Consequences of military building challenged
Posted: Nov 24, 2009 5:07 PM
Updated: Nov 24, 2009 6:41 PM
by Heather Hauswirth
The Defense Department's plans to build a deep draft wharf that can support a transient nuclear powered aircraft carrier inside of Apra Harbor may be considered a critical component of the buildup, but the construction of such berthing won't come without some consequences on the island's ecosystem.
"Apra Harbor is unique in the Pacific as being both a commercial port as well as a military port and a recreational port and it has some very high coral cover, pretty diverse habitats and the concern our agency has is the dredging may impact some of the habitats in the harbor in a negative way," explained Brent Tibbatts, Department of Agriculture of biologist.
There's just no getting around it, as Tibbatts says his team is looking at the costs associated with building a pier for an aircraft carrier at Apra Harbor. Both the Ship Repair Facility and Polaris Point are slated as the most suitable options for the wharf. Dredging is noted as an essential method for loosening material from the seafloor to the water surface in order to accommodate the carrier
He said, "The dredging will physically damage them (the coral reef), it will be removing some coral. Also concerns are that sediments stirred up from the dredging can smother coral or smother sponges or smother other organisms and disturb the habitat for those organisms as well as other things that live in them - fish, other animals that live on the reef."
President of the Guam Fisherman's Co-Op Manny Duenas added his concerns over the impact of dredging, but adds his concerns also relate to plans not yet decided by the DoD on how to dispose of the dredge material. "The reef fish go to the ocean and they live off the ocean's nutrients and if you dump a million cubic yards a year, it's 330 daily events that will happen in a given year of having dredge material out there," said Duenas. "Like I said, a million cubic yards that is equivalent to about 50,000 dump trucks to accommodate this new carrier dredge area in Apra Harbor."
Randel Sablan, Assistant Environmental Director for JGPO in Guam, says DoD has looked at both the short- and long-term impacts of dredging. "Those areas where you are doing the dredging will have an affect on those," he said, "taking out those resources, but then there's turbidity and sedimentation concerns and those are indirect and may affect resources nearby."
But Sablan says that strict protocols are in place when it comes to dredging and its impact on sea life. The way dredging proceeds is typically it is going to disturb the environment aside from actually taking the coral, the fish and the turtles and other sea life that can swim in that area will typically move away from the construction zone so you don't really have to anything except watch out for them.