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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Feasibility study on Rota’s west harbor underway
‘$19M for existing harbor development a challenge to CPA’

The Commonwealth Ports Authority is now working with the U.S. Army Corps Engineer to conduct a feasibility study on upgrading the existing harbor of Rota, according to CPA executive director MaryAnn Lizama.

She disclosed that the ports authority has been approved an over $200,000 technical assistance grant from the Corps for the feasibility study. Lizama said the grant’s condition gave CPA no more than a year to avail of this funding assistance.

“We will push [this feasibility study] because we don’t want to lose the funds…and we’re closely working with the U.S. Army Corps engineers who will be assisting us with the funding for the technical assistance,” she told Saipan Tribune.

The CPA management and its board had earlier opposed the idea of building a new port on the east side of Rota. The current harbor is on the west side of the island.

A feasibility study, commissioned by the island’s municipality and legislative delegation, was recently been completed and is now being reviewed by all parties.

Lizama said that CPA is firm that any funds for harbor development on Rota must first be used on the West Harbor.

“Because West Harbor is the active and regulated area allowed for ports entry, CPA is focusing its efforts on any studies on the West Harbor,” she said.

Based on the initial estimates of the agency, repairing and renovating the existing harbor will cost about $16 million to $19 million—an amount that Lizama admits would be a challenge to CPA.

She assured, however, that once the feasibility study is completed, the agency will look for federal grants and locally-sourced funds, including untapped CIP monies, to get the project going.

“We will go out to seek funding. But now, that’s a high cost project and CPA does not have money [to fulfill the needed improvements],” she said.

Saipan Tribune learned that the completed East Harbor study commissioned by both the Rota municipality and its legislative delegation also planned to tap CIP monies for its development.

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. However, the area identified for the proposed East Harbor is not CPA property but public land.

The U.S. Coast Guard recently approached CPA-Rota where a preliminary inspection was done on the site and had offered assistance to do the desired study with no cost to the ports authority. 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 for the West Harbor may cost $400,000, which requires a 50-50 match.

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