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Kilili: $4.5M for Marianas disaster studies open door to $740M in funding

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (Office of the CNMI Congressional Delegate) — U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan says the Army Corps of Engineers is spending $4.5 million to study how to fortify the Marianas against future storms like Super Typhoon Yutu.

Congress made the funds available to areas hit by Hurricanes Florence and Michael, Tropical Storm Gita, Typhoon Mangkhut and Yutu. Recommendations from the studies will give the Marianas access to $740 million in construction funds Congress also allocated to these storm-hit areas in last year’s disaster recovery act, Public Law 116-20.

“This is more good news from the recovery act,” Congressman Sablan said. “We worked very hard to make sure the Marianas was eligible for the many federal programs in that law — not only to help us rebuild, but also to protect our islands from future disasters.”

Three million dollars of the study funds will be used for engineering recommendations for the protection of Beach Road on Saipan. The thoroughfare is vitally important to business and residents in day-to-day life and connects many of the island’s traditional village areas. The scenic drive along Saipan’s lagoon is also a key resource of the tourist economy. Yet, the roadway’s proximity to the ocean makes it vulnerable to storm waves and erosion as sea-level rises.

One and half million dollars will be used for a broader watershed assessment. Army Corps officials said they would be studying past storms, identifying what causes the most damage (wind, flooding, etc.), and looking at what kind of infrastructure could reduce risks. This could include flood management and waste water systems, as well as protecting water supplies.

Congress mandated the assessment work be completed within 30 months.

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