The last time Midway Atoll was officially open to tourism was on May 1, 2002, the last day that Midway Phoenix Corporation (MPC) operated Midway Islands. Their departure was successfully orchestrated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) who never really wanted the Atoll open to the private sector, let alone the public. More to the point, it has only been at the insistence of the Honorable Craig Manson, Assistant Secretary of Interior, that the Atoll has not been completely closed to all except the USFWS.
It is appropriate at this time to address three conflicting ssues that continue to exist between the USFWS and MPC*:
1) DISPUTE OVER FUEL
* The IMMF wishes to stress that it has no financial relationship with the Midway Phoenix Corporation. The above information is set forth for the sole purpose of reporting the truth to the public.
The DOD provided two million dollars worth of fuel to USFWS on Midway Atoll. USFWS then turned the fuel over to MPC, which in turn sold the fuel. [This transaction was necessary because the DOD could not directly sell or give fuel to the private sector.] When DOD forgave USFWS the fuel debt, USFWS still demanded payment from MPC. This demand led to the breach in the cooperative agreement and the ultimate MPC departure from Midway on May 1, 2002.
2) DISPUTE OVER FUEL BUDGET
The five million dollars that MPC received from USFWS for Midway's operating expenses came directly from the USFWS budget.
This special allocation came from Congress to the USFWS as the direct consequence of a persistent and determined effort by MPC on Capitol Hill for over a year. It is safe to say that without this effort there would have been no five million dollars for fuel and infrastructure maintenance.
3) DISPUTE OVER MPC'S REASON FOR LEAVING MIDWAY
Suddenly and without notice MPC "abandoned" the cooperative agreement with USFWS and left the Midway Islands in May 2002.
On January 5, 2000, a letter from Mark Thompson, President of MPC, to Anne Badgley, Regional Director of USFWS, clearly indicates MPC's displeasure concerning the execution of the cooperative agreement by USFWS MPC proposed new guidelines that it felt would work. However, these revisions were rejected by USFWS. TAKE NOTE: This letter was written nearly two and a half years before MPC felt there was no alternative but to sever the cooperative agreement and leave the Atoll.
SUMMARY OF FACTS:
On December 9, 2002, IMMF members Captain James A. Noone, USNR (Ret.), Esq. and myself met with Judge Craig Manson, Assistant Secretary of Interior, and his Special Assistant, Randal Bowman, to discuss issues relating to Midway. In that meeting, it was decided that the IMMF would write a proposal outlining ways in which Midway could be operated in the black, at no taxpayer expense. This proposal utilized critical financial data provided by MPC, and demonstrated the necessity of ongoing histo/eco/tourism (historical and ecological tourism) to maintain Midway's financial viability. At a subsequent meeting (January 2003), Mr. Bowman assured me that the completed proposal would be forwarded to Judge Manson for his review.
Three weeks later, after no response, I initiated another meeting in which Mr. Bowman again promised not only to obtain Judge Manson's response, but also to e-mail the proposal to all regional USFWS sectors.
In the meantime, the USFWS has ignored the principles inherent in the proposal. In addition, USFWS' current contract bids to run Midway are being sought only from minority companies, with no provisions being made whatsoever for histo/eco/ tourism. MPC, the only company with prior such experience, has been completely excluded from the process. This exclusion of MPC occurred because inherent legal restrictions governing minority bids prohibit the private sector from entering the competition. Nearly 3 months have elapsed with no significant response from Judge Manson. This being the case, the IMMF has gone to Congress for help.
With DOI showing no interest in the proposal, in early February I presented the foregoing story to Tennessee Congressman John J. Duncan's office and suggested that he re-introduce the bill that effectively removes USFWS from jurisdiction over Midway Atoll.
****On February 27, 2003, Congressman John Duncan introduced HR- 924 on the House Floor to address this urgent issue.**** This bill effectively addresses all of the critical issues concerning the Midway Islands including the removal of the USFWS' jurisdiction over the Atoll. I urge all members of the Foundation and interested parties to write letters of support for this bill to Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr., 2267 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515 and to your personal Congressmen and Senators.
