Marianas Variety

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    Monday, December 18, 2017-7:23:58A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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HPO sees increase in earth-moving permit applications

(Office of the Governor) — With the close of the fiscal year in October, the Historic Preservation Office saw an increase in earth-moving permit applications.

In fiscal year 2017, the Historic Preservation Office reviewed and processed a total of 596 HPO Clearances, compared to 527 in 2016 for all One-Start Earthmoving Permit Applications transmitted to HPO from the Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality for the three islands of Saipan, Tinian and Rota.

James R. Pruitt
Lucas Simonds

“Of these applicants, the island of Saipan processed a total of 535, with 36 for Tinian, and 25 for Rota. In addition, 28 permit applications required professional archaeologists due to the project location’s sensitivity and archaeological environment,” according to Historic Preservation Officer Mertie Kani.

In regards to federally funded projects, Kani noted that in fiscal year 2017, the Historic Preservation Office reviewed and commented on a total of 37 federally funded Section 106 projects.

“As part of a federal regulation under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the HPO consults with federal agencies, local agencies administering federal funds, and consultants working on federally funded or permitted projects that have the potential to affect significant cultural resources,” Mertie added.

Secretary of Community and Cultural Affairs Robert Hunter expressed that the increasing number of projects emphasizes the need to strengthen compliance, noting that federal mandated positions are now filled.

“The increase in One-Start Permit applications is directly due to economic growth and investment. That we now have two critical and federally mandatory positions filled, that of the staff archaeologist and the historian, goes a long way towards seeing that our HPO meets the demands of the review of earth-moving permits and monitoring and carries out its other mandated duties,” Hunter said.

Hunter shared that the hiring HPO staff historian Lucas Simonds and HPO staff archaeologist James R. Pruitt comes at a very critical time in economic development.

“The Historic Preservation Office’s Staff Historian position is finally filled in to complete the HPO staffing requirement as part of the Historic Preservation Fund Grant. HPO now has a fulltime staff historian who is responsible for all professional consultation in matters pertaining to history and historical research. In addition, he works hand-in-hand with the staff archaeologist in promoting, protecting and preserving the rich cultural heritage of the history of the Northern Mariana Islands,” Hunter said.

Gov. Ralph D.L.G. Torres reiterated that the vacant positions were difficult to fill, but HPO can now move forward with improving and strengthening historic preservation needs.

“It remains critical that developments stay compliant and that proposed projects are in the best interest of the commonwealth with respect to our island’s natural resources. I am pleased that these key positions have been filled after a very difficult time with limited resources in meeting federal guidelines. I commend the diligence performed by all our permitting agencies, I am hopeful that the preservation of our island’s heritage are in good hands and that there is assurance of all earth-moving activities being performed to minimize environmental impacts, which will ensure preservation for our future generations,” Governor Torres said.