Monday, April 25, 2011

Archaeologist discusses prospects for NMI heritage tourism | local-news

Archaeologist discusses prospects for NMI heritage tourism | local-news

Dr. Jennifer McKinnon discusses prospects for heritage tourism in NMI



FROM where she originally came from, heritage tourism is a thriving $4.2 billion industry and given the rich historical and cultural heritage of the Northern Mariana Islands, visiting archaeologist Dr. Jennifer McKinnon believes in the prospects for this industry in the islands.

Dr. Jennifer McKinnon, a visiting archaeologist from Flinders University in Australia, conducts a public lecture at the Visitor Center of American Memorial Park on Friday. Photo by Alexie Villegas ZotomayorIn a public lecture at the Visitor Center of the American Memorial Park last Friday, Dr. McKinnon talked about how she engaged with Historical Preservation Office and Coastal Resources Management to work on managing underwater resources that led to exploring the option for heritage tourism.

For McKinnon, with the state of the CNMI economy “Saipan [the CNMI] recently is struggling to make ends meet, we talked about the option of heritage tourism and developing a trail.”

McKinnon shared findings of a report published by the University of Florida that pointed out that heritage tourism brings $4.2 billion in revenue to the state.

She said they thought it could generate funds as well for the CNMI.

In her public lecture, McKinnon shared highlights of the report that showed heritage tourism impacts that can be seen in job creation, income generation, increased gross state product, increased state and local tax collections, and increased in-state wealth.

According to the Univ. of Florida report, heritage preservation activities created 123,242 jobs, generated $2.78 billion in income, $5.27 billion in gross state product, $1.25 billion in total taxes, $657 million in state and local taxes, and produced $4.67 billion in in-state wealth.

The report further showed that among the sectors impacted by historic preservation activities, 33,621 jobs created in the services sector generated $751 million in annual income with 55,002 jobs in retail trade with income reaching $796 million.

McKinnon said, “Heritage tourism is a major operation [in the state of Florida where she came from].”

She added, “Florida is huge. It has lots of parks, and trails, and historic sites that people visit. This is the way to generate funds.”

Believing that what had been done and what is happening in Florida could be replicated in the CNMI, McKinnon said, “The next step was to really get serious about documenting the WWII sites and developing the underwater heritage trail.”

McKinnon, who’s affiliated with the Ships of Discovery — a Corpus Christi, Texas-based organization promoting artifact conservation among other missions — applied for a grant from the American Battle Protection Program of the National Park Service that awarded their project $50,000 which made possible the creation of the underwater heritage trail.

McKinnon said, “The major objectives of the grant are really to understand the extent of the battlefield that was in the water, things that happened in the underwater setting, why sites ended up in these kind of places, what happened to the crews, gather data to fill out National Register nominations on the individual sites that are out in the water, and develop underwater heritage trail in conjunction with the HPO.”

The grant made it possible for McKinnon and her colleagues to conduct work underwater, gather underwater archaeological data and worked on the trail.

McKinnon also acknowledged working with six masters thesis students who helped generate “a lot of archaeological data.”

She also extended her gratitude to HPO, CRM, DEQ, local divers and tour operators for supporting the project.

“What we ended up with is an underwater WWII Battle of Saipan trail,” said McKinnon.

The trail includes 12 sites, including American and Japanese vehicles — planes, tanks, shipwrecks, armored vehicles.

“It is a self-guided tour. You choose your own adventure,” she said.

“It is something that you can do individually or you can do as an organized group,” said McKinnon.

She said the deepest site in the trail is 35 feet. She said they look forward to having deep-water sites on the trail for people “who like more challenge.”

Through the grant from the American Battlefield Protection Program, McKinnon said they are producing the underwater laminated guides (8.5” x 11”), four posters (18” x 24”) and brochures which they hope to produce in Chamorro, Carolinian, English, Japanese, Chinese, and Russian.

The Flinders University professor said the materials would be available sometime in May or in June this year.

The first print-run she said was funded by the grant from the National Park Service; however, the art work will be left with the Marianas Visitors Authority, Historic Preservation Office, Coastal Resources Management and the NMI Council for the Humanities should the need arises to reprint these materials.

The underwater heritage trail

During the lecture, McKinnon provided a preview of what could be found in the underwater heritage trail.

The Grumman TBM Avenger — which the poster stated as a U.S. Navy torpedo bomber, and one of the more widely produced naval strike aircraft in history — could be found 10 feet underwater, said McKinnon.

“It’s upside down. Its landing gear is sticking up….It’s a fantastic little wreck. It is great for snorkeling,” said McKinnon.

She said a buoy marks the spot. Eventually, she said they are working with CRM on moorings.

She said avengers were used in early air attacksin February, April, and prior to invasion in June 1944. They were important in knocking out installations and preparing the islands for American invasion. Avengers were also used, she said, in the Marianas Turkey Shoot which McKinnon said probably set up the success of the United States in the Marianas.

In identifying the avenger wreck, McKinnon said they discovered it was the avenger by looking at the wheel wells — “where landing gear folds into the plane — unique to this particular plane.”

The archaeologist, who originally wanted to work on the Spanish colonial archaeology in the islands, said there’s also the wreckage of Kawanishi H8K or “Emily” that can be found in Tanapag Lagoon, 29 feet underwater.

“This is a popular dive site,” she said.

McKinnon described “Emily” as a great site owing to its “fantastic features” that include gun turret (with machine gun still sticking up), cockpit with chair and controls, painted fuselage (in gray and red paint), and propellers.

With Korean and Japanese monuments on the site, McKinnon said this is one of the things they recognized in posters and brochures.

Next, she showed Aichi E13A or “Jake” — the Japanese long-range float plane that can be found in 23 feet of water.

She said it was also upside-down.

“This site is interesting from an archaeological perspective.”

McKinnon said they are still working on a theory about dumping and how this aircraft was dragged out to the site.

She said, “There’s a large section of landing gear that is not associated with this plane.”

This led them to suspect that it could have been dumped but they have yet to look into historical documentation to support this claim.

Other wrecks in the area include the Japanese freighter Shoan Maru with intact superstructure and bow section.

There is also a possible submarine chaser lying on its starboard side with an intact bow structure and collapsed and disarticulated hull section.

McKinnon’s group also documented a Daihatsu Landing Craft or a large motorized boat used by the Japanese landing forces in WWII. McKinnon said there are two of this and are 350 feet apart.

She also mentioned about three Sherman tanks that are semi-submerged and an LVT or landing vehicle tracked, an amphibious tractor.

McKinnon said the trail will be launched at the end of May or early June when brochures and posters arrive.

She said brochures and posters are currently under review by the National Park Service prior to printing.

The brochures and posters will be sent to the Humanities Council for distribution to libraries and schools.

Other ongoing projects

Meanwhile, McKinnon said their latest visit to the island was made possible through the NOAA Marine Education Training Mini Grant program that helped them run the two trainings in heritage awareness.

The seminars held at the Manamko Center conference room from April 12-16, was conducted by McKinnon with Dr. Della Scott-Ireton of the Florida Public Archaeology Network.

The trainings included lectures on underwater archaeology, shipwrecks and ship construction; seafaring culture; conservation issues; federal and state laws on submerged cultural resources; and artificial reefs.

McKinnon said, “You can’t put something into place without knowledge about how to use these resources and heritage.”

The trainings were free to the diving industry.

Moreover, McKinnon’s other project on island involved mapping, recording sites related to indigenous use.

There is also an ongoing wooden shipwreck project.

She also mentioned about applying for another grant for $80,000 to fund the filming of the heritage trail that will be shown in the National Park Service parks and to be shown on TV as well.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Frank and Fe Cepeda Story: Respetu [Respect]

The Frank and Fe Cepeda Story: Respetu
By Alexie Villegas Zotomayor


BEADS of perspiration trickle down his forehead as he labors for a project his uncle promised would generate a share in income for him.

Toiling under the scorching equatorial sun that blessed him with a dark complexion, he feels bad about skipping his classes. Worse, he feels bad that it is not worth skipping his classes after all for he doesn’t get the share he looks forward to getting.

Frank Cepeda, now 68 years old, remembers full well how he strived to earn an education on Guam.

Tun Frank shares with Variety how he ended up studying on Guam. He remembers with gusto how he, along with Pete A. Tenorio and Edward DLG Pangelinan went to Guam to pursue higher education.

Tun Frank says ninth grade was the highest attainable level of education on Saipan at the time.

He says students here on island went to Chalan Kanoa Elementary School from first to sixth grade and Saipan-Chalan Piao Intermediate School for seventh to ninth grade.

After that, Tun Frank says, students had a choice between going to the Pacific Island Central School in Truk or the trade school on Guam.

Having a relative on Guam makes going to school on Guam the more logical choice. But those years he spent with his relatives, he says, gave him some of his most unforgettable experiences.

“I was made to work. I ended up being one of the manpower [that his uncle needed badly and lacked],” says Cepeda.

He says he couldn’t do anything then. Forced by the circumstances, he followed what his uncle wanted him to do.

He says, “I didn’t have time to study after school. Staying there I had to help.”

Although tuition at the Tumon Jr. Sr. High School was free, Tun Frank says he had to work for his allowance.

“My parents over here couldn’t produce anything to give me any money to even buy a shirt or buy lunch,” says Tun Frank.

At a young age, he says he learned hardship. Nevertheless, counting his blessings, he feels good that he was fortunate to have studied on Guam where he met his wife Fe Luz Ada.

