‘Agricultural homesteads not sustainable on Saipan’


The land use plan as presented by a third-party company working with the Department of Public Lands recommends that the agricultural homestead program is no longer suitable for Saipan.

After a monthlong planning and discussion, a project team consisting of several engineering firms—Pacific Engineering Group, formerly known as SSFM CNMI, Chris Hart & Partners Inc., John M. Knox & Associates, Inc., and Myounghee Noh & Associates Inc.—came up with the first draft of the CNMI land use plan.

Working with DPL, the group recommended yesterday a second look at homestead programs for Saipan.

“A really important issue that needs to be addressed in this plan is whether or not the homestead program is sustainable for Saipan. Our opinion is that with the limited amount of land that is suitable for development, it is becoming impractical to proceed with the homestead program [o]n Saipan and so we are making this recommendation and we are discussing that in our public hearings,” said Chris Hard & Partners Inc. president Jordan Hart.

The groups made a presentation on the land use plan yesterday to the House of Representatives and Senate.

Though nothing is final yet, the group is still seeking public comments on the plan, which is available at the DPL website, http://www.dpl.gov.mp/draft-land-use-plan-presentation/.

The group noted that the comment period would end on June 15, 2018.

Comments may be submitted in oral or written forms during public hearings. Forms are available through the DPL website. Comments may also be emailed to rreyes@pegsmp.com.

The plan recognized 245 hectares of land suitable for homestead use on Saipan. However, for agricultural homestead use, they believe the program is no longer sustainable.

The group’s land planners visited four of the 14 islands of the CNMI. They said the islands north of Agrihan were not evaluated because the islands were located within the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, which makes them off-limits.

The group did visit Anatahan, Alamagan, Pagan, and Agrihan and said that all four were suitable for agricultural homesteads, particularly Pagan, where they recommend setting aside 20,000 square meters for the Northern Islands Mayor’s Office.

“This is anticipated to include an emergency shelter, mayor’s office, clinic, schoolhouse, lodging for mayor’s staff, and agricultural homesteaders,” they reported, adding that the southeast area of the island is ideal for a primary future homestead site while also recommending that the Department of Public Safety conduct an airstrip and harbor feasibility study.

Pagan was notably the only island of the four to receive recommendations for an airstrip feasibility study, while the three remaining islands had recommendations for a feasibility study for “safe boat and canoe access.” The group noted that Pagan has about 273 hectares of land available for agricultural homestead lots.

Anatahan’s northwestern area is recommended as the island’s primary future homestead site, while the island’s south side is recommended to be the secondary homestead site. The group identified 108 hectares for possible agricultural homestead lots and noted that village homestead lots for Anatahan was not in the current form of the land use plan.

Alamagan’s northern area is recommended for its primary future homestead site, while the southern area is recommended as the secondary future homestead site. The group, however, noted that they were unable to visit the southern side of the island due to its “difficult terrain” and “inability to land.” The group identified 139 hectares for possible agricultural homestead lots.

Agrihan’s southern area is recommended as a primary future homestead site, while the group identified two areas on the east side of the island as the secondary homestead site. The island currently has two residents. The group identified 212 hectares for possible agricultural homestead lots.

Similar to Anatahan, all four islands currently do not include village homestead lots, as it is not included in the current draft of the land use plan.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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