Commonwealth Ports Authority executive director MaryAnn Lizama said the agency remains firm in its stance that any money invested on the port of Rota should go to the West Harbor, and not any other area such as an east harbor facility, for which a feasibility study has recently been completed.
Lizama clarified that the completed east harbor study was commissioned by both the Rota Municipality and its legislative delegation, which planned to tap 702 funds for its development.
Lizama, along with Rota manager Martin Mendiola, disclosed that a new feasibility study—this time commissioned by CPA—will be conducted but at the West Harbor site.
It was learned that the U.S. Coast Guard recently approached CPA-Rota where a preliminary inspection was done at the site and it offered to help do the study, at no cost to the ports authority.
Mendiola said that based on Section 1156 of the Water Resources Act of 1986, CPA can minimize the matching funds for the research project because CPA is eligible to waive up to $200,000. It is estimated that the feasibility study for the West Harbor may cost about $400,000 and requires a 50-50 matching funds.
“In reality, this will not involve any cost to CPA,” said Mendiola, adding that the feasibility targets to analyze wave actions in the West Harbor by using the modern instruments of the U.S. Army Corps.
The board, at its last meeting, approved the continued negotiation with the U.S. Coast Guard and Army Corps for the project. The study is expected to move forward once formal documents are signed by the parties.
CPA does not oppose building a new harbor on Rota but it warned the government of the project’s potential impact it fails to determine ahead of time the various pros and cons. Saipan Tribune learned that the results of a study conducted by engineering company Moffats & Nichol has been completed and that CPA plans to get a copy of this document from the Rota municipality.
Both the Rota Legislative Delegation and the Rota municipal government are pushing for the building of a new harbor to accommodate bigger ships.
Rota’s elected officials have tossed the idea of developing the east harbor due to the current challenges in shipping commodities and other supplies to Rota. The existing West Harbor has limited capability in its channel and cannot accommodate vessels longer than 235 feet. The only way for the port to be able to accommodate bigger vessels is by widening its channel opening.
The area identified for the proposed east harbor is not CPA property but is public land. Once the new harbor is built, this has to be dedicated as a port of entry before it can be operated by CPA.
Ships going to Rota currently use the West Harbor, which CPA officials earlier described as somewhat “calmer” and “more sheltered” compared to the east side of the island.
’10 years just for permitting’
According to Benigno Sablan, seaports facility chairman and a former maritime officer, building a new east harbor on Rota will take longer than expected because the process for the permitting alone could take up to 10 years. He cited the various local and federal environmental agencies that will be involved in the process.
He also pointed out that by developing the West Harbor, this will be less expensive than developing the east harbor site.
For Rota board member Barrie Toves, improving the Rota harbor will play an important role in the economy of Rota where the cost of commodities are far higher than the two islands due to high shipping costs.