Early childhood

The second oldest in a brood of 11, Frank Cepeda is the second son of Gregorio Torres Cepeda and Ana Guerrero Deleon Guerrero.

Tun Frank tells Variety that he was born on the island of Alamagan on June 24, 1942.

He recalls that his parents were probably sent to Alamagan between 1939 and 1940 during the time when the Japanese were fortifying the islands in preparation for war.

The elder Cepeda, a fisherman, and his wife, according to Tun Frank, were sent with the others to work on the roads and the military outposts on Alamagan.

The second oldest until 1968 when his brother died, Tun Frank says he was one of five sons of his parents and now remains the oldest of the siblings.

Fe and Frank Cepeda, who recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, share with Variety that respect and honesty are two main ingredients to marital bliss. He his childhood on Alamagan.

At the age of three, “I was in Alamagan, I was only three years old I guess. I still remember my mother and I were out gathering wild tomatoes.”

He tells Variety that he returned to Saipan only in 1946, long after the gates of Camp Susupe had been opened to release the internees.

He says he slept through the long boat ride back to Saipan in 1946.

“The next thing I remember I fell asleep on the boat. I didn’t remember anything else until I woke up here on Saipan. That was a long sleep. I got up to what looked like a cubicle,” narrates Tun Frank.

He describes the quarters in Chalan Kanoa. “I got up to what looked like a cubicle made by the military. The place was divided into five rooms.”

Asked if it were one of the stockades where the war survivors stayed, he says, “No. It wasn’t Camp Susupe. We were still in Alamagan when Camp Susupe was opened to release the civilians.”

He remembers fondly that the quarters were close to the Joeten Store. “I stayed there until 1957 when I left Saipan for Guam to study.”

He says he was fortunate to have had the opportunity to move to Guam and study despite the challenges he had to go through.

During that time in 1957, he said his proficiency in English was weak as the islands had been under the Japanese administration since 1914.

He acknowledges the efforts of his teachers back then who provided the foundation. He appreciates the efforts they invested in preparing them for higher education. “They did a good job in helping us.”

On Guam, the young Frank Cepeda was bent on acquiring education so he could improve his lot in life.

Staying with his uncle is just half the battle.

But Tun Frank takes things in stride. He knows he needs to soldier on.

He say he worked for his uncle thinking he would keep his end of the bargain to cough up a share of the earnings from the construction projects.

He narrates, “Life was hard. Sometimes I missed school. I was thinking that if I worked instead of going to class, I would get money which I needed very much. I needed to decide on my own.”

He says being young, he couldn’t go against his uncle’s decisions. He says he had to go along with it.

After spending two years with his uncle’s family, he had the chance to quit staying there and relocated to the Andersen Air Force Base where an American family took care of him.

At Tumon Jr. Sr. High School

The then 17-year-old Frank Cepeda found refuge from his personal battles in the classroom at Tumon Jr. Sr. High School where Tun Frank says he found courage and confidence.

Skin burned from exposure to the sunlight working for construction projects of a kin, Tun Frank says he stayed at the back of the class while the good looking ladies, including Fe, who would become his future wife, were in front.

He says his skin was so dark and his hair was almost blonde due to long exposure to the sun.

When he moved to Andersen Air Force Base, things changed.

He recalls he and another cousin found work cleaning yards and earning $5 a week.

On the base, he found a family that took care of him and treated him well.

Apart from paying him $5 a week for cleaning yards, he says he was given food and shelter for FREE.

He remembers fondly his foster family, the family of then Lt. Col. Harold H. Vague, who later on would retire as a two-star general in the United States Air Force.

Life was hard but Tun Frank says he was motivated enough to want to education. “I suffered to earn my subsistence. I suffered but I found time to study.”

He tells Variety he was elated to graduate from high school.

Tun Frank says there’s this class called Problem of American Democracy, a civics class, where he says they had an aggressive teacher or show-off for a lack of a better adjective.

The teacher, he says, gave them a diagnostic test. So they did take the test and when he received the results, he tells Variety how disappointed and embarrassed he was to have earned a D Minus.

So he says he crumpled the paper out of shame and kept it under his table.

But then, with his eyes glowing in excitement as he narrates, his teacher discussed the results of the test.

He says the teacher aired his frustration that only one of the 30 students barely passed.

Then all of a sudden, Tun Frank says, it dawned on him it was he whom the teacher was referring to.

That incident, Tun Frank says, afforded him the courage and the confidence to face life’s challenges — that he can make it.

(To be continued)

[Spice is the newest section of Marianas Variety dedicated to people with interesting stories and events that matter. For comments and suggestions, email avz@mvariety.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .]

Thursday, April 21, 2011

USCG rescues mariner

Coast Guard crewmembers rescue disabled boater

HONOLULU- Coast Guard crewmembers rescued an overdue mariner aboard a 19-foot ski boat four miles south of Kewalo Basin, Wednesday.

The boater’s spouse contacted the Coast Guard after searching the area in a small recreational vessel. The husband notified the Coast Guard that he had been in contact with his wife via cell phone and lost communication with her at 6 p.m.

Search and rescue coordinators from Sector Honolulu Command Center requested assistance from AT&T to identify the first cellular tower used in his wife's last phone call.

“By using the last known location, Coast Guard rescue coordinators used the Search and Rescue Optimal Planning System to project the boater’s likely position and determine a precise search pattern,” said Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Derrenbacher, chief of the Incident Management Division at Sector Honolulu.

A 45-foot Response Boat Medium rescue crew from Coast Guard Station Honolulu was deployed to Kewalo Basin and commenced searching with a Forward Looking Infrared Camera and illumination flares. At approximately 8:30 p.m. the rescue crew sighted the disabled vessel and conducted a boarding to verify the safety of the person aboard. The vessel and boater was then released and towed to safety by her husband.

SAROPS is a comprehensive electronic search and rescue planning system used in the planning and execution of almost all search and rescue cases in and around the United States. It creates search patterns that provide local rescue assets a better sense of the missing mariner’s possible location based on currents and weather.

For more information regarding this release contact the public affairs team at 808-535-3230.

Coast Guard crewmembers rescue disabled boater

Coast Guard crewmembers rescue disabled boater

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chamber of Commerce opposes education tax credit program

IT will create additional burden.

This is the opinion of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce as it issued its objection to the Senate Bill 17-68 that proposes to suspend the educational tax credit, or ETC, program.

In a letter to Speaker Eliceo D. Cabrera, R-Saipan, Saipan Chamber Commerce president Douglas T. Brennan said “SCC believes the suspension of the ETC will create additional burden on both public and private schools and the students attending those schools. Private schools receive benefits from the ETC and they would lose those benefits.”

He said private schools derive benefits from the ETC as well and with the bill signed into law, would be forced to raise tuition rate levels to maintain courses, instructors, and curriculum.

The chamber sees the suspension resulting in private students forced into going to public schools, “thereby creating additional hardship on the public school system immediately following a reduction in their own ETC contribution.”

Brennan said, “Simply assuming the suspension of the ETC would result in more money being available in the general fund to withdraw from government austerity measures is not true. Also, although it may be true there would be a short term infusion from ETC levels into the general fund, schools which are already underfunded may not necessarily be beneficiary of the ETC level funding.”

The chamber argued that there’s no guarantee that what is lost in ETC contributions would be the equivalent of what the public school system would receive. It, however, said there’s guarantee that private schools would be hard pressed to maintain their levels of education as well as not have to increase tuition rates as much as 20 percent in some cases.

The chamber also acknowledged ETC as “a wonderful addition” to schools and students — private or public.

Brennan also said educational institutions would be seriously harmed by the loss of the ETC funding levels at a time when “we should be striving to better fund those schools,” With the loss of the ETC funding levels.”

Further, the chamber not only objects to the suspension of the ETC funding for schools but it also asks the Legislature to reconsider where ETC funding is directed under the current law.

“SCC believes the scope of institutions that can avail of the ETC program is too broad. It should be schools operating under K-12 and those post secondary institutions here in the CNMI,” Brennan said.

He also said the chamber is interested in discussing its position on the issue with Speaker Cabrera should the need for more information arises.

S.B. 17-68, which suspends educational tax credit during periods of government austerity, was transmitted to the House on April 7.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Juan M. Ayuyu, Ind.-Rota, was passed by the Senate on April 6. It states that in as much as they support fine education, a tax credit during difficult economic times diminishes the overall money received in tax revenues.

It also stated, “Those who can afford to give to schools or other charitable institutions, after all, are often better off than our less fortunate citizens.”

The bill proposes that the ETC be suspended during any period when government workers are receiving less than full 80-hour work week.
H.B. 17-165

The chamber at the same time expressed its opposition to H.B. 17-165 or the Governor’s Settlement Authority Act of 2011.

In an April 6 letter, SCC executive director Richard Pierce asked the governor not to sign the bill into law.

“Aside from the issue whether the CNMI government would receive ‘value for value’ in settlement agreements with those awarded judgments by the courts, we are aware of the CNMI government already offering offsetting payments of tax payments, utility obligations and other minor matters.

Therefore, we believe this law to be duplicative in some respects,” Pierce told Gov. Benigno R. Fitial.

Pierce also said the language on Section 3 of the bill concerning authority is open ended and may create problems should public lands be offered as consideration for outstanding judgments against the CNMI government.

The section of the bill in question states that the governor of the commonwealth is authorized to negotiate a settlement and payment of the judgments entered against the commonwealth government.

