Tuesday, February 02, 2010

GPA, GWA need $500M upgrades

GPA, GWA need $500M upgrades

By Laura Matthews • Pacific Daily News • January 28, 2010

Guam's power and water agencies said about $500 million worth of facility upgrades are needed to prepare for the population influx expected with the military buildup, but existing ratepayers shouldn't have to be burdened with that entire cost, said Consolidated Commission on Utilities Chairman Simon Sanchez.

The Department of Defense must pay for all impacts -- direct and indirect -- arising from the buildup, Sanchez said during a public hearing yesterday evening at the Legislature. The hearing was one in a series this week on the buildup's impact on projects.

"We are here to support all the growth on Guam, especially the community," Sanchez said. "The buildup has to fit us, not us fit the buildup. ... If we can get DOD to share the requirements, that's a win-win solution."

One way to share those costs is to have the military and Guam's utility agencies combine their systems and facilities, said John Jenson, professor of hydrology at the Water and Environmental Research Institute at the University of Guam.

"To keep the cost low for everybody, we need to really have an integrated system in which production is optimized," Jenson said.

The island's infrastructure must be improved if it is to handle the 20 years of growth it will get in five years as a result of the relocation of the Marines to Guam and other military expansion projects throughout the island.

Some 8,000 Marines and their 9,000 dependents will be transferred from Okinawa as part of the buildup. As well, about 80,000 people will arrive here at the peak of the buildup in 2014 because of the job opportunities related to the buildup.

Guam's power and water utilities have ailing facilities and cannot support such growth without major upgrades.

If the military relies on Guam Power Authority for its power needs, which the Defense Department has said it intends to do, GPA would need to be able to provide about 25 megawatts more.

That means upgrading GPA's 15 transmissions and substations at an estimated cost of $77 million. The power agency would also need to improve its three combustion turbines, and that is estimated to cost about $30 million, said GPA spokesman Art Perez.

And more than $300 million in upgrades is planned for the Guam Waterworks Authority over the next five years, Sanchez said.

"This is to begin to fix and upgrade the existing GWA systems regardless of the proposed buildup," Sanchez said.

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