Saipan, CNMI

Meet: Josephine Ibanez

Brian A. Laverriere, Project Designer

Josephine is an environmental scientist specializing in water resource management, water quality monitoring, and site remediation.  Jo’s passions include exploring new areas (both geographically and scientifically), helping communities understand their local water quality challenges, and developing water resource management strategies.

Last month, Jo and I had the opportunity to travel to Saipan in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Our team mapped drainage infrastructure, assessed sources of pollution, and identified key opportunities for restoration within the Achugao, Garapan, and Lao Lao Bay Watersheds. 

The trip was awesome for so many reasons.  Jo reminded me every day that what we do is significant – but who we work with is equally as important– and most important of all is the health, safety, and welfare of people. This was my first time working closely with Jo; hearing her perspective reminded me of how critical our development decisions are in 2020 and that our purpose in Saipan is larger than ourselves.

We inventoried age-old infrastructure from WWII, observed active construction today, and saw evidence of our future demand on the land.  Jo made me think: what will happen to these natural waterways we’re mapping?  Will they vanish inside of a pipe?  Or can we integrate these natural resources and sustain the natural identity of Saipan?  While abroad, we talked with residents who told stories from decade ago, collaborated with consultants who shared our same concerns, and met with federal agencies to ensure our decision-making process fit the priorities of the people and the place.

Project Summary:

All three watersheds are impaired, exceeding one or more CNMI water quality standards.  Five HW’ers traveled to Saipan to assess each watershed and to identify solutions for land-based sources of pollution.  Our project team consists of environmental scientists, civil engineers, planners, and landscape architects.  Sponsored by NOAA and the CNMI Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality, we worked closely with Koa Consulting LLC, Sea Change Consulting, and The Nature Conservancy to engage local agencies and organizations. We collected field data and mapped drainage infrastructure linking flow-patterns with key opportunities to improve water quality.  Our field teams and workshop facilitators gathered hundreds of data points; produced dozens of restoration concepts; and identified watershed management priorities, challenges, and visions.

Over the coming months, we will draft watershed management plans to integrate different stakeholder’s priorities (e.g., on-going capital improvements, restoration efforts, road upgrades) to balance economic growth with environmental integrity.  Based upon our field assessment, the community engagement process, and stakeholder listening sessions, we will prioritize potential solutions to mitigate future development, restore degraded landscapes, and manage contributing drainage areas.  As a result of this work, we hope federal and local agencies can implement these watershed solutions to one-day meet the CNMI water quality standards.

HW Project Team:

Brian A. Laverriere, Project Designer
Josephine Ibanez, Environmental Scientist
Eliza Hoffman, Staff Engineer
Brian Kuchar, P.E., RLA, Principal Landscape Architect
Anne Kitchell, Senior Watershed Planner

Project Partners:

The Nature Conservancy-Micronesia
-Berna Gorong 
Sea Change Consulting
-Meghan Gombos
KOA Consulting LLC
-Becky Skeele & Rob Jordan
Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality
-James Benavente

NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program
-Robbie Greene


Read about this project in the Saipan Tribune