“This is much more authority over settlement agreements than should be allowed, and the CNMI government must abide by the court’s decisions and consequences of its actions. Although we empathize with monetary considerations, there should be no easy way out of legal ramifications,” Pierce added.

The governor has rejected the bill, but its author, Rep. Raymond D. Palacios, Covenant-Saipan, is asking his colleagues to override the veto.

CUC must seek alternative energy

IT’S a must that CNMI get away from fossil fuel dependence and into alternative energy.

Commonwealth Public Utilities Commission Chairwoman Viola Alepuyo stressed the importance of pursuing alternative energy, not only on Tinian, but in the Northern Mariana Islands.

“CNMI needs to get away from dependence on fossil fuel and into renewable energy —whatever form that maybe,” said Alepuyo in a discussion on Change Order No. 5 or CO#5 during the CPUC hearing last Friday.

The commission, despite discussing at length the prospects for alternative energy and Telesource’s contract with CUC, decided to defer the discussion for its October session before it decides on Change Order No. 5.

She said she saw an opportunity for CUC to not just get out from “from under Telesource’s thumb by removing the exclusivity clause on renewable energy; but also taking away the requirement of the $6 million buyout.”

She said, “CUC can’t pay for fuel to fill up its storage tank. We mandated that they have extra fuel for two weeks two years ago. They don’t have enough money to pay for two weeks of fuel. That is a luxury they cannot fathom much less comply with the order.”

“Is there an opportunity for CUC to make ‘lemonade out of lemons’? The record before me says there is. One of the ways is to pursue alternative energy,” she said.

She said CO#5 stated that at the end of the first five-year term the agreement would then automatically extend for an additional term of five years unless CUC can establish that they no longer require any fossil fuel based power generation on Tinian.

“Should the peak load on Tinian at the time of any automatic extension of this agreement be 1 MW or less, the parties will enter into good faith negotiation with an eye towards modifying the fixed capacity rate to better reflect the circumstances of the time,” Alepuyo said referring to the last sentence of the contract with Telesource.

Changes

According to a Georgetown report, among the substantive changes to CO#5included the following: (1) CO#5 extends the CUC-Telesource relationship by 15 years; (2) modification of the monthly Operations and Maintenance fee payment structure from the fixed O&M fee from approximately $56,000 per month to $198,000 and reduces variable fee from $0.0339 per kWh of production to $0.0239; (3) Both fixed and variable fee components of O&M to be adjusted annually following the first date of the change order by an amount equal to one (1) percent above the gross domestic product price deflator (GDPIPD adjustment) similar to the current agreement; (4) It eliminates Telesource’s responsibility for the cost of lube oil and transfers this responsibility to CUC, a change that was approximated at $250,000 to $300,000 per year.

Further, the order also called for the removal of the provision for a $6 million buyout.

It also relieves Telesource of the responsibility for risk management activities with CUC bearing the risk that includes losses due to theft of conductor or premature failure of equipment, among others.

The order also called for CUC to reimburse Telesource at cost at 15 percent when it performs certain delivery system construction requested by CUC. It further credits CUC up to $120,000 a year to support natural growth.

It also charged Telesource with the responsibility for the $50,000 a year for street light maintenance.

It also requires Telesource to provide CUC’s water division up to $30,000 a year of equipment, labor, and technical support.

It also asks Telesource to provide up to $10,000 a motnh of consulting or operational services subject to normal Telesource activities.

The report claimed that there were some unknown variables including how much Telesource or CUC spent for delivery system construction, street light maintenance, consulting among other operational services.

The report also stated that CO#5 will cost CUC customers approximately $33 million over the 15-year term of the change order should CPUC approves it.

It was found that with CO#5 approved, customers would see a $6.92 rise for each 1,000 kWh consumption.

In the first year alone, customers will be required to pay $1.5 million.

CUC concurred to maintain the status quo as the more “economic” option to take.

The $6 million buyout is another option to make although it remains questionable where to obtain the funds to finance the buyout.

The report also recommended CPUC to require CUC to provide certification of title inclusive of appropriate documents of conveyance and release of all “encumbrances, liens, and security interests” to evidence that it owns the Tinian power plant and ancillary facilities.

CPUC meeting

During the April 15 meeting on Capital Hill, in responding a determination point whether CUC has met its burden of establishing by preponderant evidence that the change order is necessary, prudent, and cost-beneficial to customers, Alepuyo said, “It is very troubling for the commission to have CUC submit a petition for approval a contract that has already been entered without explanation and without anything on the record, stipulate a denial.”

CUC’s general counsel Deborah E. Fisher replied, “I wanted to make a clarification. The stipulation does not say CUC agrees to the denial.”

To this, hearing examiner Harry Boertzel agreed.

Alepuyo said there was record before the commission.

Fisher said in the stipulation CUC entered into, it did not recommend a denial. CUC brought a petition and CUC did submit a response — a legal memo. “But it did submit a response.”

Boertzel explained the discussion on the Telesource issue. CUC filed a petition requesting change order be approved which Georgetown Consulting recommended to be rejected due to burden of proof.

In the discussion on Telesouce’s contract, Alepuyo said, “There is a potential to decrease the contract by four years or increase it by one or the other extreme as Georgetown said to increase it by six years to make it 15 years.”

She asked if the people of Tinian were not given opportunity for renewable energy because of the Telesource contract and Fisher replied that Telesource is the only company that can provide alternative energy to Tinian as she understood the contract.

It was mentioned, however, that the ratepayers can have their own alternative energy source through net metering and “nothing prohibits that.”

Geothermal energy

Responding to an inquiry by CPUC chairwoman Alepuyo, Economists.com managing director Robert Young recommended for the CNMI to explore geothermal energy sources.

Young explained, “With solar, you only get it in the day; there is definite peak to it. So the only way it provides 24-hour power is with battery backup and that raises the cost of solar [power] expense.”

He added that the power with wind energy was the absence of wind turbines that can withstand typhoons. “There is a huge risk,” he said.

He told Variety during the break that there are available retractable wind turbines but these are not big enough to power a community.

He said tidal current was an option but there is nothing yet in production.

“The best alternative [form of energy] is geothermal,” he said.

He told CPUC that it is a proven and existing technology with 400-500 megawatt geothermal plants operating in the United States.

The consultant believed it is cost effective and ideal for the CNMI.

Deferred action

CPUC Chairwoman Alepuyo and the CUC agreed that the discussion of the determination point No. 7 or CO# 5 be deferred for the October session of the commission.

In the discussion, Alepuyo maintained that CUC has not met the burden of proof. “I still stand by that decision. I think the record by the commission is taken in its totality. I understand Georgetown’s argument that if the contract is to go for the full 15 years, that’s going to cost $33 million — that’s’ undisputed by CUC.”

Alepuyo reiterated her challenge to CUC: “My challenge to CUC is make it work — make ‘lemonade out of lemons.’”

She said CPUC had acted and moved as fast as CUC did with the latter requesting the commission to decide “on an expedited basis” on CO#5.

Alepuyo said if CUC needed more time to review CO#5, “We’ll do what is necessary for you to make sure that it is done right.”

Fisher said, “CUC would like to move to defer this until the October session so that we have an opportunity to look at a little bit closer at it—to do some analysis.”

Alepuyo decided to table the discussion for October. “You heard the issues the Commission has raised. If I am mistaken, by all means, tell me it is wrong. I don’t want to make this decision under mistaken assumption. If it is wrong, point it out.”

The Georgetown report was deemed comprehensive by all parties.

It computed the financial impact of the CO#5 over 15 years to cost $32,638,649 from 2011 to 2025. Its analysis stated the following financial impact: $1.57 million, 2011; $1.63 million, 2012; $1.69 million, 2013; $1.75 million, 2014; $1.81 million, 2015; $1.88 million, 2016; $1.95 million, 2017; $2.02 million, 2018; $2.09 million, 2019; $2.25 million, 2020; $2.42 million, 2021; $2.6 million, 2022; $2.8 million, 2023; $2.98 million, 2024; and $3.2 million, 2025.

Ombudsman's office shreds forms filed by aliens

MORE than 20,000 documents that were the original records in the census of aliens conducted by Ombudsman Pamela Brown’s office in Dec. 2009 were destroyed, Variety learned yesterday.

Variety obtained a copy of the affidavit submitted by Brown to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

She said the forms were shredded “since [they] only served a data collection function.”

Brown’s office was tasked to count all aliens present in the CNMI and obtain pertinent data to answer specific questions in the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008, which extended federal immigration law to the islands.

The CNRA also required the Department of the Interior to report to the U.S. Congress within 180 days on the number of aliens in the CNMI and to make recommendations regarding their future status.

The Fitial administration has been seeking the original forms on which the 20,859 aliens registered with the ombudsman’s office.

A Freedom of Information Act request was filed by the administration in May 2010, shortly after the Interior report came out.

Brown’s affidavit stated that all the documents were shredded in late Dec. 2009 or early Jan. 2010 when the census was completed.

No information about the destruction of all of these forms was released by Interior until long after a complaint was filed in federal court seeking the documents, Variety learned.

It also learned that it was only when the U.S. Attorney’s Office became involved was the Fitial administration notified that the documents it sought no longer existed.

The administration declined to comment, but sources in the legal community familiar with this issue said the destruction of the original documents means that no alien who registered during the census can prove by means of that registration that he or she was in the commonwealth at the time of the census.

“All of the names and other identifying data are now gone. All that is left is the spreadsheet data counting how many aliens fall into various categories — male/female, legal/illegal, country of origin, and similar classifications,” sources said.

The destruction of the original documents also means that there is no way to verify any of the summary information that the ombudsman collected.

“Without the original forms to compare against the summary data, no one can be sure that what the ombudsman did was correct,” sources said.

The Fitial administration earlier complained that the ombudsman’s work was faulty.

It sought the documents to enable analyses that would determine the quality of the ombudsman’s work.

Lawyers who represent aliens were also critical of the ombudsman’s methodology in carrying out the census, Variety was told.

They argued that by using paper forms signed by individuals, there could be possible immigration consequences.

Any alien admitted to the United States on a temporary basis who provides false information or false documentation to a federal official may be subject to deportation, sources said.

For example, the census forms asked aliens when they arrived in the commonwealth, whether they were in legal or illegal status, what employment they held, and similar information.

Lawyers feared that aliens who might rely on bad advice from lay advisers could provide incorrect information on the census form.

With those original forms in hand, any incorrect or false information would be readily discernible by either the federal or commonwealth government.

Federal law prohibits the destruction of federal records.

The ombudsman’s census was done using federal funds and, for this reason, all of the documents generated during the census are federal records, Variety learned.

Interior’s own regulations require permission for document destruction. The U.S. Census Bureau keeps all original census records.

Variety sought Brown’s comments but she was off-island yesterday.

Ombudsman’s office shreds forms filed by aliens | local-news

Ombudsman’s office shreds forms filed by aliens | local-news

Monday, April 18, 2011

Back at Variety!

This is to inform everyone that I am NO LONGER with Glimpses and I am now working for Variety. I don't use the reporter2@glimpsesofguam.com email anymore. Send email to aleksea@yahoo.com please.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

No base rate hike 'at this time'

THE Commonwealth Public Utilities Commission decided on Friday night against the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.’s proposed electric base rate but ruled in favor of the levelized energy adjustment clause, or LEAC, charge.

At the special meeting held in the Marianas Public Land Trust conference room on Capital Hill, CPUC Chairwoman Viola Alepuyo said, “At this time the commission has not approved the base rate as requested by CUC as stipulated by the parties.”

CUC and consultant Georgetown Consulting earlier asked the commission to approve the base rate hike to generate the $3.8 million additional revenues needed every year to fund the U.S. Department of Agriculture loan’s annual $1.02 million debt service.

The commission’s ruling keeps the base rate at $0.016 per kwh for the first 500 kwh usage rate; $0.066 per kwh for 501 to 1,000 kwh; $0.086 per kwh for 1,001 to 2,000 kwh; and $0.127 for 2,001 and more. There’s a $5.60 monthly customer charge. The proposed base rate increase was $0.019 per kwh for the first 500 kwh usage rate; $0.078 per kwh for 501 to 1,000 kwh; $0.102 per kwh for 1,001 to 2,000 kwh; and $0.15 per kwh for 2,001 with the monthly customer charge at $6.62.

Alepuyo said, “I understand the concerns most especially to the USDA application and the need to ensure that there is a funding mechanism for that low interest loan. I also understand that with the breakdown that was provided during the public hearing on the various items that had to be funded under the stipulated orders, the need to raise much needed revenues in order to fund those provisions.”

She said just because the base rate has been disapproved by the commission does not mean that CUC cannot come to the commission again to justify a rate increase.

The commission decided that the low-income customers be sheltered for basic electric consumption of up to 500 kwh per month.

It also established a new lifeline customer class under the authority of 4 CMC §8141 (d) to which the existing monthly customer charge of $5.06 and existing $0.016 per kwh usage rate per month for the first 500 kwh apply.

In an earlier proposal, the CUC set the lifeline rates as follows: for 0-500 kwh, $0.016 per kwh; 501-1,000 kwh, $0.078 per kwh; 1,001 —2,000 kwh, $0.102 and 2,001 and higher, $.15 per kwh. A monthly charge of $5.60 instead of the regular $6.62 applies.

With the establishment of a new lifeline class, CPUC clarified with CUC whether it could craft and submit the lifeline program eligibility standards on or before May 2, 2011.

CUC legal counsel Deborah E. Fisher said, “Just as we are clear on that, we are submitting standards not regulations.”

Alepuyo agreed.

With the standards in the works, CPUC ruled that residential customers can apply for a lifeline rate provided they meet the eligibility requirements.

LEAC rate hike

Arguing that CPUC and the parties have no control over the price of oil, the commission decided in favor of a new LEAC charge of $0.34426 per kwh to be established effective April 16, and to continue in force and effect until changed by subsequent commission order to fund the following rate elements: (a) fuel and lube oil, $0.32691; volatility allowance, $0.01635 per kwh; regulatory and technical support, $0.001 per kwh.

The parties were in agreement on Friday night when Alepuyo inquired on the threshold — that in the event “the price of fuel drops so much,” CUC and Georgetown Consulting will come back to the commission.

Based on the stipulation jointly signed by CUC and Georgetown Consulting, in the event that Mean of Platts Singapore monthly pricing supplied by Mobil Oil Guam, Inc. to CUC is equal or greater than $3.55 per gallon or if it equals or goes below $3.20 per gallon per month, the parties will jointly petition to adjust LEAC in accordance with market conditions.

Hearing examiner Harry Boertzel said Georgetown has the responsibility of monitoring fuel cost.

Alepuyo said should fuel price goes down, the commission will be ready to call for an expedited hearing in order to give relief to the consumers.

Moreover, the utilities commission also ruled that CUC did not fail to submit documentary evidence to challenge Georgetown’s March 29, 2011 report that CUC over-recovered $5.864 million.

It also decided against a Georgetown recommendation to reimburse customers over the next 12 months commencing April 16 through a rate factor of $0.01831 per kwh.

Alepuyo finds there is a need to address the over-recovery issue as was stated by both parties — agreed by both parties. “I would like this issue expedited as was recommended. If there was going to be an over- recovery, consumer should get it earlier rather than later.”

CPUC also decided in favor of a recommendation to establish a new standby service charge of $5 per kwh, a new street lighting tariff, and a new municipal pumping rate.

Based on an earlier recommendation, the new standby service charge would be applied to large commercial customers that self-generate and have the privilege of using CUC as backup or supplemental energy provider.

The street lighting tariff, the recommendation stated, would be applied to all public and private lighting customers, and new municipal pumping rate would be applied to non-seasonal municipal or other governmental customers pumping water or wastewater.

During the meeting, Alepuyo checked with CUC if Dec. 31, 2011 was a reasonable time for the utilities agency to install meters and bill all water and wastewater facilities in accordance with applicable government tariff, to which CUC agreed.

For all the decisions made by the commission during the April 15 meeting, Alepuyo said, “All the approvals will be effective immediately. As soon as the hearing examiner sets it down in paper I will sign it and [our legal counsel Robert T.] Torres through his office will provide copies to the parties,” said Alepuyo.

Examiner assured that he would get the decision to Viola Alepuyo consistent with the findings no later than Saturday morning.

As of Saturday evening, Torres told Variety in an email that the commission decision was still en route.

Determination points

Moreover, hearing examiner Harry M. Boertzel prepared a report which included 10 determination points for CPUC to consider in making a decision on the CUC’s petition — as amended — for regulatory relief.

Of the related determination points — administrative and substantive — CPUC decided to defer discussion on the entire section on Changed Order Number 5 or CUC’s contract with Telesource on Tinian for further discussion in the CPUC October session.

In denying CUC’s petition to increase the base rate, CPUC finds that CUC bears the burden under 4 CMC §§ 8409 (e) and 8421 (a) of proving by preponderant evidence that the proposed rate is necessary, just, and reasonable but it believed CUC did not meet this burden of proof.

CPUC also ruled that based on evidence on record, it should exercise its discretionary authority under 4 CMC § 8431 (e) (2) to suspend the effectiveness of the requested rate increase in order to examine whether it is necessary when the central government, NMC and PSS have $4.47 million account payable to CUC.

‘Discrimination’

CUC raised a concern on the use of “discrimination” in the report.

CUC legal counsel Deborah Fisher said, “The point is that the way discrimination is being used, CUC’s interpretation of that statute, we are talking about a rate structure, we are talking about cost allocation to various classes in that statute. It is not discussing collections activity…. We would just like to make this clear that the characterization regarding rate classes and that CUC does not end up having something on a record for a plaintiff’s law firm to start to pursue which is not appropriate. I don’t think that would be intended by the commission.”

Alepuyo agreed with Fisher.

“I recognize that CUC has taken exception to the language contained in these questions, most especially with regard to discrimination. I, too, do not want to see CUC involved in unneeded litigation,” she said.

She explained further, “There was testimony in the record that there was one person who made the decision whether to disconnect a nonpaying customer. There was no other testimony, however, and the commission did not ask if any other customers were given the same treatment. There was a question — a theoretical question posed, that if a person didn’t pay after certain amount of time were disconnected, the answer to that question is ‘yes.’ ”

She said there was no follow-up question from the commission inquiring if there was a customer who failed to pay yet was not disconnected and what are the steps taken to ensure that fines are collected from the nonpaying customers.

“Based on that, I find — and I want to make the record absolutely clear — there was no discriminatory practices with CUC. Now that decision itself may very well change in the event that this issue entered before the commission again. As it stands right now, I find there is no discrimination exercised by CUC,” Alepuyo said.

She also said that it is “troubling” that government agencies are disconnected and reconnected without being forced to pay. She, again, said this is not discriminatory.

Other determination points

In making the decision relative to the determination points presented in the report by the examiner, Alepuyo said she does not take each decision lightly.

