As I sit here I note there are three groups: leaseholders and developers, Koror State Government, and the Environmental Quality Protection Board (EQPB) each representing different concerns.  As discussions progressed, we have come to an understanding, to protect our environment.  I am happy that we now know what our different roles are because we must work together for the good of not only Koror State but our environment.” This is how Ben Yobech, Member of the EQPB Board closed a productive meeting that took place at the Koror State Assembly Hall on Friday, May 1, 2020.

The purpose of the meeting was to build awareness on the need for Cumulative Effects Analysis (CEA) for numerous leases of Koror State submerged lands.  The Environmental Impact Statement Regulations, PNC 2401-61 require environmental assessments for the following, among others: any use directly or indirectly impacting coastal waters and wetlands as defined in the Republic of Palau Marine and Fresh Water Quality Regulations (PNC 2401-11).  These chapters allow the Board to consider the sum of effects on the quality of the environment, and mandate the Board to evaluate the overall and cumulative effects of an action.  To do so, the Board shall consider every phase of a proposed action, the expected consequences, both primary and secondary, and the cumulative as well as the short and long-term effects of the action.  (Chapter 2401-61)

During the meeting, EQPB Board and Staff presented on the purpose and need of cumulative effects analysis, especially for the numerous submerged land leases issued by Koror State Government. Most developers and leaseholders are familiar with Environmental Assessments (EA) or Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) as a requirement for development projects.  An important component of an EA or EIS is to assess the impacts of a particular project on the environment over time, when similar actions may take place in addition to a specific project proposal.  Cumulative Effects Analysis (CEA) explores the effects of all projects in specific environmental settings, especially areas that have significant environmental resources, in order to determine and make recommendations for mitigations necessary to move projects forward while minimizing negative effects to our environment .Siual Blesam, CEO of EQPB reiterated to Gov. Gibbons that EQPB is willing to assist KSG to develop a scope of work for consultants to prepare a characterization of Koror State near-shore waters, to be used as a basis for a Cumulative Effects Analysis that will guide future developments on submerged lands.

As a way forward, it was clarified at this meeting that seven permit applications on submerged land leases are pending at EQPB waiting on additional information from the Governor.  The Governor agreed to provide information to EQPB, including a complete list of submerged land leases for Koror State near-shore waters, utilities plans, access roads and accessibility to the nearby waters, storm water management and identification of environmental resources such as mangroves within these areas. This is why EQPB needs map of submerged land leases that identify lease purposes to assist EQPB Board in determining an environmental permit that allows for sustainable development to proceed while ensuring we protect our environment and resources for the people.

“Many have waited a long time to develop their leases.  Let’s continue to work together so we can all move forward as some of these projects are ‘High End’ ventures” said Gov. Franco Gibbons.  He assured leaseholders present and the EQPB Board that his office will provide documentation of leases and confirmation of utilities rights-of-way for submerged leases for the applications pending at EQPB.  He also confirmed that clarification on confirmed leases, classification, and zoning is forthcoming.  To this, a leaseholder representative voiced his relief by saying, “Our common concern is the protection of our environment.  Now we know what the concerns are from all involved and what needs to be done.”For more information on permits and activities we can do to protect our environment, call EQPB at 488-1639/3600.