More than 2K tires to be removed from Cocos Lagoon this summer

HABITAT PROJECT: Thousands of tires placed in the Cocos Lagoon in the 1970s, supposedly to create habitats for fish and coral, will be removed starting in June, according to the Guam Environmental Protection Agency. Photo courtesy of Guam EPA

Some 2,000 tires will be removed from the Cocos Lagoon in Merizo starting in June, nearly 50 years after they were placed there for an environmental project that didn't yield the expected results.

The tires were placed in the lagoon in the 1970s as part of a plan to create an "artificial reef" that would foster a healthy habitat for fish and coral. It didn't.

"They have since been considered marine debris," Guam Environmental Protection Agency spokesman Nic Rupley Lee said Wednesday. "Our ocean shouldn't be treated as a dumping ground."

Guam EPA awarded the Cocos Lagoon tire reef removal project contract to UEG Inc., which does business as Unitek Environmental Guam. The fixed-firm price contract is valued at $250,000, Guam EPA said.

The project is funded by a competitive grant award that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program issued to Guam EPA in fiscal year 2019.

Guam EPA issued the notice to proceed to Unitek, which expects to start the project in June. The work is expected to be completed in August.

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero signed and approved the contractual agreement for the professional services contract on March 15, Guam EPA said.

Under the contract, Unitek will be responsible for the management, labor, tools, equipment, supplies, off-island disposal and applicable permits associated with the removal of approximately 2,000 tires from the failed artificial reef experiment, Guam EPA said.

The installation of the "reef" took place with the intention of increasing fish stocks through the creation of the artificial habitat.

Guam EPA said the Guam Department of Agriculture discontinued the practice of using the artificial reef after it was determined that fish stock levels did not improve after the installation.

"The removal and disposal of this artificial tire reef in Cocos Lagoon provides an important step toward preventing any further damage to surrounding marine habitats and communities in and around the lagoon," Guam EPA Administrator Walter Leon Guerrero said in a statement.

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

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