 2014. Nevertheless, the 14-island CNMI becomes the last U.S. coastal state or territory to own its submerged lands.

The U.S. military is also proposing to expand its training activities on Tinian, where two-thirds of lands are already under lease to the U.S. Department of Defense, to include live-fire training. The military also eyes the use of another island, Pagan, for the first time as a live-fire training area. On an election year, the CNMI is dealing with other land-related issues including a pending initiative that, once passed by both the House of Representatives and Senate, would ask voters in November if they want to extend the current 40-year limit on leasing public lands to 99 years. Then there’s the long-standing issue of the government unable to pay some 300 landowners for the taking of their private property for public purpose such as building public access roads, wetlands and ponding basin.

“It is a priority among other priorities,” CNMI Governor Eloy S. Inos said of paying land claims amid other services and programs that need to be funded such as public health, public education, public safety, retirees’ pension and utilities.

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