CUC: No ETA on full power restoration

Riegel: ‘Up to 800 power poles’ down

The Commonwealth Utilities Corp. wants to clarify reports that power will be back up in a month—just 30 days after Typhoon Soudelor crippled CUC’s power grid over a week ago.
“I am hearing bits and pieces that the power is going to be restored to the island of Saipan in 30 days and that’s not going to happen. We will have power in some places within that amount of time but it’s going to be all dependent on the delivery and shipment of materials that are not here,” acting CUC executive director John Riegel told Saipan Tribune.
The U.S. Department of Energy reported last week that about 276 poles need replacement. CUC reports 300 poles damaged as of press time.
But Riegel said yesterday that further assessment has revealed a higher number of poles that need replacing.
“The number is up to 800 power poles now,” Riegel said based on the percentage of poles observed so far. Once the final assessment is done and all lateral lines off the feeders checked, CUC will know the actual number.
“There is not anything close to that on Guam [for spare poles],” Riegel said of the current count.

CUC has no spare power poles as of Aug. 9, according to DOE. All poles in stock have been used in the restoration efforts.

“We are going to have to ship posts from the [United] States. And there are all kinds of other hardware and conductors—there’s a lot to getting fully restored.”

Riegel said there are still more remote areas on island that haven’t been assessed yet and issues CUC might discover that they don’t know of.

“We cannot put a number on it because…there is still a lot of unknowns,” he said of damage to CUC’s grid.

Meantime, CUC is close to generating power at Power Plant 4, which will return the local hospital below Navy Hill back to the power grid and not on its own generator.

“That’s the primary goal so we are close to getting that objective,” he said.

“Most of the problems at Power Plant 4 are that the generators got wet. If you power up a generator when it is wet, you’ll get arcing and sparking and shorting… and what might have taken you two weeks to dry out will take you a year to get repaired. That’s why we have to be very cautious and make sure that it’s dried out” and test measures “all come out clean.”

“We are in the process of drying it out now and we are hopeful in a couple of days we are going to get it up here,” Riegel added.

CUC will test the generator and do dry runs.

DOE on Sunday said that CUC estimates one unit at Power Plant 4 to return to service on Aug. 14.

Since Typhoon Soudelor tore through Saipan over a week ago—downing power poles and lines and forcing President Barack Obama to declare a state of disaster—all of CUC’s 13,800 electric customers on Saipan remain without power.

CUC was able to restore limited water pressure to some villages Sunday and officials opened a fifth station where residents can collect potable water. Water is rationed at 100 gallons per day for each family and stations are open from noon to 7pm. (With AP)

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at

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