Friday, February 12, 2010

Scrapped wharf plan cost Port $1.5 million

Scrapped wharf plan cost Port $1.5 million

By Steve Limtiaco • Pacific Daily News • February 9, 2010

A $1.5 million plan to help the Port Authority of Guam create a new "deep water" wharf in outer Apra Harbor has gone to waste because the wharf project was scrapped.

According to a fiscal 2009 financial audit, released yesterday by the Office of Public Accountability and prepared by Ernst & Young, the cost of the wharf plan was recorded as a loss because the project won't be implemented.

The port remains open to the idea of the wharf project, according to Port General Manager Glenn Leon Guerrero, but it was estimated to cost as much as $83 million to complete and port officials decided to spend money on other improvements instead. There were also environmental concerns related to the wharf project, he said yesterday.

"As we were evaluating the need for this project, we learned of the impending military buildup, which then forced the port to redirect our energies to ensuring the necessary upgrades were implemented to our terminal facility to meet the demands of our community and the military buildup," he said.

The port will make improvements according to its modernization plan, but a deep water wharf is not part of the plan, Leon Guerrero said.

The idea of creating a new wharf and storage space on more than 17 acres of dredged soil was explored before the military buildup was announced, as a way to allow more aircraft carriers and other large vessels to visit Guam.

In September 2002, the government of Guam received a $1.5 million grant award from the Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, to prepare an architectural and engineering design, and an environmental impact statement for a new deep wharf in outer Apra Harbor, according to Pacific Daily News files.

The federal share of the wharf design and environmental study was $1.3 million, and the port's share was $200,000, which came from port revenue, Leon Guerrero said. The wharf plan was done by TG Engineers, the same company that designed the new landfill, and the environmental study was done by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Military wharf

The military's preferred plan for visiting aircraft carriers, according to the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the buildup, is to create a new carrier wharf at inner Apra Harbor. The military's proposal would require widening an existing shipping channel and dredging the seabed to create a turning basin near the wharf.

The audit report released yesterday states the port currently is waiting for $99.7 million in federal grants and loans so it can start working on the $200 million in planned improvements that are part of the modernization plan.

According to the audit, the port collected about the same amount of revenue during fiscal 2009 as it did during fiscal 2008 -- $30.1 million in fiscal 2009, compared to $30.18 million the previous fiscal year.

The audit notes the port collected about $636,000 less in cargo handling and wharfage fees, but collected about $897,000 more for equipment and space rental.
The port also cut its operating expenses by $378,000 last fiscal year, the report states.

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