CUC hastens work on first phase of underground power


The Commonwealth Utilities Corp. is moving fast on the initial phase of its planned $30-million underground power systems on Saipan and Tinian. That means getting the project designs up and ready so that CUC could start soliciting bids for the project.

Speaking during Friday’s CUC board meeting, CUC executive director Gary P. Camacho said that, on Saipan, they are working quickly on the design for the underground cable from Power Plant 1 in Lower Base to the Commonwealth Health Center.

CUC is doing the same thing for Tinian, relating to burying a power cable from the power plant to the Tinian Health Center, Camacho said.

“We need to get that design ready and we’re trying to fulfill that very, very quickly so we can hopefully…get that ready for bid,” he said.

He said they are aggressively pushing the underground power system project to ensure that Saipan and Tinian will have the capability for emergencies during typhoons.

Right now, CUC’s priority for the underground system is going to be the hospitals on the two islands, Camacho said. That means both facilities will continue to have power even during a destructive storm.

The underground power system is part of the mitigation project in the wake of Super Typhoon Yutu, which hit the CNMI last October.

Camacho earlier disclosed that his office, with the assistance of the CUC Power Transmission and Distribution Division, prepared the $30-million plan for the underground power system as part of its efforts to make the system resilient.

Camacho said they had already submitted the plan for consideration to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

On Saipan, the proposed underground network would primarily benefit the hospital, the airport, and Garapan. On Tinian, the underground system would protect the hospital and airport.

CUC wants FEMA to fund both projects.

Meanwhile, Camacho said that, in addition to the ongoing restoration effort for the power system, they have identified 2,123 damaged poles that need to be replaced.

“This is on top of what has already been done,” he said, adding that he had a meeting with FEMA in which they talked about the additional assessments that were performed on Saipan and Tinian.

Camacho said CUC reaffirmed the need to replace these damaged poles during those two different assessments.

As of May 20, 2019, Saipan was deemed to have 3,192 damaged poles, 1,225 damaged transformers, and over 1.7 million damaged conductors.

On Tinian, CUC counted 1,070 damaged poles, 181 damaged transformers, and 678,782 damaged conductors.

In his recent talk with the governor’s authorized representative, Virginia Villagomez, Camacho said he was informed that there is no FEMA reimbursement scheduled just yet.

“She has not seen anything,” he said.

Camacho said CUC is in dire need of $8 million in reimbursement.

He said a lot of CUC revenues had been moved to the restoration funds, as they had expected the FEMA reimbursement would be fast and consistent.

“However, we have not seen that as quickly as we are hoping,” he said. “Our cash flow is challenging right now.”

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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