Pacific Daily News

HAGATNA, Guam (Nov. 22) - A grant awarded to Guam by the Federal Emergency Management Agency will translate into increased reliability of power service by taking electrical lines suspended between concrete poles and beginning to put them underground.

Of the $24.4 million FEMA is giving to Guam, more than $11.5 million will be used for four projects that will put power transmission systems underground, and another $5.9 million will be used to "harden" the airport's electrical power system for key facilities by putting distribution lines underground.

This follows an announcement earlier this year by the Air Force that it will spend $5 million to $20 million to put the power lines running from the Dededo substation to Andersen Air Force Base underground.

While all of this is long overdue, it is definitely a welcome addition to our island power system. Almost every typhoon that hits Guam results in power lines, or even power poles, being knocked down, which in turn results in wide-scale, usually island wide, blackouts. The areas that usually retain power the longest, and are restored quickest, are those serviced by underground power lines.

That's why it's key for us to look beyond the federal grants and the Air Force project to begin working now at plans to eventually put Guam's entire power system underground and we must not wait to get federal money for every phase of this undertaking. Federal funding is always welcome, but it's not guaranteed, so we need to plan to be being able to get some of the work done without Uncle Sam's dollars.

And this isn't something that we can just take our time with. The time to act is now. We need the Guam Power Authority and the Consolidated Commission on Utilities to make long-range plans to put the power system underground completely. They need to explore all avenues for making this happen, from applying for further federal grants to public-private partnerships and beyond.

November 23, 2004

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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