Laolao Watershed Restoration Project

Laolao Watershed Restoration Project


On Saipan’s east coast, the coral reefs of Laolao Bay are severely threatened by sediment from eroding dirt and gravel roads, streambeds, and upland runoff. A partnership of local and federal agencies and community groups has been working to solve the problems. Funding and community effort is being devoted to reducing sediment flows, but more funding is needed to finish the work.

Values Threats
  • Saipan’s best all-weather dive site (up to 200/day)
  • Major recreation site for island residents
  • Well-developed coral reef & marine ecosystem
  • Turtle nesting habitat
  • WW II and archaeological sites
  • Sedimentation from the access roads
  • Sedimentation from road stream crossings
  • Sedimentation from upland erosion
  • Beach driving
  • Litter from beach parties

“…continued negative effects from sedimentation, Acanthaster planci predation, bleaching, recreational use, and storm damage have significantly changed the composition of the coral community at Laulau Bay.”
(The State of Coral Reef Ecosystems of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, 2005)

The CNMI Marine Monitoring Team has documented changes to the Laolao reef. The table below shows negative trends that include a severe decline in coral coverage, and dominance by turf algae resulting from recent disturbances.

To find permanent solutions to this issue, the Coastal Resources Management Office (CRM) began a collaborative effort with the Division of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Department of Public Works (DPW), Department of Lands and Natural Resources (DLNR), Northern Marianas Community College, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, landowners, volunteer groups, residents, divers, and beach users.

Revegetation of the badlands in the upper watershed is an essential part of the restoration process for Laulau.  Working with Division of Environmental Quality, Division of Forestry and many volunteer groups, CRM continues to take part in yearly tree planting at Laulau watershed.  Private landowners have been very cooperative and given this important project access to badland areas for the revegetation work. 

Road stabilization and stormwater controls are a major cost for restoring Laulau Bay.  The engineering design for paving, drainage, and beach access improvements on Laolao Bay Drive is complete, and implementation of the project is ongoing. Stabilization of Gapgap Road, erosion control at various public access points and stabilization at nine stream crossings are current priorities in the continued effort to improve conditions in Laulau Bay.