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Workshop focuses on improving 3 Saipan watersheds

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THE Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality-Division of Coastal Resources Management is holding a four-day watershed planning workshop that focuses on initiatives and priorities for three watershed areas on Saipan.

The workshop is being held at the Pacific Islands Club from Jan. 21 to 24.

At the workshop, Anne Kitchell, environmental consultant at Horsley Witten Group, an engineering and planning company, said representatives from various government agencies are integrating their priorities and capital improvement projects to help improve water quality in the Garapan, Laolao, and Achugao watershed areas.

“They are trying to integrate watershed plans in order to balance out economic growth and environmental growth,” Kitchell said in an interview.

She said all three watersheds have a high level of bacteria in the water, adding that pollutants and contaminants flow into the Saipan lagoon.

“At Laolao Bay, sediment and turbidity are the issues. Over the last five years, they have been revegetating land to keep the sediment. But bacteria are [also a] big [issue] and they have to do mostly with the sources of wastewater,” she added.

Bacteria could come from septic systems, a piggery, a sewer line or pump stations that are not working, Kitchell said.

She said the three watershed areas are high priorities because of ongoing construction activities.

“Garapan is a highly urbanized area with buildings and more people. Achugao has a lot of new construction, which may change the watershed. Laolao has less development but the focus there is on fisheries, diving, and corals. These watersheds serve different purposes for Saipan. So, how do we improve water quality yet maintain services, tourism, hotels, and economic growth?”

Horsley Witten Group has worked with various agencies in the CNMI for over a decade now. Among the company’s projects include stormwater design, erosion and sediment control, and watershed planning.

In conducting the workshop, BECQ has partnered with Horsley Witten Group, the Nature Conservancy Micronesia, and a local environmental consulting firm, Koa.

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