A conservation action plan for the Garapan watershed is in the works.
The Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality began a two-day workshop yesterday at the Pacific Islands Club to review and revise its “Garapan Conservation Action Plan.” The workshop invited agency heads and staff, as well as legislators to discuss strategies moving forward.
Garapan has seen a glut of competing businesses develop in recent years, while infrastructure and runoff pollution issues, among others, have yet to be resolved.
The CAP is described as “comprehensive natural resource management plan for the Garapan area”—from Mt. Tapochau road to American Memorial Park, to the nearby lagoon, and cultural village.
This year’s plan is an update of the 2012 plan. It is updated every three years, and covers threats like natural disturbances, polluted runoff, and invasive and feral species, among others.
The 2015 plan will include an action list. It will reflect interagency responsibilities, project timelines, partnerships, and resources needed to complete these goals.
In an interview yesterday, BECQ Division of Coastal Resource Management watershed coordinator Kaitlin Mattos said that local agencies look to address issues of impact.
“Back in 2012, there was not much development going on in Garapan. It was kind of a dry period for the CNMI. Since then, we’ve had a lot of development interests,” she said.
“Can we make sure that we are not cutting down too many trees, that businesses are careful about the way they build their infrastructure? And that they recognize importance of our natural resources in that watershed area, are things to be asked, she said.
“If we can protect Garapan, then we can protect all of Saipan, we can protect the CNMI. But if we ignore Garapan…we are missing a huge opportunity to protect the resources that everybody on island uses,” she said.
“We have to try to figure out how the small amount of land that we have over there—that’s not already in use—how are we going to allocate that to protect our natural resources and still keep in mind the economic, and social considerations?” she said.
Since they began in 2012, she described efforts as “a lot of getting started.” Infrastructure agencies have been moving on trying to get surveys and information in the area, for example.
The Department of Public Works looks at storm drains; CUC checks sewer lines for repair; and Zoning can look at abandoned cars, blighted property, or trash piles, for example.
“The next step will be to see how they can address these problems. How can we clean out the storm drain, repair the sewers, and keep people from dumping and littering and educate people about protecting our coral reefs and not tearing up the sea grass,” she said.
Funding, shortage of personnel and resources also pose challenges. Better communication between agencies was also discussed yesterday.
“[BECQ needs] storm drains cleaned so we can protect pollution sources. If we can help DPW to get their storm drains cleaned, then we can continue our programs. MVA’s tourists are going to be happier, if they are not dealing with flooded water all the time over Garapan,” she said.
“There is really no way to separate agencies. It’s really nice to get everybody in this one room to talk about it altogether,” to come up and move forward with the CAP, she said.
Yesterday’s workshop included BECQ divisions, the departments of Public Works and Public Lands, the Zoning Office, the Mayor’s Office, Department of Land and Natural Resources and its divisions; as well as the Bureau of Environmental Health, Commonwealth Utilities Corp., among other government heads, and Precinct 3 legislators. It wraps up today.