Land Use Agencies Contemplate Environmental Effects

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Members of the 36th Guam Legislature met yesterday to discuss the logistics of mineral extraction relative to its environmental effects.

PNC’s Devin Eligio reports…

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Among those in attendance were agencies involved with land use and development such as the Guam Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Land Management, and the Guam Land Use Commission to name a few.

Vince Arriola, Director of Department of Public Works, said the process starts with GLUG,
“We don’t move on a permit for any kind of mineral extraction unless it’s been approved by the GLUC, so it really starts with them.”

According to agency representatives, in order for the process of mineral extraction to start, the GLUC requires a conditional use permit. This is a zoning exception that allows aggregate-based construction companies to use property in non-conforming ways.

DOAG’s Forestry Division Chief Christine Fejeran added that the process of mineral extraction also has detrimental effects on the forest and that there is no measurement of the damage done in that process. Fejeran explained, “You could have a footprint of two acres, we’ll say, for land clearing for extraction, for extraction, and within that two-acre footprint, you might… you will see tree death, tree canopy decline, but people don’t consider the impact to the forest adjacent to and surrounding that parcel.”

Guam EPA’s Chief Engineer Brian Bearden referenced that companies were moving along with what Guam EPA believed to be quarrying activity without permits, but these companies claimed they are for reasons out of the scope of quarrying. Specifically-speaking, Bearden says, “There’s a number of problems. From the Guam EPA side of things, there’s some significant environmental impacts associated with that. There’s the noise, there’s the change to the landscape, there’s the removal of the soil which then removes the groundwater protection.”

Bearden talked about a complaint that a local resident had about a nearby quarry and how vertical quarries pose a safety hazard to those living near those quarries. Bearden adds, “You can drive around Guam and you can see quarrying activities where there is a sheer vertical cliff, which is a real hazard to the neighborhood, a real hazard to homes that might be right alongside these.”

With all the issues in permitting and regulations addressed, the Legislature duly takes the comments into account for further action to be taken in updating permits and regulations.