Marianas Variety

Friday, November 28, 2014-5:50:31P.M.

Last updateFri, 28 Nov 2014 12am

Headlines:

Not your average ‘garden party’

OVER 40 government and private citizens created a first-of-its-kind rain garden at the NMI Museum yesterday.

Government staff and private citizens pose with their rain garden in front of the NMI Museum yesterday. Photo by Tammy DotyWith rockin’ reggae music as a backdrop and overcast skies that kept the temperature reasonable, two Massachusetts-based environmental consultants guided the project to completion over 1.5 days.

The project was intended as a community showcase, and provided an opportunity to share the concept that allows rainwater to be absorbed into the ground, which in turn prevents runoff of sediment and chemicals into the wastewater system and ocean.

“It was a really fun, tiring and interesting project,” commented Coastal Resource Management marine technician David Benavente, who provided a good deal of “muscle” for the project’s physical labor.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration financed the program, with similar projects planned for Guam and Maui.

Extensive intergovernmental cooperation among the Department of Public Works, the Division of Environmental Quality, CRM, NOAA, the Division of Parks and Recreation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Research, Extension and Education Services and CNMI Forestry made the project possible.

“The cooperation was amazing … DPW, DEQ and CRM provided a considerable amount of supplies and labor,” explained Rachel Zuercher, non-point source manager for CRM and rain garden project coordinator, “and we’re very grateful for the enthusiasm and assistance.”

In addition to the extensive government support, the project received in-kind contributions from the Laolao Bay Golf Resort and Hawaiian Rock.

Concept basics

During the day-and-a-half program, participants learned the mechanics of a rain garden, site selection, plant choices, how to calculate a plot size for rain runoff, maintenance, and how to, in turn, pass along the knowledge to the community in order to encourage additional installations.

Michelle West, storm water engineer from environmental consulting firm Horsley Witten Group, made her fourth trip to Saipan in as many years, and loves to visit.

“It’s a trainer’s dream to have such a large, dedicated group to work with, and the project was really a big success,” said a dirt-covered but smiling West as she surveyed the garden.

During the time of the actual hands-on installation, West described a steady stream of cars pulling in from Middle Road to investigate the activity.

“All the people who pulled over wondered if the site was an archaeological dig, considering we’re on the museum grounds, and it was a great opportunity to educate passers-by on the rain garden concept,” commented West about the visible location and public interest.

The site sits just below the edge of Middle Road, and was chosen because it experiences heavy run-off during rains, which the garden will help to minimize.

For a close-up peek at the island’s newest eco-garden, simply turn into the parallel driveway in front of the museum off of Middle Road.