GUAM GOVERNMENT TAKES CONTROL OF ISLAND’S WATER

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By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

HAGATNA, Guam (Marianas Variety, Jan. 9) – The military will have to secure a permit from the Guam Waterworks Authority for any future water service development projects now that the government of Guam has declared full control of the water resources all over the island.

Public Law 29-51, signed by Gov. Felix P. Camacho last week, declares that all surface water including streams and river as well as ground water "belong to all of the people of Guam held in trust by the government of Guam."

"What this law means is that GovGuam and the people of Guam are asserting their right and ownership of all the water sources in Guam. Anybody who wants to tap into these water sources must go to GWA first," said Sen. Ben Pangelinan, D-Barrigada, author of the nationalist law, which was introduced in the Legislature as Bill 176.

Under the new law, only GWA is authorized to determine the priorities for water use, whether for residential or commercial.

"In other words, the military cannot just drill a well and start drawing water anywhere, anytime. They must go to GWA and get a permit," Pangelinan said.

P.L. 29-51 automatically locks out the military’s access to the water sources found within its own properties.

"All water rights and rights to use the water shall be determined according to the (provisions of the new law) and there shall be no riparian water rights in Guam," P.L. 29-51 states.

The new law, according to Pangelinan, will not have a retroactive application on Fena water reservoir, which is currently under the Navy’s control.

"But this law will not allow our Fena experience to be replicated," Pangelinan said.

"Right now we have a water source controlled by the Navy, which determines the priority use for the water," Pangelinan said.

The Navy’s Fena water treatment plan prioritizes service to the military community, leaving the civilian population unable to meet its own water needs, Pangelinan said.

The senator said the enactment of the new law flashes the signal for GovGuam to step up its efforts to reclaim ownership of the Fena water reservoir.

"This gives us an opportunity to assert our right and to begin working with Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo and the (Consolidated Commission on Utilities) to start building our case for Fena water," Pangelinan said

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