New fishermen's co-op facility could be completed by 2022

SEA WALL: A sea wall to protect the shoreline at Paseo near the Hagåtña boat basin, shown here on March 31, could soon be built, along with the new facility of the Guam Fishermen's Cooperative. The groundbreaking for the project was held four years ago. Kevin Milan/The Guam Daily Post

Necessary design changes, along with delays from the COVID-19 pandemic, have stalled the construction of a new Guam Fishermen's Cooperative Association facility. The initial groundbreaking ceremony was held in 2017.

Kin Flores, head of the committee overseeing the project, said officials were faced with various challenges. One of the first was compliance with the flood zone regulations. Much of Hagåtña is considered a flood zone. The co-op facility had to be raised 5 feet above ground level from the original design to comply with codes.

"Since then, it has gone through two versions of the design," Flores said. "We're at the final stages of completing. We're reapplying for an Army Corps (of Engineers) permit for the new sea wall and also a (Department of Public Works) permit for the new building design. And that's potentially scheduled for late this month or early in May when we can start that permitting process."

Another factor was poor soil conditions nearer the sea wall, which is being built to reinforce the shoreline. This made the facility's foundation design more expensive and required that it be moved farther away.

"That was one of the other reasons why we had to redesign twice. One for the flood zone and the other one because the soil conditions along the sea wall were not good to construct that building," Flores said.

The COVID-19 pandemic also contributed greatly to the delay.

The new facility is still being built at Paseo, and both it and the sea wall are to be built concurrently, Flores said.

Flores said he anticipates the permitting process to be completed sometime in the late summer, and the project completed before the end of next year, although he acknowledged that was an aggressive schedule.

HSG is the contractor, according to Flores.

"And also, we had a limited budget, or they had a limited budget for this project. And the cost estimates, when they were going through the permitting process, was exceeding the budget. They went through what's called 'value engineering' to find ways to reduce the cost of the project by eliminating some very expensive foundation requirements and go with a simpler design, but yet comply with the flood zone," Flores said.

The initial groundbreaking ceremony took place in early 2017. The 2012 hotel occupancy tax bond set aside $3 million for the construction of the building, according to Post files.

More recently, the Port Authority of Guam board agreed to fund up to $1 million for the construction of a Hagåtña marina sea wall.

Hope for the future

"The co-op provides many different community services. ... With ... the facility that exists now, it's very difficult to get those services effectively implemented or provided," Flores said. "The other thing is (the new facility) will perpetuate the long-term existence of the co-op, because that facility is prone to typhoon damage and it's in really poor condition. It has to be replaced."

When completed, the new facility would also become an iconic building in the island's capital, he added.

"At one time, the co-op had more than 25 local employees servicing the community, and hopefully after COVID and better times, we can go back to providing gainful employment for some of the local community and people interested in working in fishery," Flores said.

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