Invasive species council returned $100K in funds

HEARING: Russell Campbell, chief of the Guam Department of Agriculture's Biosecurity Division, provided a list of more than 400 invasive species that have been documented in Guam, and their effects on the local ecosystem. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

Guam Invasive Species Council leaders said they had to return $100,000 in federal funding last fiscal year because they didn't have personnel to fill the positions for which the money was intended.

"Sometimes we have to return money because we have had problems getting people hired quickly enough," said Russell Campbell, chief of the Guam Department of Agriculture's Biosecurity Division, at an oversight hearing yesterday at the legislature. "We needed to have people on board by Sep. 1, but we couldn't get anyone hired until March."


Sen. James Espaldon, vice chairman of the legislature's Committee on Environment, Land, Agriculture, and Procurement Reform, was more than a little irked by Campbell's statement.

"It hurts my heart knowing that we're returning money being given to us for these kinds of programs," Espaldon said. "We're getting this money, didn't use it and had to give it back because we didn't hire anybody."

The council was created in 2011 through Public Law 31-43 to protect Guam from invasive species that threaten "our economy, culture, ecosystem and human health," the law states.

The law also states that the council is tasked with the creation of an invasive species coordinator "no later than 90 calendar days from the date of enactment," the document states.

The council still has not created a coordinator position, and has just $121,000 left in its current fiscal year budget.

"You now only have $121,000 and so far today, you've already said you wanted to hire an administrative assistant and a clerk typist on top of it," said Speaker Benjamin Cruz, to members of the invasive species council.

"The clerk typist isn't going to have anything to type if the coordinator isn't hired first!"

The position in question, Campbell said, would be filled by a candidate with at least a bachelor of science degree and four years' experience managing invasive species programs.

As to whether there were viable candidates locally, Campbell said, "I can think of one or two people."


Air curtain burners

The legislature also questioned a $300,000 executive order issued by Gov. Eddie Calvo for air curtain burner services.

Air curtain burners, or ACBs, use fan-forced air to blow high-velocity air across and down over green waste to improve combustion. The effect is similar to fanning a fire, and temperatures inside the firebox usually exceed 1,800 degrees F.

There are only two companies permitted by the Environmental Protection Agency to operate ACBs: Pacific Unlimited Inc. and LMS Guam.

Campbell said the burners are an immediate solution to managing invasive pests like the little red fire ant and coconut rhino beetle. But a preferred long-term solution would be mass composting.

"The best solution to dealing with organic waste is to treat it as organic waste and work it back into the soil," Campbell said.