admin's picture

By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Nov. 2) – Farmers and officials of soil and water conservation districts in the Pacific are joining hands in lobbying the federal government to provide funding for watershed projects in fiscal year 2008, which started on October 1.

Two men representing over 3,000 soil and water conservation districts in the United States and its territories, and a top official from the U.S. Department of Agriculture were the guest speakers at a meeting conducted by the Pacific Basin Association of Conservation Districts at the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa in Tumon on October 16.

National conservation district president Olin Sims and Pacific Rim conservation district president William "Skip" Cowell talked about the need to "strengthen the Pacific partnership," according to Saipan Soil and Water Conservation District chairman Isidoro T. Cabrera who represented the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands at the meeting attended by 20 other delegates.

Cabrera said discussed were the watershed and other projects related to agriculture that were put on hold because the U.S. Congress did not fund them for fiscal year 2007.

Gary Mast, deputy undersecretary for natural resources and environment of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was the first to deliver a speech.

Congress, Cabrera said, "actually wants to fund these projects but they had to reprogram the money to support the war in Iraq."

The national and Pacific groups from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, American Samoa, Hawaii, the Marshall Islands, Palau, Pohnpei and Yap are preparing to lobby for federal watershed funding.

Cabrera said they are optimistic that by joining together, "we will have a stronger voice."

Consolidating our efforts, he added, is "one route that we should be taking now because the larger the group the stronger the voice."

In the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, watershed projects provide irrigation to farms and maintain a flood control system that protects the community and marine resources from destruction caused by runoff water.

Cabrera said the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands needs US$2.7 million to resume the Kagman watershed project.

Without this and other similar projects, Cabrera said marine resources in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and other Pacific jurisdictions will remain exposed to harm.

The community, he added, will continue to deal with floods during inclement weather and farmers will continue to see their commercial farm plots wither during the dry season.

But concerns about the unfunded watershed projects were not the sole subjects of discussion during the meeting on Guam, Cabrera said.

He added that they also talked about the protection of the environment, the possibility of having alternative energy sources, and the increasing demand for water.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment