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EPA Awards Over $30 Million to the Pacific Territories for Environmental Protection

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently awarded over $30 million as part of a yearly program that provides grants to Guam, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa for use in continuing environmental protection work and for improvements to drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.

EPA LOGO“EPA’s funding enables the islands to advance their goals in the pursuit of clean air, water and land,” said Jared Blumenfeld, Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “As one example, the investment made in leak detection projects in all three territories has dramatically reduced drinking water losses, and saved over $1 million in energy costs.”

Guam EPA will be receiving $3.2 million, CNMI DEQ will be receiving $1.7 million, and the American Samoa EPA $1.8 million to support the operations of each environmental agency. The work done by the agencies include inspections, monitoring the safety of beaches and drinking water, permit writing, enforcement and other facets of their environmental protection programs.

Additionally, EPA provides drinking water and wastewater construction grants to improve the water supplies in each of the territories. The Guam Waterworks Authority will be receiving $8.2 million, CNMI’s Commonwealth Utilities Corp. will be receiving $6.9 million, and the American Samoa Power Authority $8.3 million.

Accomplishment highlights from previous funding include:

  • Improvements to the drinking water system in all three territories, including improved chlorination in Guam, increased water storage in CNMI, and an ongoing extension of the central system in American Samoa to remote villages.
  • EPA funding has contributed to the increased drinking water availability in Saipan, where 95% of the population now has access to 24-hour water (up from 75% in 2009).
  • Improvements to the wastewater collection and treatment systems in all three territories, including rehabilitation of a treatment plant in Saipan, improvements to the collection infrastructure in Guam, and ongoing extension of sewer lines in American Samoa.
  • EPA has funded the replacement of older wastewater pumps with newer energy efficient pumps and controls, saving the utilities hundreds of thousands of dollars in power bills in all three territories.

Sea-Level Rise Online Map Viewer Now Available for Hawaii

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a web-mapping tool aimed at visualizing potential impacts from sea-level rise in Hawai’i, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. Known as the Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer, the tool serves as a simple and easy to use but powerful planning resource for planners, public officials, coastal managers, and communities engaged in climate adaptation planning and coastal inundation preparedness.

Hawaii Climate Change Map

“Tools like the Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer can provide planners and decision makers with a preliminary look at sea-level rise and coastal flooding information,” said Jesse Souki, Director of the State of Hawai’i Office of Planning.  “Sea level rise scenarios can be integrated into land use decisions, along with other economic, social, and environmental considerations, to make wise investments in public infrastructure and ensure livable, resilient communities.”

The inclusion of the Pacific Islands into the national viewer was made possible through a partnership between the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program (UH Sea Grant), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal Storms Program and Coastal Services Center.

The map features of the tool utilize high-resolution aerial images overlain on top of elevation data, enabling users to display and visualize coastal inundation associated with differentsea level rise scenarios – ranging from zero to six feet above mean sea level. Using a Google Map as a base map, the tool highlights sea-level rise-induced coastal inundation and flooding, helps viewers visualize impacts at select local landmarks and critical infrastructure, models potential habitat migration due to sea-level rise, and offers an overlay of social vulnerability information based on population attributes like age, income, and poverty.

“This tool fills an important gap for planners and managers in Hawai‘i,” explains Dr. Charles (Chip) Fletcher, associate dean for academic affairs at SOEST and map development partner. “On a national scale, the Sea Level Rise Viewer and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer fills the need to provide planners and managers with a screening-level tool that provides a preliminary look at sea level rise impacts. With the amount of detail and options it provides, the Sea Level Rise Viewer is at the cutting edge of planning tools,” states Dr. Fletcher.

“With these maps showing community assets at risk of sea-level impacts, the discussion can begin on questions such as ‘What policy changes are necessary to prepare for future climate change in Hawai‘i?’ and ‘How shall we adapt to long-term, essentially irreversible changes in sea level?’” stresses Dr. Fletcher.

The first of a series of workshops in Hawai‘i will be held on September 19 and 20 at the Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa at Keauhou Bay for registered participants at the annual Hawai’i Congress of Planning Officials Conference. For information about future workshops call NOAA Pacific Services Center (808) 532-3200. For more information about the data, the modeling approach, and using the tool, visit the Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer’s support page, www.csc.noaa.gov/slr