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Monday, April 21, 2014

Administration prepares ferry feasibility study RFP
Feds ask CNMI to reduce scope of work over funding, distance

Gov. Eloy S. Inos and Department of Public Works Secretary Martin Sablan separately confirmed yesterday that the Federal Highway Administration has asked the CNMI to revise the scope of work for a ferry boat feasibility study, specifically to drop a Rota-Guam route at this time because of limited funding and great distance.

At the same time, Inos said his recent trip to Alaska was not to buy the ice-breaking ferry M/V Susitna amid rumors of such a purchase.

“We’re a long ways from looking at the Susitna,” Inos said in his first media interviews yesterday. “The ferry is still there.”

A $700,000 offer was made by another party to buy the reported $80-million ice-breaking ferry, which has not been used since it was built in Alaska, but the owners did not accept that offer.

Even before the CNMI could even consider buying any ferry, a feasibility study should be done first, Inos said.

DPW’s Sablan, in a phone interview, said the RFP for such a feasibility study is being prepared by the Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority and is funded through Federal Highway Administration funds.

“We provided the initial scope of work but Federal Highway asked us to reduce the scope of work. We initially proposed Rota to Guam but because of the distance and the cost, plus Guam is another territory, we had to revise the scope of work. We’re doing a Saipan-Tinian ferry feasibility study. But later on, we will still pursue the Rota-Guam scope of work,” Sablan told Saipan Tribune.

Sablan said the study would determine, among other things, whether it is economically feasible to have such a Saipan-Tinian ferry service once again and whether it is environmentally sound.

Inos said the CNMI would look at available ferries when the time comes.

He said he was shown videos, photos and informational materials about the Susitna when he was in Alaska but he didn’t see the ice-breaking ferry itself, which is in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

“At the appropriate time, when the study says, because the study might recommend, that type of vehicle is not feasible because of the size, the way it was made, constructed and so forth. And it’s not the only one that’s available,” Inos said.

Eye-opener

In Alaska, the governor was not able to meet with U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the ranking Republican member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources that has oversight over the CNMI and other U.S. territories.

At the time, Inos said, there was a storm in the outskirts of Alaska and Murkowski had to attend to that matter.

Inos, however, met with the governor and lieutenant governor of Alaska, which he said has made strides in the use of renewable energy, particularly geothermal energy.

The governor said what he saw in Alaska was an “eye- opener”—referring to geothermal energy production, hot springs and hydroponics facility, among other things, that can be replicated in the CNMI.

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