$300M to purchase Fena, control of CCU - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

$300M to purchase Fena, control of CCU

by Lannie Walker

Guam - Local leaders find fault with federal law that would impact how the Guam Waterworks Authority is run after merging with the Navy's system. Too much control will be put in the hands of the Navy, says one senator and the head of the Consolidated Commission on Utilities.

An agreement on how water distribution will be handled as the military population is expected to rise drastically in the next few years was reached between the local and federal government. GWA is basically taking over the Navy system and the Navy would then become a customer. Simon Sanchez, chairperson of the CCU, explained, "We want to merge the systems and have the Guam Waterworks Authority manage and operate the system in the same way the Guam Power Authority manages the entire power system."

But when it came to the details of the deal, Sanchez saw a problem. "The problem is when they passed the enabling legislation in Congress it came with some requirements that were not wanted by Guam, where not asked for by Guam," he said.

Senator Tom Ada, who formerly served on the CCU is also concerned about the National Defense Authorization Act - specifically a provision that allows the secretary of defense, if he chooses, to convey the Fena Reservoir to the Government of Guam at a price tag of $300 million.  "But you know," said the senator, "The Navy back in the early 90's turned over its power infrastructure to the Guam Power Authority and we did not have to buy that infrastructure then."

Even more objectionable to both Sanchez and the committee chair on utilities is a stipulation in the law that the Navy would control one third of the seats on the CCU. Our point is you are a customer you don't need to sit on the board, the Hilton doesn't sit on the board, the Government of Guam doesn't sit on the board - five citizens elected by the community sit on the board," he said.

"To require that they sit on the CCU only suggests that we are unable to do so otherwise."

Ada wrote to Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo, who responded that portions of the law he is objecting to are permissive and do not have to be executed by the secretary of defense. But Ada remains concerned over its implication, saying, "While the language is permissive the secretary of defense may, if he chooses, to turn over the infrastructure. What is not permissive is the requirement if he chooses to do that we have to buy it, and they get 33% voting rights on the CCU."

And the control under the current law even extends to the chairmanship of the board - again giving the Navy a third of the power - a notion Sanchez finds particularly vexing. "I don't know what that means how do you; I'm an individual person, you have a chairman how do you have two-thirds be not DoD and a third be DoD?" he stated.

Sanchez and Ada hope Congresswoman Bordallo will offer amendments to the Defense Authorization Act that will remove the buyout clause and the stipulation of the Navy's participation in control of the CCU, and allow the authorization of the transfer of the utilities to the Government of Guam without strings attached.

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