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By Edith G. Alejandro

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, June 7) - Governor Juan N. Babauta yesterday endorsed to the Department of the Interior the adoption and implementation of a recently completed hazards assessment and volcanic early warning system report to help the Commonwealth deal with threats posed by volcanic eruptions.

Babauta provided Interior Secretary Gale Norton with a copy of the report, "Volcanic Eruptions in the CNMI: Hazards Assessment and Volcano Early Warning System for the Northern Mariana Islands," in hopes that DOI would help the CNMI implement a socioeconomic development plan for the Northern Islands.

"Nine of the 14 islands in the CNMI have potentially active volcanoes. One island volcano, Anatahan, is presently active and that its ongoing eruptions are a grim reminder that volcanic eruptions will always play a role in the future of the CNMI," said Babauta.

If approved, the CNMI may get federal funding for the procurement, installation and expeditious implementation of the program, according to Emergency Management Office director Rudy Pua. The USGS would also train local staff on how to read and analyze volcanic activities at nine of the 14 islands of the Commonwealth.

"The governor signed the letter today (yesterday) for Secretary Norton endorsing this assessment report," said Pua in an interview.

Pua said there is no system at present to detect volcanic activities and the need to install monitoring devices is necessary.

Pua pointed out that the threat of volcanic eruptions is always present in the CNMI, making the drafting of the plan necessary.

According to the report, there is ample evidence that eruptions of Marianas volcanoes constitute a hazard to aircraft flying in the western Pacific and it is certain that the economies of Saipan and Guam would be adversely affected by future eruptions.

"At this time, there is no solid scientific foundation on which to base volcanic hazards assessments for the individual volcanic islands. Until systematic scientific studies of the volcanoes are conducted, the question of which areas on the individual islands proposed for development would be subject to volcanic hazards will not be known with any certainty," the report stated.

July 8, 2004-07-07

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