TALOFOFO Saipan — The attorney general’s office is negotiating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in connection with a $12 million four-mile road project that would run through virgin forest that is a habitat for an endangered bird species according to Jose S. Demapan secretary of the Department of Public Works.

Demapan expressed concern that funding for the project might be taken back by the Federal Highway Administration because of the ongoing delay in getting it off the ground.

The $12 million is part of the $286.4 billion highway bill that President George W. Bush signed on Aug. 10 2005.

“We are working on it. We still have some issues with the U.S. FWS. The AGO is negotiating with them. There’s a legal problem. The scary part is if the federal government decides to take the money back because the project was not moving” Demapan told the Journal. “That area will be very busy once the road has been constructed. It’s unfortunate that the project has been delayed ” he said.

Planning for the project started in 2002. The administration of former Gov. Juan N. Babauta worked with the U.S. Congress to ensure that it was included in the highway bill.

The Talofofo project which involves a two-lane road that would stretch from the Kingfisher Golf Resort to the Bird Island Lookout parking lot in Marpi is seen to help spur economic activity as it would connect the popular golf course area to the much-frequented tourist spot. However the road runs through an area of virgin forest where the endangered reed warblers have found a habitat.

Richard B. Seman former secretary of the Department of Lands and Natural Resources and director of the DLNR Division of Fish and Wildlife said a mitigation plan must be ironed out between the local government and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service following a thorough environmental impact assessment to address concerns about the reed warblers. MBJ