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By Jude O. Marfil

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Oct. 19) – The U.S. Department of the Interior has approved the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands’ request for a US$434,000 grant to be used for the preservation of the islands’ coral reefs.

"Funds will be used to carry out a number of projects that have been identified by the CNMI as high priority," said Nikoloa I. Pula, the department’s director for insular affairs.

These projects include conducting fishermen forum, support for marine enforcement officers and operations, and stabilizing stream crossings on the Lau Lau Bay Road to control sedimentation.

"These programs are consistent with the goals of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force and will further our joint efforts to protect coral reef ecosystems for present and future generations," Pula said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) earlier identified Lau Lau Bay, which is located on the southeastern side of Saipan, as a problem area.

"Runoff from the watershed drains into a fringing coral reef.... It is relatively undeveloped," the EPA said.

A tropical storm could easily cause massive erosion thereby resulting in heavy sedimentation of the reef, it added.

Coral reefs provide habitat for various marine species and also help mitigate global warming by taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, experts said.

October 19, 2005

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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