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Torres slams DPW for alleged misrepresentation

Lawyer raises concerns over Airport Road project
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Posted on Apr 06 2021

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Former attorney general Robert T. Torres, on behalf of the Torres family, is raising several concerns about the proposed road improvements of Route 35, or Chalan Tun Herman Pan Road (formerly Airport Road), and is appealing to the Division of Coastal Resources Management to instruct the Department of Public Works to “go back and design it right.”

In a letter to DCRM director Janice Castro, Torres asserts that the proposed road improvement, if completed, with its reduced drainage areas will result in significant increases in water discharge onto the Torres family property in the area, which would result in the flooding of polluted waters onto their property, erosion, and property damage.

To address these concerns, DCRM is set to hold a public hearing this afternoon, 5pm at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center, on the proposed project.

“We hope that our critical analysis prevails on the discerning eyes and ears of DCRM and its administrators to do again in 2021 what was done in 2002: send DPW back and tell the DPW secretary and his personnel to design it right; calculate correctly and submit data that are objectively sound rather than self-serving unreliable false narratives designed to misinform and harm,” Torres said in his letter.

DPW is proposing to improve the 0.78-mile length of the two-lane undivided road, extending from the intersection of Chalan Monsignor Guerrero to the intersection of Flame Tree Road, which would include installation of guardrails, traffic signs, drainage improvements, and pavement rehabilitation. The Office of the Governor announced last February that road construction to repair the Tun Herman Pan Road will begin this year.

In his nine-page letter to Castro, Torres raised concerns over DPW’s request to amend the siting permit for the project, accusing DPW of misrepresentation of facts. His brother, Joseph T. Torres, also wrote to DCRM, stressing that until after the off-site drainage system has been constructed, DPW should only be allowed to resurface the road.

The Torres’ property, along with several other families’, will get affected by the project, should DPW go forward with a full construction, Robert Torres said. He pointed out that the Route 35 Design is incomplete, with only 44 out of 62 pages submitted. What is missing, as an example, are drawings and designs for the catch basin and storm drainage chamber—both critical infrastructure in such an environmentally-sensitive project, he said.

Also, he described the design as unqualified and uncertified, with unidentified design standards; an example of poor and incompetent design, with elements “curiously missing and omitted”; with understated calculations and computations. He said that DPW’s conclusion that the resident’s concerns are wrong “is a material misrepresentation of fact.”

“The residents must be shown that design and given substantial opportunity to comment. DPW has not even done this as it has done two things: a) it has submitted plans which are materially different from the SSFM design that DCRM approved in 2002 and which are signed by a qualified professional engineer; and b) it has submitted its own “in-house” design, which are not qualified.”

Aside from the missing designs, Torres also raised concerns over DPW’s proposal to raise and grade up, and cut down portions of the road, its impact on the water run-off, and DPW’s attempt to misinform DCRM and the public on the water run-off impact.

“… DPW uses the Run-off Analysis based on a “25-year storm/24-hour rainfall” basis. Every road contractor and applicant for a major siting permit knows that today DPW is requiring applicants to meet a 50-year storm analysis standard—not the 25-year storm standard. Why does DPW not disclose to DCRM that it is using a more forgiving run-off analysis standard for an area that is perennially flood prone?” he asked.

He added that for well over 20 years, the Torres family has been inviting DPW personnel to the area of Airport Road during the rainy season, to see for themselves the water run-off—and that only one DPW secretary came, Elizabeth Balajadia, way back in the 1990s.

“DPW claims that by re-grading the existing road and installing drainage curb and gutter, etc. it will be able to have the run-off accommodated by less drainage areas rather than more. To this we simply say ‘hogwash.’”

Yesterday, DCRM agency officials also held a meeting to, among others, review the permit application for the Route 35 Road Improvement Project.

Iva Maurin | Author
Iva Maurin is a communications specialist with environment and community outreach experience in the Philippines and in California. She has a background in graphic arts and is the Saipan Tribune’s community and environment reporter. Contact her at iva_maurin@saipantribune.com

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