Thursday, November 01, 2007

Guam to Ask for the Return of Fena

Guam to ask Congress for return of Fena
Thursday, November 1, 2007
By Gerardo R. Partido
Variety News Staff

THE Consolidated Commission on Utilities will formally ask the U.S. Congress for the return of the Fena reservoir to Guam to settle once and for all the water issues that have been one of the thorns in the Navy’s relationship with the civilian population.

According to CCU chairman Simon Sanchez, a letter has already been sent to Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo, asking her to formally introduce a bill in Congress that would return Fena to Guam.

“We need to do this on the federal level because the Fena issue is a federal issue,” Sanchez said.

He added that there is already a precedent for this when Guam asked Congress for control of the Guam Power Authority.
In its letter, the CCU is asking Bordallo to draft and submit legislation that would enable the Guam Waterworks Authority to take over the running of the Navy’s Fena water treatment plant, which has been selling Fena water to GWA’s southern customers.

The Navy had planned to increase the rate for the Fena water that it sells to GWA, raising the rate from $2.09 per one thousand gallons (kgal) to $4.05/kgal, effective Oct. 1, 2007.

But because of strong protests lodged by both CCU and GWA, the Navy has agreed to postpone the increase until “higher authorities” can study the matter further.

According to Sanchez, the Navy is doing an internal analysis of its own after CCU pointed out that it can run the Fena water reservoir cheaper and more effectively than the Navy.

During the CCU’s last meeting Tuesday night, it was disclosed that GWA can run the Fena system for just $7 million a year, which is half the $14 million cost that the Navy incurs in running Fena.

Although the Navy has agreed to temporarily postpone its water rate increase and conduct a study of its Fena rate structure, the CCU wants to go one step further and has asked the Navy to submit to an independent study to be conducted by the Public Utilities Commission.

“We are asking the Navy to submit to a non-binding review by the PUC to have an independent evaluation of the Fena issue. It’s more fair that way because if the Navy conducts the study, we’ll be solely dependent on what the Navy states as fact. All the information will be coming from the Navy,” Sanchez said.

In addition, the CCU has also fired off a letter to the Attorney General’s Office, asking AG Alicia Limtiaco to revisit the Fena agreement signed by then AG Douglas Moylan.

In 2003, Sanchez said Moylan agreed to a provision that GovGuam can no longer sue the federal government over the Fena issue in return for lower rates charged to local residents using Fena water.

Before that, Sanchez said there were three other suits, all of which failed, that tried to reclaim Fena back to the government of Guam.

The Navy originally took over Fena as part of the provisions of the Organic Act and other agreements signed after World War II that gave large tracks of land, including Fena, to the military.

Sanchez said it is now time to revisit this and he has asked Limtiaco to determine whether GovGuam can continue to be bound by the agreement signed by Moylan in 2003.

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