“My statutory obligation is to ensure that rates are just and reasonable. I take this responsibility seriously, there are some of us in the room that live here, some of us that don’t are all a team as far as we are concerned with regards to making decisions, identifying the issues at the heart of the problem is coming out with solutions to make those decisions that need to be made. I wish the commission was in a position that we could generate power to our community without relying on fossil fuel with prices that go up and down depending on factors beyond anybody’s control. I have never taken the decisions that I have made as a commissioner lightly.”

She said in making decisions, she wants to make sure that the consumers are protected, on the other hand, that CUC can continue to provide the services that they are mandated to provide.

With regard to the first determination point, Alepuyo said, “I find that CUC did provide timely notice of the commission’s April 11 hearing.

Regarding the second point, she believed members of the public were given opportunity to present their views, including a testimony by Senate Vice President Jude U. Hofschneider, R-Tinian, during the April 15 meeting which Alepuyo would like included as part of the records.

On the third point, CPUC agreed to reserving its continuing jurisdiction in the docket proceeding.

It further ruled that CUC be ordered to pay for the commission’s expenses, including without limitation, consulting and hearing examiner expenses and fees and the expenses of conducting the hearing process and all further regulatory expenses incurred pursuant to “this decision.”

It also decided that Contract Review Protocol regarding the establishment of an annual ceiling for internally funded capital improvement be suspended.

The commission found it unnecessary that CUC’s March 21, 2011 petition under Contract Review Protocol for authorization to procure a new office lease space, “given that CUC’s representation that a new lease will only be obtained if it is less cost than the current lease.”

It also approved the petition by CUC to buy new transformers with an authorized expenditure ceiling of $475,000.

CPUC approved the $1 million authorized expenditure cap to computer-based preventative maintenance and budgeting program.

Lastly, CPUC agreed to institute an expedited investigation on its own initiative to determine whether the allowance for electricity expenses in previously approved water and wastewater rate awards continues to be just and reasonable.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Remembering Reverend Wilch

Blogger's Note: This is one of my favorite stories. I am posting the story again for those who know Reverend Wilch and for those who have yet to be inspired by his story.]



“He’s a miracle.”

Rev. Dr. Robert Wilch’s wife Sandra could not have been happier to see him make the 27-hour trip to Saipan from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The possibility of such a trip seemed unlikely to ever occur again just a few months prior to departure.

At 85 years old, it is indeed a miracle that former US Navy LTJG Robert Wilch was able to make his seventh trip to Saipan. He came most recently with his wife, son, Stephen, and a granddaughter, Grace. Barely a year before, a serious surgery made the trip highly unlikely. But his resilient spirit did not give up on the possibility. His desire to go made the trip a reality.

A delicate brain surgery
Sandra, Wilch’s wife of 34 years, told Island Locator, “About a year ago my husband got up in the middle of the night, fell, hitting the back of his head on the sideboard of the bed. He called the hospital and was advised to watch for any unusual symptoms in the days to come. But he seemed to be fine.”

A few days later on May 27th, Wilch preached the Baccalaureate sermon for the Commencement Exercises at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Sandra acknowledged that her husband is a “wonderful preacher” but this time, “something just didn’t seem right. He usually likes to talk with people after the service but not this time. He bypassed everybody, returning to the hotel.”

For Sandra, that was strange behavior. By the end of that week she noticed that he was dragging his left foot. “He got stuck in the pantry, hanging on to the shelves for support, because he could not make his left leg move.” Knowing that something was seriously wrong, she called the doctor the following morning and requested an MRI for Bob immediately.

Fifteen minutes after the MRI, an ambulance took Wilch to a Milwaukee hospital where the doctor scheduled brain surgery for Monday morning. However, early Saturday morning he called Sandra and said, “We can’t wait. We must operate now.”

On June 1st, 2007, Wilch underwent a four-and-a-half-hour brain surgery for a subdural hematoma pressing on his brain. During the next seven to eight weeks, he did not open his eyes or converse with anyone. His wife recalled, “He was out and didn’t respond to us. Sometimes he would talk but he wouldn’t make much sense. He would make statements like ‘I have 27 children.’ He really did not know where he was.”

After a number of weeks, one doctor suggested to her that they pull the plug. Sandra vehemently refused. According to her, “The question surprised me. I could not believe that he would not recover.”

Contrary to the doctor’s prognosis, after a Greenfield screen was inserted into his aorta, he came out of the operating room with his eyes open. According to Sandra, “When he came back from the procedure, his eyes were open and he began talking. From that point on, he had to relearn walking, swallowing and eating—it was a day to day miracle.” After six weeks of not getting out of bed, there had been great loss in body strength. It was a struggle at first as he had not energy to do anything. The physical therapy was intense, tiring but obviously successful.

Sandra acknowledged that it was the efforts of her husband’s neurologist, Dr. Krishna Neni, who was responsible for Bob making it. She said Dr. Neni, a very caring physician and in charge of Bob’s day to day treatment, would come down to the waiting room where the family gathered. He would say, “This is where he is, this is what I am going to do, and this is what I expect to happen.” And it did.

Several months after he was discharged from the hospital, Bob went through an extensive rehabilitation to regain his strength. A month after Bob’s discharge, the respected neurologist met with a freak accident on the highway on his way home from work. A semi truck coming from the opposite direction, lost a wheel which bounced over the median, hitting and demolishing the doctor’s car and killing him instantly. It was such a loss! It would not have been possible for her husband to make the 27-hour flight from Milwaukee to Saipan if it were not for that neurologist.

The entire experience has been remarkable for Bob whom one doctor thought would not make it but for his family’s love and faith which pulled him through. She said, “I would have to say the successful operation and recovery were a beautiful experience. He is a miracle!”

His family and faith and the pre-war years
The second of three sons in the family of teacher-businessman, Sam Wilch and his wife Cora, Wilch was born on May 20th, 1923 in Jenera, Ohio. When he was 5 or 6, the family moved to Appleton, Wisconsin where the brothers grew up. They attended church faithfully each Sunday. Wilch said they had a great life and acknowledges “I owe more to my family for faith matters that anybody else”.

His father died of a heart attack at the young age of 66. His mother, however, lived a long and rich life until she was 97. Wilch admires his mother for her stalwart character. When she was on her death bed, one of the family asked if she had seen Sam, her husband. She said no, but she would. When asked if she had seen Jesus, she answered, “Oh, yes!” And when asked what Jesus looked like, she said, “Just the way I thought he’d look.”

Bob’s family was greatly influenced by the college town. Each brother pursued interesting professions: the oldest, now deceased, was a chemist; Bob became a minister and the Bishop of the Wisconsin-Upper Michigan Synod of the Lutheran Church in America and his younger brother also became a Lutheran minister. Bob attended Lawrence University in Appleton. He thoroughly enjoyed his college years, being elected president of the fraternity as well as the student body. He said his attention to class work was “pretty good”. He was a sophomore in college when the war broke out.

According to Wilch, “I was in Green Bay, Wisconsin (near my Appleton home) nurturing my passion for music, playing trumpet in a fine symphony orchestra conducted by a German genius. On the way home, we heard over the radio that Pearl Harbor had been attacked.” With that breaking news, it occurred to Wilch that he could be conscripted into military service anytime. Initially, his reluctance to immediately volunteer his services led him to enlist in the V-12 program that permitted men like him to stay in college until needed.

Bob was in the Navy V-12 program. In the middle of his senior year at Lawrence in Appleton, Wisconsin, he was ordered to go to Northwestern University, one of three midshipmen schools—Notre Dame, Columbia University in New York and Northwestern in Chicago—offering the navy officer training program.

Initially, Wilch enlisted in the V-7 program designed to create officers for the fleet as contrasted with the V-5 program that produced officers for the Navy Air. Both programs created what Wilch called “ninety-day wonders” in a program that trained officers initially for 90 days, then lengthened to 120 days. These midshipmen’s schools provided the fleet with officers who were needed since the Naval Academy’s program was for 3 years. But because Wilch and other young men like him, had already completed their college courses, they only needed to take Seamanship, Ordnance, and Navigation courses in the midshipmen schools. At some point, the two programs, Wilch said, were merged into a V-12 program. Upon completion, these young men were deemed ready to go to war.

After completing the program, Wilch and his classmates were ready to go to war. They were given 30 days leave so they could go home. In 1943, his orders were to report to San Francisco for transportation to CINCPAC—Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Area Theater. There he was ordered to report to the USS McDermut, DD677, a destroyer. What he did not realize was how fortunate he was to have been assigned to destroyer duties. He also did not realize at the time how perfectly suited he would be for the tasks he would be assigned. Asked by Island Locator if ever he had reservations at this point, Wilch said, “Honestly, I was ready. I had no qualms about going. I wanted to get going.”

From Pearl Harbor the destroyer sped to Eniwitok in the Marshall Islands before joining the other invasion forces on Saipan three days before the actual invasion took place in 1944. “I must tell you, that was one of the eeriest experiences to arrive at Saipan at 3 o’clock in the morning knowing that the people on those islands would actually fight back.”

The War Years
Bob’s life has been one filled with fortune. He could not have agreed more. During the years he spent in military service aboard the USS McDermut, his life was fraught with dangers which he was fortunate to have survived. The worst were the typhoons with waves 70 feet high and winds of 125 mph. Floating mines, easy to see and destroy during the day were a great peril at night. Later in the war, a real peril was the Kamikaze planes which suicidally crashed on ships causing severe damage and loss of life.

