Sen. Paul A. Manglona (Ind-Rota) said the government should look into hardening its power and water infrastructure so that distribution and supply won’t be affected if ever another strong typhoon hits the CNMI.
“Our government should seriously look into the hardening of our infrastructure such as generators near wells and pumps once we’re back on our feet again,” Manglona told Saipan Tribune.
Two destructive storms passed by the CNMI in a span of almost two month, with Typhoon Mangkhut hitting Rota on Sept. 10, while Super Typhoon Yutu pummeled Saipan and Tinian last October.
“We have to expect a typhoon every year [and] we should always be prepared for situations like this,” said Manglona, adding that everyone should have water a day after every major typhoon.
What happened to the $4.5 million that the federal government gave the CNMI to make its water infrastructures typhoon-resilient? That’s what Manglona would like to know.
“That’s why one of the things that I asked during our last session is why is it that we still don’t use the $4.5 million that the federal [government] gave us to put generators around the 100 wells that we have and encase them in concrete buildings?”
“That project is still not complete. We need to do that right away, beginning today, so that when the next typhoon comes, water, unlike electricity, should be restored within a day or two.”
Getting the water wells and pumps operating became one of the concerns after Yutu’s destruction, with the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. and federal partners like the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. military working hard to provide water.
Manglona added although it is a bit expensive, the government should also study the possibility of having the island’s power lines buried. “That’s something that we have to look into…especially in critical areas in the main highways and roads.”
CNMI Homeland Security and Emergency Management public information officer Nadine Deleon Guerrero said in an earlier interview that burying power cables had been discussed but the focus now is restoring power to the entire island.
“Right now, our main focus is recovery and relief. Until we get those, at least the temporary fix of wooden power poles in place, that would definitely be back on the table,” she said. “At this point, we are just focused on getting the power and water running.”
Manglona pointed out, though, that water is an important resource. “We need to work on that first. Put those wells in place and protect them from the typhoon. So, that in a day or two after a typhoon, everyone should have water. We can talk a lot of many things that we want to do, but at least focus in water.”
Manglona said that Rota did not have any problems with its water supply and distribution on Rota after Mangkhut.”The federal [government] gave us almost $5 million…I think we should do that right away.”
Rota returning to normal
Manglona also said the situation on Rota is going back to normal two months after Mangkhut. “Water and power are now back on the island. The people are trying to work on their homes by repairing them…with the assistance of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Small Business Administration. Things are moving along.”