Preserving Guam’s Natural Beauty During Typhoon Mawar Debris Cleanup

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Throughout efforts to manage debris removal after Typhoon Mawar, FEMA has consistently prioritized the preservation of Guam's delicate environmental ecosystem. FEMA's Environmental Historical Preservation (EHP) team has implemented various efforts focused on making this possible. 

When snails, believed to be the Guam Tree Snail (Partula radiolata), were discovered in the vegetative debris at a Temporary Debris Management Site (TDMS), the task force decided to halt operations for a few days. This allowed the endangered species time to relocate. 

On a field trip to another cleanup location, FEMA EHP Specialist Russell Tice discovered a mushroom growing on a coconut palm. The EHP team received confirmation from University of Guam the species of parasitic mushroom is Palm Butt Rot (Ganoderma zonatum), which kills mature healthy trees and was first identified on Guam in 2007. The debris task force was briefed to ensure potentially fungi-diseased palm wood was not circulated in the collection, shredding and distribution of vegetative debris. 

“Preventing the spread of invasive plants in our debris mission is a joint effort,” said Tice. “It utilizes the knowledge of subject matter experts and resources of existing programs within GovGuam and federal agencies to ensure our disaster response is comprehensively planned and well executed.” 

To ensure accurate specimen identification, Tice turned to Christopher Rosario, an entomologist from the Guam Department of Agriculture. Soon, more local plant pathologists joined the mushroom identification and analyzed the implications of its possible presence. 

The FEMA environmental experts rigorously selected acceptable TDMS locations in alignment with scientific exploration requirements and agency regulations. They verified these sites were situated outside special regulatory zones, such as wetlands, floodways/coastal management areas and areas previously disturbed. In addition to map collocation, the EHP team conducted on-site surveys to assess flood risk, determine high-water flood markers and evaluate the functionality of the drainage system. 

As some sites were located on developed properties adjacent to wetlands, the EHP team carefully supervised debris cleanup to make sure it remained in approved areas, preventing erosion, sedimentation and other types of direct harm to the environment. 

As of Nov. 20, the Debris Task Force successfully removed a total of 201,000 cubic yards of debris from Guam, starting with the 41 public schools. The Task Force then cleared debris from the right of ways as well as all TDMS locations with memorandums signed off by local mayors. 

The teams credit the collaboration with the involved internal and external partners for their success.

"Our team is deeply committed to preserving Guam's delicate ecosystem, protecting its diverse beauty, and ensuring its safety from potential threats during this debris cleanup mission,” said Debris Task Force Lead Joseph Grunditz.

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