BECQ hopes to work with Legislature to tackle watershed issues


The Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality brought together legislators and government heads yesterday to tackle solutions to the islands’ water quality and watershed infrastructure issues.

According to BECQ watershed coordinator Kaitlin Mattos, with a shortage of local capacity issues, it was important to get that “legislative buy-in” to this initiative which helps address storm water runoff and dilapidated sewers, among others, that contribute to pollution on island.

“It went really well,” Mattos told Saipan Tribune. “We are really excited to have legislators support the initiative just by showing up. We did a walk-through [of] Garapan to discuss some of the infrastructure concerns there,” she said, referring to the area’s storm drainages, roads, and sewer maintenance.

Mattos said discussion revealed different tactics to tackle water quality issues and infrastructure maintenance within the entire island of Saipan.

“We are hoping we take these same type of conversations on Tinian and Rota as well,” she said.

One of the needs that have been identified is the lack of capacity on island to address these issues.

“… We just don’t have the capacity on island to do a lot of the work that needs to be done. [The meeting yesterday was] getting the legislative buy-in and getting their ideas on the table, basically getting everybody talking together,” she said.

Mattos said they talked about strategic planning, whether through a working committee or just making sure permit decisions connect to water quality and watershed infrastructure information.

The need for public outreach was also discussed. This would make sure students know what a watershed is. The same current information could be provided to permit applicants.

Mattos said they also talked about working with private business and investors coming in to be good stewards of the environment.

Another issue brought up was the flooding in Kannat Tabla. “Each year we see that over and over again but we haven’t managed to come up with a really comprehensive solution to fix it,” she said.

Some solutions suggested were possibly getting a culvert built in the area to divert water to green areas where it can be absorbed into the ground or to divert this water into an infiltration basin.

BECQ also continues similar efforts today in their three-day training for government agency staff at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center in Susupe.

Mattos said this workshop will involve classroom work and fieldwork to look at the major storm water management and water quality issue on island.

Close to 50 individuals from the CNMI, Guam, and other places are attending, according to Mattos.

Today’s work will look at infrastructure in Garapan and, among others, will examine the “best practices” shown by businesses around the island on Thursday and an inspection of unpaved roads around Lao Lao on Friday.

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at

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