Bob recalled, “When Tinian was being fought for, the McDermut spent all night bombarding when the troops at shore asked for fire support and we fired star shells to light the battlefield to expose any Japanese attempt to make a charge. At about 7 a.m. the Norman Scot, another destroyer, relieved McDermut. Twenty minutes later Norman Scott was hit with a number of 6” shells from the beach. Many of the ship’s crew and officers were killed, including the Captain.” Had they not been relieved, Wilch probably would have been among the casualties.

The McDermut remained in the Marianas, supporting the Army and Marines with its 5” guns until Saipan, Guam and Tinian were secured. Bob told this interviewer, “We didn’t have an airplane on the destroyer. There were airplanes on the cruisers and battleships with pontoons—so they could land in the water and would be able to take off and fly over Tinian, Saipan or Guam. They would direct our fire to wherever the soldiers wanted it—‘Down 50 or Right 50’ or wherever.”

When war broke out in the Pacific, it was inevitable for Wilch and the rest of the men—and women—of his generation to rise up and serve their country. Ideally he would like to have finished college before heading off to war but that was not possible. When IL Magazine asked if he had reservations about the war, Wilch replied, “That war (referring to WWII) was so important. We had to stop Hitler’s advances in Europe and the Japanese atrocities in Asia. I don’t think anybody even thought about not going. I had a friend who was a conscientious objector but he had a worse time than I did.”


The USS McDermut and Task Force 38/Task Force 58
Bob Wilch clearly remembers the most important battles their ship DD 667 participated in during the waning years of World War II.
Following the successful invasions of Saipan, Guam and Tinian, McDermut joined a huge fleet in the retaking of the Phillipines. Destroyers, cruisers and battleships bombarded the landing beaches to softer up the Japanese resistance. The Japanese also had a large armada of ships to defend the islands.

One of the more exciting and dangerous actions for McDermut and other destroyers in Squadron 54 was the order to engage the Japanese fleet as it was attempting to pass through the Surigao Strait. Initially, PT boats attacked the Japanese ships firing torpedoes. Then it was the destroyer’s turn to attack. Destroyers raced down each side of the Strait firing 10 torpedoes from each ship. All this was done in the glaring light of many Japanese searchlights hoping to find us in the night’s darkness. After firing torpedoes, each destroyer made a hard u-turn and at flank speed (about 38 knots or a little more than 40 mgh) hoping to escape the intense barrage from Japanese battleships and destroyers. All of Squadron 54 returned safely. Another destroyer, the USS Grant, one of the last to fire torpedoes, was not so lucky. It was caught in the crossfire of Japanese and American ships. It was hit by 22 large shells and suffered severe damage and a great loss of life.
The Americans were not finished with this Japanese fleet. Japanese large ships were moving south in single file in an effort to escape. Yet to come was a hail of 16” shells from four battle ships lined up at the southern end of Surigao Strait. This was an execution of the most favored of sea warfare tactics, the crossing of the T. The four battleships became the horizontal top of the letter T and the Japanese ships were in the worst possible position to fire. This action further reduced the Japanese ability to wage war in the Pacific.

Invasions depended heavily on amphibious ships, the largest being LSTs (Landing Ship Tanks) which carried tanks and personnel. These ships had large ramps which were let down as the ship hit the beach so tanks and personnel could exit the ship. The danger to these ships was their extremely slow speed (about 10 knots or approximately 12 mph). Other “amphibs” were LCTs (Landing Craft Tank) which could carry one tank and its crew to the beach, LCVPs (Landing Craft Personnel) carrying marines and soldiers to the beach. There also was the LCR (Landing Craft Rocket). These ships had many rocket launchers on their deck, able to deliver a hail of rockets on the Japanese. Today LCACs are the amphibious work horse. These hydrofoils can approach the beach at 40 knots—over 40 mpg. When they reach the beach they can keep on going with their cargos of tanks and personnel.
After the Phillipines were secured, McDermut set sail for Okinawa for a D Day invasion on Easter Sunday, 1945. Once again McDermut joined other destroyers, cruisers and battleships in bombarding the beaches to make the landing of the troops safer. Periodic air attacks by Japanese planes kept all ships alert.

When a Task Group is at sea, the normal formation has 20 plus destroyers in a large circle with the more powerful ships inside that circle with aircraft carriers at the very center because of their extreme value to the war. This formation allows destroyers which are equipped with sonar equipment to detect and then destroy enemy submarines.

But when an air attack is about to take place, all the large ships including the carriers take positions in the circle of destroyers. At Okinawa, McDermut was in position immediately next to the USS Missouri, a huge and powerful battleship and about three ships down from the USS Intrepid, an extremely large and fast carrier.

“Since the Japanese wanted better targets than our destroyers, we felt safe even though Kamikazes were attacking. Our ship was not a prime target. But the Carrier Intrepid was. Planes kept diving on it hoping to disable or sink it. As the attack continued and as the Missouri was firing as furiously as possible with all its anti-aircraft guns, their gunners continued to fire at diving planes. In their desperate hope to destroy the diving suicide plane, their shells began to hit my ship, killing some men and wounding many. After the attack was over, we discovered 286 holes in our ship with some hitting in the boiler room, reducing our speed to about 5 knots (about 6mph).

Along with the Intrepid, we took station inside this huge circle of ships for protection. The fleet had to continue to launch and retrieve planes during daylight hours and to do that, the fleet had to head into the wind at a pretty high rate of speed. Intrepid and McDermut at times would be left behind. But as soon as the launch or landing of planes was completed the fleet would change course in our direction so we could be protected inside the circle again. When dark came Intrepid and McDermut were detached along with a cruiser for an escort to head for one of the islands with repair facilities,” Bob Wilch told Island Locator.

Continuing his recollection of the battles, Bob said, “After Okinawa was secured, McDermut joined TF38 for our attacks on Japan itself. All the ships in these carrier groups were capable of high speeds so this was, again, very interesting duty. Destroyers periodically had the responsibility of being a plane guard. Frequently, planes returning from a strike on Japan were damaged in such a way that landing on the carrier was not safe or the pilot was wounded badly enough that he could not properly land on the flight deck. When that occurred, the pilot was ordered to ditch in the water fairly near the carriers. It was then our job to approach the sinking plane and bring the pilot safely aboard our ship. Swimmers from our ship went over the side to rescue the pilot. It was an extremely dangerous duty for the swimmers since sharks were always a concern. To protect them, a number of us would be lined up on the ship with machineguns, rifles and revolvers to attack the sharks if they appeared.”

According to Bob, “When a pilot was returned to the carrier, we would always receive 20 gallons of ice cream for our crew—a real treat. In those days, destroyers did not have ice cream makers as they do today.”

In late July of 1945, McDermut was detached from TF38 to carry out an anti-shipping sweep along the coast of Japan and also the Kuriles and then turn east and head for home via Adak, Alaska for an overhaul in preparation for the invasion of Japan later that year. When it reached Adak, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. A few days later a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Instead of continuing on to San Francisco, the ship was ordered to return to Japan for initial occupation. Their arrival in the bay at Aomari in northern Honshu preceded the signing of the Peace Treaty in early September. After about two weeks of occupation, they were ordered home by way of Pearl Harbor. The war was over!

Discharges from the service were based on points—time in the service plus time overseas. Bob Wilch had enough points to be discharged for the fall semester 1945 at Lawrence. “I like the Navy a lot and I could have continued but since I was a graduate of Midshipmen’s school with only four months of training, I was concerned that promotions would be slower for me than for those who were graduated from The Navy Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.”

After finishing his last remaining semester for graduation from Lawrence, Bob was invited to be the Assistant to the President of the University.. At that time, Dr. Nathan M.Pusey was the President. Three or four years later, he was named the president of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

After two years at Lawrence, Bob decided to enter the Lutheran Seminary (then Northwestern) in Minneapolis. “My first call was to St Paul’s Lutheran Church in Spokane, WA. After 5 years I was called to St. Peter’s church in Janesville, WI. In early 1963 I was called to be the Assistant to the President of The Wisconsin-Upper Michigan Synod of the Lutheran Church in America.

Upon his retirement, he was elected Bishop of that Synod in 1974. Being the Bishop was fraught with a great deal of travel and stress. His churches were spread over the entire state of Wisconsin and also Upper Michigan. There were 260 congregations and 350 ordained ministers. During his time as Bishop there were a number of memorable experiences.

He relishes with gusto, “I was privileged to meet The Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church in Istanbul, Turkey for a week, spend a week at the Vatican with a one hour audience with Pope John Paul II and a week with The Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie. The Runcies became close friends after that meeting and gave my wife and me considerable hospitality in London at Lambeth Palace and in Caterbury. Lord and Lady Runcie have been guests at our home in Wisconsin until his death some years ago. He is often remembered as the clergy person who performed the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. Sandra and I also were privileged to have lunch with the Dahlai Lama.”

According to Bob, their interest in the Northern Marianas is magnified in part because one of the pastors in my synod was the late Rev. William Downey who was especially selected to be the protestant Chaplain to the 509th Composite Group charged with the dropping of two atomic bombs in Japan. He remembers his widow, Gladys, who lives nearby and is a wonderful source of information about the special atomic Bomb Group. Because the Marianas were his first battles, these islands have become important to them and they’re fortunate to visit often.
“We have made good friends here, most notably Jerry and Irene Facey. They are so wonderful to us, even meeting us at our arrival at 1:30 in the morning and seeing us off when we leave. We saw much of Saipan through Jerry’s willingness to show us the sights,” said Wilch, adding that he wishes the best to all who live in this part of the world.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Biological and Geological Features of Marianas Trench Marine Monument

Science joins economics in making a strong case for conservation in the area now designated as a National Marine Monument.


