Utility agencies sign-on to prep for buildup - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Utility agencies sign-on to prep for buildup

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by Janjeera Hail

Guam - Friday morning representatives from NAVFAC and the Consolidated Commission on Utilities came together to sign memorandums of understanding.  According to CCU chairman Simon Sanchez, the MOUs between the utility agencies and the Navy reflect a desire to continue a collaborative effort to prepare the island's infrastructure for the impending military buildup. 

"We have begun to establish a framework for addressing the issues related to the buildup and particularly the provisions of power, water, and wastewater services," said Sanchez.

Specifically, the goals of that framework are to improve service and reliability while keeping costs for consumers - military and civilian customers - low, which both parties hope to achieve by sharing resources.  For example, upgrading and expanding the northern wastewater treatment plant to serve the entire northern region instead of building a whole new plant dedicated to the military as well as increasing the Guam Power Authority's output to meet current and future demand.

But the MOUs fell short in detailing how the military and the local government will go about sharing the financial burden, but stressing there'd be every effort to share information.  "Those at least are on the table and we can talk about it and we would work together to figure out what is the right technical solution to make sure that everyone is served right and then who pays," Sanchez continued.

One possible funding source discussed in the MOUs is the Japanese government. 

According to Navy Captain Peter Lynch, $740 million has already been identified for utilities improvements, but it has yet to be finalized how that money can be used.  "It's not specific on where those utilities need to be," he told KUAM News.  "I think at the time it was drafted they didn't know how the utilities were going to be solved."

According to Captain Lynch, the United States is pushing for the Japanese government to approve that spending on renovating existing structures instead of building new ones - a move that would be more economically feasible and better for the environment.  But even then, it's still unclear how that money will be disseminated. "The $2.4 billion of direct money that goes into construction projects that's pretty clear, that money's coming to the Department of Defense through diplomatic notes and it's pretty clear. The special purpose entities that we talked about for utilities are less clear," he said.

While the MOUs represent a step in the right direction. There are still serious questions that must be answered as we move closer to the military buildup.

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