[Yap State News Brief] Submarine Fiber Optic Cable Project Coordinator Briefs Yap State On Project Status, Environmental Assessment


Resource: Yap State News Brief (March 15, 2016)

COLONIA, Yap (Civic Affairs) — On Tuesday, March 8, 2016, the project coordinator of the FSM Telecommunications Sector Reform Project met with stakeholders in Yap State. The meeting was held at the Yap Small Business Development Center multi-purpose facility in the morning, beginning after 9:00AM.

Project coordinator Aaron L. Warren of the FSM Department of Transportation, Communication & Infrastructure (TC&I) met with stakeholders from the state government, FSMTC and communities, to provide an updated briefing of the project’s status and to present the environmental and social assessment study.

This meeting was stated to be the last phase on environmental and social safeguards, but meetings concerning advancing the project will be continually held afterwards. On Monday, Mr. Warren met and briefed the Office of the Governor; Mr. Warren has also been in Yap several times in the past weeks to finalize plans for the landing of the Yap cable system.

The meeting began with introductory remarks by the newly appointed head of the Department of Youth & Civic Affairs (DY&CA), Director Francis I. Itimai. Mr. Warren then launched into his environmental and social assessment study presentation.

The configuration of the Yap cable system has changed since its initial planning. For one, the initial plan was to have the Yap spur of the submarine fiber optic cable routed via the channel to Tamil Harbor and landed in Colonia before connecting to the FSMTC Yap branch. The new routing and landing configuration will be at the southern end of the Yap Main Islands. Instead of surfacing at Colonia at the east-central side of the Yap Main Islands, the new plan will have the cable landing at Magachgil, Gilman Municipality; this alternative would be less expensive and may save the project about $6 million dollars.

Additional due diligence was required because the alternate routing and landing was not considered when the Initial Environmental Examination (IEE) was prepared for the project. The series of meetings in Yap sought to remedy this. More information on the IEE is available at the TC&I website: http://www.ict.fm/communications.html

The Yap cable landing will be in Magachgil Village, Gilman Municipality. The Yap spur will cross a section of reef closest to the coast before landing on the shore of Magachgil. From its landing, the terrestrial route would follow the main road up the island towards the old airstrip before being linked to a proposed cable landing facility at the FSMTC substation.

In his environmental and social assessment presentation, Mr. Warren displayed the route of the Yap spur, then outlined and discussed with the stakeholders the landing point features of the cable.

After a marine survey of the landing zone at the reef area was conducted by the MRMD (Marine Resources Management Division of the Yap State Department of Resources & Development) on March 4, 2016, it was found that:

  • The edge of the reef targeted for the cable’s crossing was the shortest possible from shore—approximately 450 meters (1,476 feet)
  • There were no FADs (fish aggregation devices) or protected fishing or nesting areas
  • No wrecks or historic preservation areas identified
  • Minimal boat traffic (a “no anchoring zone” was recommended)
  • No unexploded munitions (no known survey, yet)
  • No existing residential or commercial development
  • The area is affected by extreme weather (the spur’s landing point and proposed beach manhole would be covered by seawater during typhoons)

The meeting discussed these points, and the stakeholders made some points that 1) an archival, post-WWII munitions survey may be available for the area, it was just a matter of finding it, and 2) Mr. Warren understood that the area may be inundated in severe weather conditions, but assured the stakeholders that the cable and supporting landing structures would be safe. The proposed route of the landing of the spur will require a crossing of a small section of the reef—from the open ocean into the lagoon; methods of crossing discussed were either boring through the reef or trenching.

Mr. Warren’s presentation highlighted that the impacts on the reef should be minimal, but portions of the reef may be broken or disturbed during the installation. Another point of concern made by Mr. Warren was the potential burden the cable might have on the community, in terms of the duration of construction, to the impacts on communal activities in the cable’s vicinity and the cable’s maintenance during its 25+ operating lifespan.

The terrestrial route of the cable would require new infrastructure, from its landing at a proposed beach manhole in Magachgil, and cable-burying within ducts beside the 6.5km (4 miles) of road to the proposed cable landing station at FSMTC’s facility. The construction of the terrestrial route would be coordinated with the wet works. The installation of the terrestrial route would be constructed within the existing road easement, but temporary interferences to the public may occur for the duration of construction; notice and information regarding impacts would be provided beforehand for the public’s sake.

After his presentation, Mr. Warren spoke with the community representatives at the meeting concerning the voluntary land donation and other property-related matters for the cable landing in Magachgil. The landowners of Magachgil have collectively allowed for the landing of the cable in their property, before it crosses over to the public easement of the main road.

The Yap cable system, specifically the purchase of the submarine fiber optic cable, is made possible through funding by a World Bank grant, administered by TC&I. It is hoped that the cable system for Yap would increase the islands’ available bandwidth (e.g. 38Mbps to 20,150Mbps), as well as cut costs of internet access in the long run. For more information on the World Bank grant for the project, visit the project page at:http://www.worldbank.org/projects/P130592/?lang=en&tab=overview

Through a briefing meeting with the Governor by Mr. Warren, the Governor approved that the Chief of Media & Protocol, Mr. Sebastian F. Tamagken of the Yap State Department of Youth & Civic Affairs (DY&CA) be the state technical focal point in coordination with Mr. Warren while the Director be the focal point at the policy level to work side by side with Mr. Warren and FSMTC . For more information or clarifications, contact DY&CA, or Mr. Warren at Email: alw.fsm@gmail.com


Resource: Yap State News Brief (March 15, 2016)


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