First there was the economic study that calculated the approximate revenue that the proposed monument will make. And now comes the scientific study detailing the prospects for research and discovery.


Researchers of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) contributed to the report written by Dr. Elin Kelsey, Ph.D., an environment and science writer engaging the public in conservation initiatives.


NOAA scientists Dr. Robert Embley, Dr. Verena Tunnicliffe, Dr. Rusty Brainard and Dr. Gustav Paulay along with a host of other researchers provided Dr. Kelsey with a systematic research to provide the people of the Marianas an idea of how important the region is for the scientific community.


In a region where fathoms below the vast expanse of ocean remain unexplored, there is a plethora of scientific information yet to be known that will somehow change the way we understand evolution and how the human race can better deal with global warming.


The depths of the Mariana Trench holds mysteries yet to be solved. So many marine species lurking in its dark fringes yet to be identified and mysteries waiting to be unraveled.


Dr. Kelsey gathered the research of several scientists who stumbled upon interesting findings in what may be considered as a biodiversity hotspot—the Mariana Trench—a large portion of which is being proposed by President Bush to be made into a national marine monument before he vacates his post in January 2009.


Will the scientific study along with the previously released economic study be enough to calm the fears and stoke the fascination of the community for a region that can be classified as a biodiversity hotspot?


With President Bush giving the go-signal for the assessment of the proposed marine monument, the scientific study may help the members of the community to understand the stakes involved should they or should they not support the marine monument.


What lies beneath?

The Marianas Trench has always been an enigma for most people because it remains as the last frontier yet to be conquered by humankind. Since grade school, it has always been part of science class discussions, with its depth capable of accommodating Mt. Everest yet it would still be submerged in water by thousands of feet.


Since Piccard’s bathyscaphe Trieste’s successful trip to the bottom of the Challenger Deep in 1960, no one in history other than Jacques Piccard and Lt. Don Walsh was able to reach that far. Even with the latest in technology in 1995, the Japanese submersible Kaiko plowed the deep with no crew on board.


Prior to the trips of submersibles to the bottommost pit, it was believed that life could not exist at the bottom of the Marianas Trench. With Kaiko scooping out mud from the bottom of the Challenger Deep at 10,897 feet, after samples had been isolated and cultured, it was discovered that life indeed exists.


The sample contained microorganisms that were neither “barophilic (loving pressure), halophilic (loving salt) or acidophilic (loving acid) bacteria.” Instead, the isolated and cultured bacteria were found to be alkaliphiles and themophiles.


It was also discovered, that aside from microbes, shrimps, scale worm and sea cucumber were also found at 35,800 feet while fish was also seen at 27,460 feet or 5.2 miles below the ocean surface.

Recently, the most telling of explorations were of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration when they conducted research in the area called Mariana Arc in the Western Pacific.


Headed by Dr. Robert Embley, the research team focused their attention to life at the vents where they discovered mussels congregating on seamounts where liquid carbon dioxide is streaming from the vents.

The discovery of liquid carbon dioxide and corals’ immunity to it makes the region an ideal laboratory to study global warming effects.


Commonly held beliefs suggest that as the oceans absorb carbon dioxide into the water, it makes oceans too acidic for corals to thrive.


In Dr. Kelsey’s scientific study, she pointed out, “Ironically, one of the best places on earth to study the naturally occurring effects of an acidifying ocean may also prove to be an important refuge for human-caused acidification.”

Dr. Kelsey cited the work of Dr. James Barry, a senior scientist working for the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, who claimed that the best area for coral growth is right over the Mariana Trench. Dr. Barry, who has been studying the effects of climate change and carbon dioxide in the ocean for over 15 years, is investigating the tolerance of deep-sea marine invertebrates and microbes to changes in carbon dioxide and ocean acidity.


The discovery of thousands of 7-inch, thin-shelled mussels congregating in the very acidic environment of the ridges of a submarine volcano near Uracus. What amazed the researchers, despite the abundance of mussels with paper-thin shells, there is a dearth of dead shells, which scientists think is highly unusual. Dr. Embley and his team in their 2006 exploration of NW Eifuku witnessed how quickly a dead mussel’s shell dissolves.


In his exploration log dated May 8,2006, Dr. David Butterfield noted, “An issue of global importance is how increasing CO2 in the atmosphere and resulting lowering of surface ocean pH (increasing the acidity) will affect reef-forming corals and the marine plankton that produce oxygen and form calcium carbonate shells.”


Dr. Butterfield also wrote in his log how NW Eifuku can serve as a natural laboratory for the study of the effects of the increasing dissolution of carbon dioxide on marine life, and effect of lowered pH from volcanic CO2 emission on the abundant mussel communities that live on rocky ridges near the acid-producing vents.


Although the scientists are puzzled over the abundance of mussels in extremely austere chemical conditions, they contend that future explorations may explain the high survival of these mussels and how these explorations can have an impact on the study of global warming and the acidification of the oceans.


Along with these mussels are shrimps and white galatheid crabs, a new species of tonguefish, a type of flatfish, was also discovered living at the periphery of the hydrothermal vents and are thought to be feeding off of hydrothermal bacteria. This discovery shatters an assumption that fish could not withstand harsh chemical environments like hydrothermal vents.


What the team discovered too is that nature truly finds its way in the most adverse of circumstances. Species living in the vent system depend on symbiotic bacteria that obtain chemicals from the rich effluence coming from the vents that they in turn use to manufacture sugar in a process called chemosynthesis.


Not only are the bacteria living around the vents, they also live in the tissues of worms, clams, and mussels but not as parasites to a host; more so, cohabiting with these species in a symbiotic relationship in order to survive.


Biota in the proposed monument

In “A Scientific Case for Establishing the Mariana Trench Marine Monument” produced by Global Ocean Legacy, Dr. Kelsey gathered the reports of several scientists who conducted separate surveys/studies in the area being proposed to be made into a national marine monument.


Central to her discussion are the interesting discoveries in the islands Maug, Uracus, and Asuncion where a healthy biota have been shielded from human depredations for centuries by their sheer distance from the nearest inhabited islands to the south.


From 2003 to 2007, there were seven scientific research expeditions to the CNMI funded by the federal government in the area President Bush is considering to elevate into a national marine monument status before his presidency expires in 2009.


In an article that appeared in the Saipan Tribune on Sept. 11, 2003, local and federal scientists recommend that a portion of the Northern Islands’ waters be declared as a “federally protected area,” after conducting a marine study in the area now being considered by President Bush to be made into a national marine monument.

In the progress report cited by the news article, the area was recommended to be considered as a no-take marine protected area. “Coral reef development was richest along the western side of West Island. A wide diversity of fish was observed. We suggest this area has strong potential for consideration as a no-take MPA [marine protected area], consistent with federal mandates for coral reefs.”


Based on the marine survey, there were 240 coral reef fish species (plus 15 new records in fish collections) found in Maug; 200 in Uracus; and 198 in Asuncion. Before NOAA scientists and researchers conducted their study, a previous report put the figures at 222 for Maug; 37, Uracus; and 57, Asuncion. This meant that the NOAA marine study revealed new records for the islands.


The 2003 exploration discovered a rare fish species, angelfish—Genicanthus watanabe—that thrives in deep waters was “occasionally seen in shallow waters” of Uracus and Maug.


Identified based on a specimen on Guam three decades ago, a spotted knifejaw or Oplegnathus punctatus was also seen in the area along with the xanthic phase of Kyphosus bigibbus.


Previous to this trip by NOAA scientists/researchers aboard the ship Oscar Elton Sette, the CNMI Department of Lands and Natural Resources revealed the discovery of eight fish species that had not been identified by any scientist before. The discovery of the eight new species pushed the total number of reef fish species to 95 that were documented in May 2003 and in turn, raised the total of documented fish species in the CNMI to 1,045.

Of the three islands—Maug, Uracus, and Asuncion—it was Maug that grabbed the attention of the researchers in the explorations conducted.


In Maug, researcher Qamar Schuyler of Coastal Resources Management, in her log dated Sept. 30, 2005, heaped praise on the island of Maug, stating, “Maug was an inspirational site for many.”

Schuyler wrote about a co-researcher who discovered a new species of Pseudojuloides wrasse and Dr. Peter Houk of DEQ dove in the lagoon and found corals fighting for space.


Also, both Schuyler’s log as well as the article written by Dr. Kelsey confirmed the area as a haven for sharks.

Schuyler and her team all experienced observing sharks—silvertip, whale shark, gray reef shark, and white tip reef sharks.


While towing near Maug, Schuyler reported her co-researchers observing the mating behavior of two white-tip reef sharks with “the male biting the fin of the female repeatedly while swimming in front of the twoers for over five minutes.”


In Dr. Kelsey’s report, it was cited that the proposed Mariana Trench Marine National Monument is a place where apex predators still exist in large numbers and higher shark densities in the north than in rest of the Mariana Archipelago. The western arc of the proposed monument has the highest density of shark.

Where there are predators, there are preys. Waters with high concentration of sharks and other apex predators have high concentration of fish.


Dr. Rusty Brainard corroborates this. “The waters around Uracus, Maug, and Asuncion show substantially higher fish biomass.”


Maug for one has gravitated the attention of the scientists from the various explorations since 2003.

