H.R. 670: To convey certain submerged lands to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

H.R. 670

To convey certain submerged lands to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

Sponsor
Rep. Gregorio Sablan

Date
October 3, 2011 (112th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Monday, October 3, 2011, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 670 under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority vote for approval.  H.R. 670 was introduced by Del. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-MP) on February 11, 2011, and was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, which reported the bill on June 15, 2011, by unanimous consent.

Bill Summary

H.R. 670 would covey ownership of submerged lands up to three miles out from the coastline to the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Island.  The bill would covey lands from the mean high tide level seaward to the point that is three geographical miles from shore from the U.S. federal government to the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Island.  According to House Report 111-162, the legislation would give the Commonwealth the same benefits in its submerged lands as Guam, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa have in their submerged lands.

Background

The Northern Mariana Islands Archipelago is located in the western Pacific, roughly 40 miles north of the U.S. Territory of Guam, on the easternmost boundary of the Philippine Sea and consists of 14 volcanic islands, with a total land area of 184 square miles.  According to House Report 111-162, Congress approved the Covenant to Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) in Political Union with the United States (Covenant) and then-President Gerald Ford signed the bill in 1976. The CNMI government adopted a constitution in 1978 and its constitutional government took office in 1978. In 1986, Presidential Proclamation No. 5564 fully implemented the Covenant.  In 1974, Congress passed the Territorial Submerged Lands Act which gave Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa jurisdiction over submerged lands out to three geographical miles, however, the Act was enacted before the CNMI was granted territory status.  H.R. 670 would give CNMI the same possession of submerged land as these other U.S. territories. 

Cost

CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 670 “would have no significant cost to the federal government.”