Sunday, August 02, 2009

Visitors Center News

The Office of Representative Sablan issued a press release over the weekend concerning a visitors center for the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.
Kilili’s bill authorizes Monument Visitors Center in the Northern Mariana Islands

Washington, D.C. — Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan today introduced legislation that authorizes a Marianas Trench Marine National Monument Visitors Center in the Northern Mariana Islands. The bill instructs the Secretary of the Interior to locate the facility in the NMI to inform the public about the Monument and provide a base for research.

“Establishing a Visitors Center here holds true to the promises made to the Northern Marianas regarding the Marine National Monument,” said Sablan. “The Visitors Center will be an important way for people of the Northern Marianas to benefit from this world-class environmental resource and will make the remote Monument more accessible to visitors and residents alike.”

Sablan’s bill does not specify exactly where the Center will be located in the Northern Marianas.

“It could be Rota, or Tinian, or Saipan,” he said. “It will be up to the Secretary of the Interior – with ample consultation with the local government – to decide the best location to fulfill the purposes of the Visitors Center.”

Among those purposes are public education regarding the natural, cultural, and aesthetic resources of the Monument.

“The goal is to have a Visitors Center where science, education, and culture come together to protect and conserve our natural resources,” Kilili said.

The Marianas Trench Marine National Monument was established by Presidential Proclamation on January 6, 2009. The Monument includes the three northernmost islands in the Marianas archipelago and portions of the Marianas Trench, the deepest ocean on Earth. The Monument stretches over 12,000 square miles of land and sea.

“Because the Monument is so large and remote from the populated islands I imagine that the Visitors Center will have to hav exhibits that bring the experience of the Monument to people using innovative technologies. For instance, there could be remote cameras established at the undersea thermal vents that would allow visitors to see the unique life-forms that live in those harsh and unusual conditions.”

The Champagne Vent located at Eifuku submarine volcano in the Monument produces almost pure liquid carbon dioxide. Only one other site in the world of this type is known and is part of the reason for the establishment of the Monument.

“The Visitors Center could also provide a base for scientific activities and administration not directly connected to the Monument. The Northern Marianas should be the site for part of the US system of volcano observatories, I think; and it might make sense to put that function together with the Monument Center.”

Sablan says he is hopeful that the bill can move quickly through the legislative process. “Once we have the authorization for the Visitors Center, we can start looking for the funds to build and operate it.”
Sounds good to me. I wonder how much money is in this bill? How much is set aside for design? Construction? Maintenance and operations? I don't want this to be like the federally funded fishing co-op that only opened for six days because they didn't plan for unforeseen expenses "like utilities, rent, and salaries."

Then although this is not a major point, Kilili's Office is incorrect when they write "The Monument stretches over 12,000 square miles of land and sea." The Islands Unit is 12,000 square miles, while the entire Monument is closer to 95,000 square miles. Also, the Monument does not include land! It is a marine monument, a marine protected area. The islands are not a part of the Monument, they remain under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth.


g00$e said...

Kill-Lilly might be in DC but it's still CNMI politics he's practicing. It's all about introducing bills and getting on record as a proud rider of YOUR bandwagon. It's got nothing to do with actually opening and operating a Visitors' Center. Unless there's something in it for him.

Choose your riders carefully.

Saipan Writer said...

The monument covers land, as in submerged land, sea-bed. Otherwise, there would have been no legal authority for the president to create the monument...

just a thought...