From an initial estimate of $30 million, the plan to bury power lines that supply power to critical sections of the CNMI such as the Saipan hospital and airport is now estimated to cost more than double that.
According to Commonwealth Utilities Corp. executive director Gary P. Camacho last Tuesday, CUC’s plan to bury sections of the power system on Saipan and Tinian to protect them from being damaged by strong typhoons is estimated to cost $68 million.
The plan alone to install an underground cable from Power Plant 1 in Lower Base to the Commonwealth Health Center has an estimated cost of $23 million, he said.
The plan to put an underground cable from CUC’s substation in Chalan Kiya to the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport has an estimated cost of $43 million, he added.
On Tinian, the plan to have an underground power cable from the power plant to the Tinian Health Center has an estimated cost of $2 million.
Camacho said the Federal Emergency Management Agency is funding the study on the costs and feasibility of the project. It was not immediately clear if these costs already include purchasing the right-of-way for these buried power lines when they go through private properties.
Whether FEMA will be willing to foot the bill for this project remains a big question but CUC is keeping its fingers crossed. “We are hopeful to get support from FEMA on this critical area of our power supply system,” Camacho said.
As to the project’s status, CUC is right now doing the cost-benefit study or analysis, which is being coordinated through the Office of the Governor’s Authorized Representative Office. He said with a contractor under GAR and CUC, they are putting together the project to understand the cost benefit.
Camacho said right now they are just reviewing the design and the cost benefit analysis of the program.
He said there has been no request for proposal to bid out the actual work for the installation of the underground cable.
Camacho earlier stated that they are aggressively pushing the underground power system project to ensure that Saipan and Tinian will have the capability for emergencies during typhoons.
The underground power system is part of the CNMI’s mitigation project in the wake of Super Typhoon Yutu’s devastation on Saipan and Tinian in October 2018.
The previous estimate of the project was $30 million.