Pacific Daily News

HAGATNA, Guam (Jan. 17) – The first two projects to move power lines underground will be finished next month, according to Guam Power Authority officials. Two more such projects will break ground late this month, while bids on several other projects will be opened for bidding in the coming weeks.

These are all part of the beginning stages of the massive effort to put all of the island's power lines underground. It's expected to take about 15 years to finish at a price of about $600 million.

Going underground with our power system is not only a smart move, but long overdue. The cost of the project will be more than justified in times of natural disaster, in terms of easier, faster restoration of electrical service. Those who live in neighborhoods that already have power lines underground know how much quicker that service is restored after blackouts.

And that doesn't count the savings that will be realized by not having to replace snapped power lines and power poles, and paying crews hazardous pay and overtime for working around the clock to restore service. Nor does it take into account the clearing and beautification of Guam's landscape when all those ugly power poles are gone.

However, the Guam Power Authority needs to be more open and transparent with the public about the plan to put all of the island's power lines underground. The community needs to see the proposed implementation plan, the cost per project and overall cost, funding sources for the various phases, and the timetable.

We also need to be kept better informed of progress -- the projects slated for completion in February were to have been finished by November of last year.

Furthermore, what is being done to put other services that require power poles underground, such as cable lines? What will happen to cell phone booster stations currently on those ugly poles once the lines are underground? Will they have to be relocated? What about streetlights?

Also, what about the concrete power poles? Will they be removed as electrical service in given areas goes underground? What will be done with all of the poles?

One suggestion is to place them underwater in areas where Guam's coral reefs have depleted. The concrete-and-steel construction of these poles make them long-lasting building blocks for artificial reefs, potentially transforming what once was a visual blight into vistas of underwater splendor.

January 17, 2006

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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