VIDEO: Efforts Now Underway to Stop Erosion at Umatac Cemetery

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Guam- After several years, steps are finally being taken to fix the erosion and flooding problems of the Umatac cemetery. However, a definitive time line still hasn’t been set on when the long standing problem will be completely resolved.

The Southern Soil and Water Conservation District, Guam EPA and the Department of Public Health joined Umatac Mayor Johnny Quinata and his staff this morning [Thursday] to conduct an investigation into the continued erosion of the Umatac cemetery.

Quinata says his community has had concerns with the cemetery grounds since 2004. He’s happy officials are interested in stabilizing the site, but urges them to move quickly.

What I want to do is I want to have it repaired so we can stop worrying about this erosion,” said Quinata. “If we keep waiting, it’s going to get more bad and worse.”

SWCD Chairman Bill McDonald says today’s visit is a follow up to their previous investigation back in 2010. McDonald says the first thing they plan to do is a short term fix with the cemetery’s ridge.

We have found that water has forced its way into the cemetery instead of going into the stream that we have over there,” said McDonald. “So we will be looking into that as one of our quick fix and we’re going to be looking at our federal agencies and local government to help us out on that.”

McDonald hopes to have that problem fixed within a few weeks with the help of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the University of Guam. He also says back in 2004, three plans were laid out to address the shoreline erosion issue. This included putting large boulders on the shore, installing galvan cages with rocks, or building a concrete wall. He couldn’t say when of if any of these plans will be implemented soon.

That takes a multi agency [effort], both federal and local,” said McDonald. “We need to get started off with the Army Corps of Engineers. That’s their jurisdiction.”

McDonald says they hope to see progress sometime this year because heavy erosion problems also affect the upper portion of the cemetery as well.

Mayor Quinata also says he’s not sure if any coffins were lost or floated away since the erosion began. He believes fallen crosses and debris may be covering exposed coffins closer to the unstable shoreline. He’s also worried rough waters during storm conditions will expose the remains of the dead.

What it does is the current goes this way and goes back over there and the current on both sides hit each other,” said Quinata. “So I’m thinking I really don’t know, but I’m hearing some people saw some coffins.”

Quinata adds he was told the cost to fix the cemetery’s issues may be around $250 thousand dollars. He hopes the erosion is stabilized soon because he believes in the next year or two, Umatac won’t have a cemetery anymore.

We do have to move forward and get this done because we can’t wait any longer,” said Quinata.

Back in January, Senators Frank Aguon Jr. and Tommy Morrison asked Governor Calvo to expedite efforts to build flood protection for the cemetery. The senators said they were concerned because no significant steps were taken to stabilize the cemetery conditions.