Feds won't assist in beach erosion efforts - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Feds won't assist in beach erosion efforts

by Lannie Walker

Guam - It looks like the village of Umatac may be on its own in their effort to save a cemetery from literally falling into the ocean. Village mayor Dean Sanchez received a visit today from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  He had hoped the visit would have resulted in a plan to fix the eroding beach at the village's cemetery, but program manager Milton Yoshimoto didn't bring good news.

"As far as any participation in any project to address the issue, we cannot be involved. I wish I had better news, but I didn't want to just pick up the phone and tell you I wanted to make sure I was able to answer any questions you may have," he explained.

Yoshimoto and a crew at the Civil and Public Works Branch have been assessing the problem along the shore and he told Mayor Sanchez today the projects potential cost outweighs what he calls the "benefit to the nation as a whole."  The estimated quarter of a million dollars just couldn't be justified.

And while a final report on the assessment has yet to be finalized, Yoshimoto was able to detail the kind of assistance they could have offered. "We were looking at protecting shoreline fronting the cemetery," he continued. When asked how such would have been done, he said, "Probably with some sort of protective structure."

Sanchez, while disappointed, says he is not surprised the federal government won't be coming to the rescue. His hope now is that the local government will take the lead, saying, "We would have to go through the problem addressing it to the Department of Public Works; more or less you would have to get the governor involved."

This is something Sanchez tried to do when he sent this letter to former governor Felix Camacho in 2009, asking him to declare a state of emergency. Sanchez never received a response and is hoping current governor Eddie Calvo can provide some help.

For resident Jesse Quinata, the problem is a personal one. His father was buried at the site...but is no longer. "We had to remove his bones and move him and bury him with my mom further in, because his coffin was already sticking out," he said. And Quinata says it's an issue the entire community is concerned with, adding, "With the erosion, it can cause a lot of hazards and safety issues health issues basically we would like to fix it as soon as possible."

Sanchez estimates the shoreline has eroded by 10-15' over the years, telling KUAM News, "The graves that are readily exposed are all the previous residents that have been buried there and these were like five or six generations."

Mayor Sanchez says it may now be up to the residents here to raise the funds needed to save this sacred ground.

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