We have also received full support from the Honorable Jesse Helms, the newest member of the Board of Trustees. Senator Helms has written to me from his home in North Carolina, reassuring us of his continuing support to promote Midway as a National Memorial to the Battle and to maintain the public's right to have access to the Memorial. He will assist us in every way he can and awaits an update on the crisis at Midway.
SUMMARY OF FACTS:
On February 12, 2003 it was reported in the "Honolulu Advertiser" that an unnoticed leak of nearly 100,000 gallons of jet fuel seeped into the ground of Midway Atoll's Sand Island. The leak appears to have occurred over the weekend of February 8-9, 2003. This was the largest spill in recent history in the Hawaiian archipelago.
A week later, the same newspaper reported that "the leak occurred from a corroded fitting on an eight-inch fuel line leading from the tank farm to a filling station a few dozen yards away". The fuel loss was adjusted by USFWS to 82,680 gallons. The USFWS stated they had not yet tried to determine fault, and also reported that so far there was no detection of fuel in the nearby lagoon waters. USFWS stated that the contractor on the Atoll checked fuel levels during the week---but not on weekends, when the leak reportedly occurred.
Roger Harshberger is the former MPC Fuel Farm Manager with 34 years of experience running Air Force and Midway's fuel facilities. He reports: "There are five valves between the fuel tank and the fill stand. Had the valves been closed, there is not enough fuel in the line (44,000 gallons) to cause such a great spill. ....But, if they never closed any of the valves from the tank to the pump-station (shame on them if that's what happened) and all the pressure from the fuel in the tank was left static on the pipeline, then I could see it rupturing a weakened pipeline." "I feel that the fuel loss [probably] occurred during truck filling operations while the pipeline was under pressure and it happened over a period of time. Only by checking the inventory records would one be able to verify when and what happened". "If an underground pipe ruptured, it would certainly take more than just a few days to disperse 100,000 gallons without a pump moving the fuel", commented Bob Tracy, Executive Vice President, MPC.
When MPC was operating Midway, the fuel farm was manned by 8 employees. The present contractor reportedly had only 1 employee to manage the entire fuel farm and all of the fuel trucks.
1.) The IMMF was been invited by the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island to be a co-sponsor in its June 7, 2003 Midway Night Dinner. The Foundation has accepted the invitation and details are being worked out.
2.) On March 27, 2003, the International Midway Memorial Foundation and Congressman Chris Van Hollen will honor Natalie L. Cosans in the Congressman's office. Natalie is the winner of the 2002 Battle of Midway Essay Contest in Montgomery County, Maryland. Ms. Cosans, a former eighth grade student at St Jane de Chantel Catholic School, wrote an outstanding paper on the Battle. She will receive a $500.00 college scholarship (to be held in escrow), the Midway Memorial Coin and her essay will be published on the IMMF's webpage. Invited guests will include Natalie's family, her history teacher, Don A. Walker, Legislative Director for Congressman John Duncan, Garrett Grigsby, former Deputy Staff Director for Senator Helms' Foreign Relations Committee, Captain James A. Noone, USNR (Ret.) and Ms. M. Christine Sims, both members of the IMMF's Board of Directors and others.
Don Walker, Legislative Director for Congressman John Duncan, for years now has worked devotedly and ceaselessly for the Foundation's mission to preserve the memory of the Battle of Midway. Long overdue, the IMMF will honor Mr. Walker in April 2003 at Galileo's Italian Restaurant in Washington, D.C. Invited guests include the Honorable and Mrs. John J. Duncan, Jr., Mrs. Walker, Mr. and Mrs. Garrett Grigsby, Captain and Mrs. James Noone, Ms. Chris Sims and Mr. and Mrs. Daniele DeLuca.
It will be a priviledge for the President of the IMMF to honor Don Walker with the "Battle of Midway Medallion" on this evening.
Stay tuned and don't touch that dial!!