Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) has asked the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. to provide his office information about its needs, saying the likelihood of U.S. Congress funding key infrastructure in the Marianas continue to grow.
Sablan asked CUC executive director Gary P. Camacho last week for information on CUC projects and costs in developing potable water, protecting water supplies and coastal waters, and reducing power costs—all in preparation should Congress loosen the federal purse strings for these types of projects.
In his letter to Camacho, the delegate said the American Rescue Plan includes an estimated $483 million for the Commonwealth to use for water and sewer infrastructure, among other permissible needs. He said this law is likely to be followed by an American Recovery Plan, also with significant infrastructure funding.
In order to ensure the Commonwealth receives the most generous allocation of funds possible in this prospective legislation, Sablan said the need and cost analyses on core infrastructure from CUC would be invaluable.
Sablan is particularly interested in supporting development on potable water, protecting water supplies and coastal waters, and reduction of power costs.
Sablan pointed out that virtually all Saipan households now have 24-hour water, thanks to significant increases in Safe Drinking Water Act funding for the CNMI. The next step, Sablan said, is to make water safe to drink out of the tap.
He asked Camacho if CUC has a plan to achieve this goal for Saipan, Tinian, and Rota, and the progression of actions needed and cost estimates of each step.
Sablan said that achieving the first goal of potable water for Saipan requires conservation of the Kagman aquifer, which will require a wastewater treatment facility. CUC’s 2015 Draft Final Wastewater Master Plan identified 57 needed projects, presumably including a Kagman treatment facility, but only anticipates funding available for 24 of these projects over the period from 2015 through 2035.
Sablan asked Camacho to provide a complete list of the projects completed over the intervening six years and the costs for those remaining to complete in order to achieve the goals for wastewater management set out in his (Camacho’s) plan.
As for power costs, the delegate said diesel remains among the costliest means to generate electrical power, so he has been working to increase funding over the last several years for the Energizing Island Communities project, run by the Department of the Interior.
Sablan’s goal is to reduce costs for consumers in the Marianas by shifting to cheaper, domestic, renewable energy sources and by increasing system efficiencies.
He asked Camacho to share with him CUC’s plan for development of the power systems on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota so that he has a basis for continuing advocacy for funding.
Sablan said he has been quite successful at obtaining capital improvement funding over the last 12 years, both through increases in Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act annual grants, as well as through special infrastructure appropriations, such as the $10.4 million for water and sewer and the $56 million for solid waste facilities in Public Law 116-20.