The CNMI Office of Planning and Development headed by director Kodep Ogumoro-Uludong kicked off yesterday a three-day online forum that drew the islands’ leaders to craft a comprehensive development plan for the CNMI.
The forum, which started yesterday and will run until Friday via online meetings, aims to craft a document called “Comprehensive Sustainable Development Plan” that will serve as the CNMI’s blueprint for growth in the next several years.
Speakers and representatives of different government agencies disclosed plans that are being planned to ultimately benefit and guide the CNMI toward a vision of what it means to have a “better community” in the future.
Representatives of the Commonwealth Utilities Corp., who were among the guest speakers during the first day of forum, shared current and future plans about power, water and wastewater in the CNMI.
Adrian Reyes, CUC’s electrical engineer for its Power Transmission and Distribution Division, said that CUC is committed to providing reliable and environmentally sensitive and effective power, water, wastewater service for the CNMI at the lowest reasonable cost while providing safety to the employees and the community.
“It’s important that I mention this because the projects that follow were created with these principles in mind,” said Reyes. “…The projects have crucial roles to play in CUC’s power development in the CNMI. …This list encompasses CUC’s five-year strategic plan and by the dollar amount associated with the projects, these projects are substantial. …CUC has active power, water and wastewater service projects as well as projects in development.”
Under his supervision are the power generation and transmission and distribution division. “For power generation, CUC is currently involved in three major projects. …Two of them involve major repairs to CUC’s largest diesel engines. The power generation facility has been historically managed via a cost-efficient approach, which means major repairs have been the preferred option over engine replacement,” Reyes said. “Two of major repairs [started] this year and are expected to be completed by the early part of next year . …Both engines provide more than 35% of CUC’s available power for the Saipan power grid. With the expectation that the CNMI’s economy will pick up at the early or mid-part of next year post-pandemic…we will be ready to support the CNMI’s economy moving forward.
For the Transmission and Distribution Division, active projects were created to automate meter reading, billing control and focus on replacing mechanical meters with smart meters. “What this means is [that,] not only can CUC benefit from reading power usage along customers’ accounts but it also also allows customers to get a grip on their power consumption in their own time 24/7, …monitoring power usage and making appropriate adjustment to fit their financial means,” Reyes said.
Since the smart meter’s launch, CUC has replaced 2,556 mechanical meters with smart meters, which equates to 20% of total CUC meter inventory. Some 75% of smart meters have been made on residential accounts and the remaining installations have been made on commercial and government accounts, Reyes said.
Notable power projects in development include a new power plant and substation, new diesel engines, a new power plant on Rota, and a solar farm with battery storage on Saipan.
“It is no secret that the CUC ‘s power plant is old and obsolete in the next five to 10 years. We will be working toward building a 60-megawatt power plant. …What that means for the consumer is, with fuel efficient engines, rates can be minimized and mitigated to a more affordable rate,” Reyes said.
Larry Manacop, the associate engineer for CUC’s Water and Wastewater Divisions, said the availability and sustainability for CUC water management and sanitation are important to improve efficiency, reduce costs and address future needs. “This goal can be achieved through strong infrastructure planning and effective utility management practices at both water and wastewater systems. …Active water projects include the San Vicente water tank replacement, to be completed by end of September 2020, the Kagman transmission line and booster pump upgrade to be completed in October this year, the Gualo Rai waterline replacement that was completed last month, purchase and installation of water filtration system, the Chinatown waterline replacement…which is 90% complete, and the San Antonio waterline replacement, which is in the 90% phase,” he said.
“For wastewater…we are doing a lot of work at our treatment plants and hopefully we will get these to work on top shape in two years’ time,” he added
Manacop also mentioned that CUC also received $7.3 million from Federal Emergency Management Agency for water mitigation, “…which includes installation of a generator to provide back up powers to about 91 water wells around the island. …We also requested about $4.4 million…which will be used to procure generators to provide back-up power for 32 wells islandwide. This is great because every time a typhoon comes, water services will be back in service after a few days,” he added.
The 2nd day of the CNMI Office of Planning and Development will be held today starting at 9am. For more information, go to their Facebook page: CNMI Office of Planning and Development.