The Future Of Marpi|Saipan CNMI

Tina Sablan Saipan|CNMI

Tina Sablan Saipan|CNMI

The Future of Marpi

The more we learn about the power pole project currently underway in Marpi, the more we are convinced that it is about so much more than just electrifying a few lights and water pumps for the public cemetery.

Local electricians and renewable energy experts have generally agreed that dropping hundreds of thousands of dollars to erect 43 massive power poles from the cemetery to the main road and on to the Buddhist shrine is overkill, to say the least, for lights and water pumps.  For the amount of money being spent on these power poles (and, in the near future, on power bills) the government could easily have installed a state-of-the-art renewable energy system, with cost-effective security infrastructure to protect that system against vandalism.

The continued push for power poles in Marpi makes no sense, and so we ask more questions.

A much bigger picture of the future of Marpi is now beginning to emerge, based on information obtained, bit by bit, from the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation, the Department of Public Works, landowners in Marpi, the Zoning Office, the Department of Public Lands, the Attorney General’s Office, the Capital Improvement Projects Office, and the Governor’s Office.  It is a future that is being determined by a relatively small group of people, without so much as a public hearing to clue the rest of us in, or ask us what we think.

It is a future that could include power, water, and wastewater lines extending all the way down to the landfill and up towards Suicide Cliff, opening that entire region of Marpi for intensive development.   Plans reportedly have been or are being advanced to level the trees, install streetlights, build new hotels and condominiums (and casinos too, if certain people have their wish), construct more public restrooms, open up homestead subdivisions, erect huge solar and wind farms, widen the road and connect it to the back island road, “develop” Kalabera  – the list goes on and on.  These plans are not openly being discussed, and information is not readily available.

It is a future that is not that far away from us, if we do nothing about the changes that are happening now.

The power poles are really just the tip of the iceberg.

For many reasons, Marpi is an exceptional place.  It is a National Historic Landmark, one of the few places in the entire country deemed worthy of this distinction because of its significant historic value. The area is rich in important artifacts dating back to ancient Chamorro times.  It is a sacred memorial site for those who lost their lives in World War II and a burial ground for our military veterans, and it will soon be a final resting place for many of our loved ones who pass away.   It is home to some of the last stands of old limestone forest remaining in the CNMI, one of the best diving grottos in the world, fascinating caves containing ancient petroglyphs, and the beautiful Bird Island.  It is habitat for wildlife found nowhere else on earth.  It is one of the last places on the island, and in the world, where we can still see millions of stars at night, unhampered by light pollution.   It is a favorite place for walking, jogging, cave exploring, bicycling, swimming, diving, hiking, and peaceful sanctuary for many residents.  It is our most popular tourist attraction on island.

There is so much that is special about Marpi that is so easily destroyed if we are not careful.

It is perhaps difficult for some of us to oppose a Marpi landowner who would like to have lights and running water, or to object to plans to bring a stable source of power to the landfill so that leachate pumps can function properly.  No one is saying that all forms of development should stop in Marpi, but we are saying that there must be full public disclosure and careful planning of any development that takes place there.  The community should be afforded sufficient notice and information.  Public hearings should be conducted.  The government has a duty to listen to the concerns of the community, weigh priorities, and consider alternatives.

That is really all that is being asked of the CIP Authorized Representative, the CIP Contracting Officer, and all our leaders at this point:  Stop the power pole project, and hold public hearings.  Give the community a chance to learn about, understand, and influence the development taking place in Marpi.  Be open in your decision-making process, and include us in it.

Marpi belongs to all of us, and if it is destroyed, there is no turning back.

 

 

-Tina Sablan

 

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