BECQ’s Benavente is certified for erosion control

Environmental engineer James Benavente of the Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality was recently certified for erosion and sediments control, further buttressing efforts to regulate earthmoving activities in the CNMI.

“BECQ is proud to share in Mr. Benavente’s accomplishment in becoming a certified professional in erosion and sediments control,” said Ray Masga, director of Environmental Quality. “This increased skill set will benefit the rest of our team.”

Erosion and sediments control encompasses several earthmoving activities, which include anything that disturbs or alters the surface of the land, a coral reef, the bottom of a lagoon, or ocean floor, including but not limited to excavations, dredging, embankments, land reclamation in a lagoon, land development, subdivision development, mineral extraction, ocean disposal and the moving, depositing or storing of soil, rock, coral, earth or sand mining.

“This is an enormous undertaking that requires advanced knowledge to ensure the protection of the environment and preservation of resources and we are more than confident in our team’s abilities,” Masga said.

He said that BECQ’s ongoing trainings build capacity for the agency and strengthens their roles in carrying out the mission to protect public health and the island environment much more effectively.

Earthmoving and erosion control program is responsible for establishing certain minimum standards and requirements as determined by DEQ necessary for controlling nonpoint source runoff from human related activities, such as land clearing.

Early last month, Janice Castro, acting director for Coastal Resources Management, discussed non-point source pollution and training on low volume roads, a concern worsened by heavy rainfall and man-made pollutants carried to coastal areas by runoff.

“We want to reiterate that erosion and sediment control is an ongoing concern and we continue to address this challenge with trainings in assessing road design and maintenance opportunities in the field. Along with interagency collaboration, we can continue the momentum to identify and address low volume road management challenges moving forward,” Castro said.

Benavente noted that erosion controls are methods or measures used to minimize erosion, runoff and sedimentation.

“When silt and particles end up in the ocean, they affect our coral reef, and our job is to minimize impact as much as possible.

“Every time you kill off vegetation, you expose these areas to erosion and most of our storm water is discharged into the ocean, so being knowledgeable in sediment control will definitely help with prevention.

“In fact, through the one-start permitting process, when a developer proposes a sound, environmentally-responsible design, erosion and sediments control can actually be enhanced.

“In terms of soil erosion, which is an important social and economic problem and an essential factor in assessing ecosystem health and function, estimates of erosion are essential to issues of land and water management, including sediment transport and storage in lowlands, reservoirs, and most especially our precious lagoon,” Benavente said, adding that at the end of the day, these resources must be protected.

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said that improvement of methods and management practices is necessary to increase the standards of achieving water quality protection, preventing accelerated stream channels, preventing erosion, reducing flooding threats, and preserving sensitive habitats.

“I commend BECQ for building on regulatory knowledge to protect our natural resources. I am very proud to see that we have a knowledgeable engineer on board who has taken the next step to become certified in erosion and sediments control. The knowledge held by our team will go a long way in safeguarding our resources.

“Safeguarding will require ongoing improvement and adoption of best practices that can used by our engineers, plan reviewers and the community. Implementation and enforcement is only as successful as our understanding of environmental and coastal limitations and the impact of human activity.

“I thank Mr. Benavente and the entire division for their foresight which will definitely benefit and improve our Inter-Agency One-Start Earthmoving and Erosion Control permitting process,” Torres said.

The Division of Environmental Quality Wastewater, Earthmoving and Erosion Control branch protects public health and the environment by minimizing negative impacts to CNMI soil surface and groundwater resources through enforcement of local and federal environmental regulations. This branch is responsible for controlling runoff from human-related activities, ensuring proper design, construction and application of approved on-site wastewater disposal systems, responding to complaints on illegal or unpermitted land clearing, issuing notices of violations and administrative orders and promoting public education and awareness. (PR)

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