Asssistant regional administrator for the Habitat Division of NOAA’s National Mariune Fisheries Services’s Pacific Islands Regional Office Gerry Davis marveled at the view underwater in Maug’s lagoon.


For Davis, he does not know of any other lagoon as deep as Maug is. The 800-foot deep lagoon shelters fish species that are found only on coastal slopes, sharks and other apex predators.


When Davis dove into the lagoon, he saw dozens of bumphead parrotfish in three feet of water. Bumpheads are listed in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and are also classified as Species of Concern under the US National Marine Fisheries and as a Species of Special Conservation Need for the CNMI.

What Davis experienced in that crater was a glimpse of what ocean was like in its pristine state before humans “started tinkering with it.”


Maug is an important site for conservation because of its pristine state. For Pew fellow Dr. Enric Sala, in order for conservation to be effective, there has to be rigorous baselines of pristine conditions “to asssess impacts of human activities and to evaluate the efficacy of management.”


At Maug, a three-island remnant of a volcano collapsing into a caldera of remarkable depth of 800 feet, Dr. Brainard sees a mature coral reef ecosystem and a unique geochemistry with the area found to have hydrothermal vents that release highly acidic water (pH 6.0) at a temperature of 140 degree Fahrenheit into the coral reef.

Another amazing feature of the crater is the “remarkable interface of photosynthetic and chemosynthetic ecosystems.” Organisms that depend on sunlight for food and fuel interact with organisms that depend on bacteria that convert nutrients in the vents into energy.


Because of the venting, Dr. Brainard considers Maug as a potential site for studying the long-term effects of ocean acidification.


For the potential of Maug to be an onsite scientific laboratory, Dr. Kelsey quoted Dr. Brainard as commenting, “We see it as an opportunity to better understand what maybe facing our reefs in the coming decades.”


Moreover, Ensley’s scientific study also cited the work of Dr. Gustav Paulay who also supported the idea of preserving Maug, Uracus and Asuncion nominated to be elevated by President Bush into a marine monument status for their potential as refuge from climate change. She quoted Dr. Paulay as saying, “The monument could be a safe place for corals to spread as the oceans get warmer.”


In a detailed report of the Mariana Arc exploration in 2003-2004, the NOAA team of scientists and researchers explored the summit of a small volcano called NW Eifuku, just northwest of the island of Uracus where at a depth of 1,605 meters, liquid carbon dioxide was found on the southern flank of the volcano.


“The NW Eifuku site is the first observation of liquid CO2 emission from a bare-rock basaltic system in an active magmatic arc setting,” reported Dr. Lupton et al.


Based on temperature measurements and analyses of the white smoker fluids, as it is near the supercritical portion of the CO2 phase program, the fluids contain the highest concentration of CO2 yet measured at any seafloor hydrothermal vent system.


Two years ago, Dr. Robert Embley’s team went back to the Mariana Arc and discovered sulfur volcanism, and he wrote in his exploration log in 2006, there are only two known sulfur volcanism in the solar system: one on Jupiter’s innermost moon Io and the other, in the Mariana Arc where “a convecting pool of liquid sulfur under more than 40 atmospheres of pressure” exists.


The site at Champagne discharges two distinct fluids into the ocean: 103 degree C gas-rich hydrothermal fluid with at least millimolar levels of H2S and another, a cold one (<>


Aside from the venting that scientists noticed, a recent cetacean survey reported 19 species of whales and dolphins within the area.


According to the 2007 US Navy commissioned systematic cetacean survey, some of the whale species identified were pygmy sperm whale, dwarf sperm whale, long and short-finned pilot whale, false killer whale, Bryde’s whale, seiwhale, pygmy killer whale, sperm whale, blue whale, humpback, Blainville’s beaked whale, Cuvier’s beaked whale, Longman’s beaked whale.


The area is part of the route that whales ply from Hawaii to the Philippines and it could be that some whales like fin whales dive as deep as they can to find food. And the Marianas Trench is the deepest place on earth where they can forage for food.


Although there was no mention or sighting even of a fin whale in the cetacean survey, a recent New York Times article about a fin whale’s feeding behavior may be best suited in the Pacific, specifically, in the area being proposed to be made into a national marine monument.


In that article, the scientists observed the feeding habit of a fin whale that dives so deep to get food or what scientists term as lunge feeding.


The New York Times article featured the study conducted by Jeremy Goldbogen and Robert Shadwick of the University of British Columbia who logged how fin whales feed.


They discovered that fin whales plunges more than 600 feet below the sea surface in what they perceive as the leviathan’s search for giant swarms of krill.


What startled these scientists was the whales’ grinding to a complete halt in a matter of seconds by opening its mouth that allows water to flood in its oral cavity.


According to the NY Times article. “In fact, a fin whale’s body turns out to be exquisitely adapted for increasing its drag. The underside of its mouth is made up of a unique set of pleats that can stretch to four times their normal size. By continuing to beat its tail, the whale forces more water in, causing its mouth to expand like a parachute. And just as race car drivers use parachutes to slow them down, the whale’s inflated mouth brings it to a dead stop.”


As big as these mammals are, they require a big space where they can find something to eat.

And the Pacific Ocean, specifically, the Marianas Trench, is a good feeding ground for these leviathans of the sea.


Aside from these huge mammals are the species of dolphins sighted in the only survey conducted.

In the same cetacean survey, Spinner, striped, pantropical spotted, Risso’s, and rough-toothed, and common bottlenose dolphins were sighted in the area in the only cetacean survey ever conducted in the CNMI in 2007.


Meanwhile, aside from these mammals of the sea, the scientists too had the chance to survey other animals on land on the islands of Maug, Uracus, and Asuncion. On these islands, birds known as megapodes that instead of using their own bodies to incubate their eggs, rely on geothermal heat.

These Micronesian megapodes are endangered species in both federal and local lists and are found in the islands of Maug, Uracus, and Asuncion.


Moreover, these northern islands are also the last refuge for the Mariana fruit bats that thrive well in areas with no human activity.


These same islands are also home to sooty terns, boobies, noody, Micronesian starling, Micronesian honeyeater, collared kingfisher, ground dove, Pacific reef heron, and birds that have been listed as species of special conservation need for the CNMI.


All these endangered species and yet to be discovered fauna and flora species combine to make Asuncion, Maug, and Uracus a goldmine for scientific research and conservation efforts because of diversity.

Dr. Verena Tunnicliffe, Canada Research Chair in Deep Oceans at the University of Victoria, and who took part in the exploration of the Mariana Arc along with Dr. Robert Embley, commented “What Global Ocean Legacy has identified within this proposed marine reserve is a wonderful range of genetic, species, and ecosystem diversity.”


For Dr. Tunnicliffe, the boundaries encompass a vast range of large-scale geological habitats, of much greater geological range than even Hawaii.


Dr. Brainard agrees with her, saying, “All of the islands in the Marianas are higher in genetic richness than anywhere in Hawaii or Johnston, or Jarvis.”


Tougher, stricter conservation measures needed

Given the remarkable outcome of the NOAA explorations in the Mariana Arc, it now behooves the community to consider giving the area maximum protection.


Dr. Rusty Brainard was right in thinking “the remoteness of the northern islands of the Mariana Archipelago will not protect them” for so long. Recent media reports established the presence of illegal fishing in the area.


In pursuit of keeping the plant and animal species in their natural habitats and to keep them thriving uninterrupted by human activity, a more potent conservation measure must be put in place. Although the CNMI has already enforced conservation measures in the region, it will be a fitting complement to allow a more potent measure—that of President Bush invoking the Antiquities Act to designate Maug, Uracus, and Asuncion a national marine monument.


The proposed marine monument is complementary to conservation efforts of the CNMI in the three islands of Uracus, Maug, and Asuncion, which it designated as a nature reserve under the CNMI Constitution.


Given the glowing reports by scientists who took part in the NOAA explorations of the region, the community must act promptly on the call for tougher and stricter conservation measures.


And no measure could even be tougher and more beneficial to the community and the environment than setting aside the 115,000 square miles of water and land as a national marine monument.


Because it has remained virtually untouched by humans for generations, the trench now becomes an ideal, natural laboratory where scientists can study evolution and the impact of human activities to marine ecosystems.


With bright prospects for research and understanding of a plethora of scientific phenomenon, the Marianas Trench will enable not only American but other scientists of the world, to better understand global warming and cushion impact of human depredation.


Although the waters surrounding the three islands, including submerged lands and EEZ, belong to the federal government, the proposal seeks to share the management and enforcement of the marine monument with the local government. Contrary to the misinformation that sowed fear among the members of the community, the federal government is seeking the opinion of the community regarding the proposed co-management of a marine monument.


And as in the case of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands that President Bush made into a national marine monument, the proposed monument here will allow traditional practices of the indigenous people to continue.


Traditional fishing as well as the rites of a navigator, among other traditional practices, will still flourish.

A flourishing culture and tradition, a thriving economy, and a surviving pristine environment all exist simultaneously in an area where prospects for research are tremendous for the scientific community.


Let this all happen. A national marine monument is not only good for the CNMI, it is good too for all those who depend on the vast oceans for sustenance and preservation of not only flora, fauna, and marine life forms, but also for the continued existence of the human race.

Mariana Trench's Biological & Geological Features

metro saipan: Mariana Trench's Biological & Geological Features: "Despite politics widening the great divide over the proposal to designate the waters off Maug, Asuncion, and Uracus into a national mari..."

Heritage awareness seminar today | local-news

Heritage awareness seminar today | local-news