Needed: $100M for CUC plan


A 20-year master plan by the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. for the entire CNMI would need at least over $100 million. Yet CUC’s only source of funds right now is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That means CUC needs to come up with more funding sources to address all its water and wastewater projects in the next 20 years.

“The CNMI is facing developments and we don’t have the dollars to meet the demand,” said CUC deputy executive director William B. Gilmore.

In a public hearing on Monday at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center in Susupe, Gilmore said: “Right now, we are in a position where we need a lot of projects done and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is our only source of funds.”

According to CUC consultant Duenas, Camacho and Associates, CUC needs over $100 million to initiate new projects and finish the existing ones for Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.

All these projects are projected to result in 24/7 water supply, compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act requirements, and reduction of revenue loss.

“We are trying to look for all solutions such as the U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Department of Agriculture as grant sources. There is a bill in the Legislature increasing development tax by 2 percent and we hope we can have access to that,” Gilmore said.

“We also need the Commonwealth Public Utilities Commission to make decisions about rate increase. Payment from users covers operational cost only,” he added.

The presentation was based on a stipulated order by the court, requiring CUC to make water and wastewater master plans for Saipan, Tinian, and Rota. The master plan for the three islands has been in the works since 2011.

“In a nutshell, the water and wastewater master plan for the CNMI is the complete assessment of CUC water and wastewater, in coordination with the operators, engineers and management to develop a list of projects that would help CUC to improve the system and to make good decisions in moving forward,” said Kenneth Rekdahl, vice president and chief of special projects for Duenas, Camacho and Associates.

“The master plan carries the list of projects that would have to be based on over a 20-year period,” said Kenneth Thompson, consultant for Duenas, Camacho and Associates. “That is the plan that CUC has been following for the last four years.”

According to Thompson, the master plan has been continuously updated since 2011 and is applicable to the current developments the CNMI is going through.

“This master plan is not just up to 2011. We revisited and looked at all capital projects in 2013 and 2014 just to make sure they are still valid and did updates. We looked at projects that have been completed… so it’s been a work in progress.”

One community member at the hearing pointed out the non-attendance of any member of the Legislature, which could possibly help with finding solutions to CUC’s funding challenges.

To date, CUC continues to implement projects based on how much money is available and having them done as quickly as possible.

“Despite the funding challenges we face, CUC still aims to meet the demands of the public,” Gilmore said.


Bea Cabrera

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