Major Construction Projects To Begin On RMI’s Ebeye Atoll

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Several families will be relocated to make way for $20 million school

By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, Nov. 30, 2015) – Major construction projects on Ebeye Island are expected to be launched after years of delay including $20 million in school building work, according to the recently hired head of a government development agency.

Ebeye is the Marshall Islands’ second largest urban center located in Kwajalein Atoll next to the U.S. Army-run Reagan Test Site.

The overcrowded island, where an estimated 12,000 people live on 78 acres of land, has a dysfunctional sewer system that spews untreated sewage into the lagoon near the island, serious housing problems related to islanders who were displaced from their home islands to Ebeye by the U.S. Army, and the lowest academic results of any public schools in the country.

In the four months he has been on the job, Kwajalein Atoll Development Authority Executive Director Carl Hacker has pushed to get projects moving to improve conditions for the community on Ebeye and nearby islands.

Working with the national government’s Public Works Project Management Unit, Hacker said they are preparing a series of construction projects, including rebuilding the public elementary and middle schools on the island that will require relocating three families.

Hacker is the former president of the College of the Marshall Islands and also was the government’s national planner for a decade.

Property for putting up replacement homes has been identified and designs for new homes are in progress, he said.

"There was some anxiety for the families, of course, and hopefully this process will be satisfactory to them," Hacker said. "This school reconstruction project is a $20 million project that will take four to five years to complete once started."

The Ebeye Dock, which is the only facility where container ships can offload their cargo, was seriously damaged by El Niño storms earlier this year.

Hacker said it will cost over $400,000 to complete urgently needed repairs.

"We have about $4.2 million in unspent Kwajalein Development Fund from previous years," Hacker said.

He is urging the government to use a portion of these funds "so these urgent repairs can be completed as soon as possible," he said.

Hacker also said he is talking with U.S. officials about the possibility of a Navy Seabees team providing assistance, particularly in connection with an underwater inspection of the entire dock.

Hacker is aiming to get a master plan for Ebeye Island prepared in 2016 and has put out a draft Request for Proposal for that work.

A group of islanders who were relocated by the U.S. Army from the central two-thirds of Kwajalein’s lagoon in the mid-1960s so the atoll’s lagoon could be used as a target for incoming intercontinental ballistic missile reentry vehicles today live in dilapidated housing that dates back to their initial relocation.

Hacker and the government’s Project Management Unit recently issued notices for expressions of interest from construction firms to rebuild a new housing complex for these dislocated islanders.

"Originally the plan was to use the $4.2 million of prior year unspent Kwajalein Development Fund money to help with this project, but I am expecting this project will be at least $8-$10 million when plans are completed," said Hacker.

He is also engaging the College of the Marshall Islands for an energy audit for Ebeye hospital, as well as for energy audit training and training on maintenance software for workers at the island’s utility company and local government.

"This should help significantly reduce energy costs and improve local capacity for doing energy audits," he said. One goal is "to better organize maintenance work," he added.

Project Management Unit engineers last month assessed all current basketball and tennis courts on the island so a plan for repairs, as well as new courts, could be developed.

"These estimates should be completed in the next couple of weeks," Hacker said on Friday.

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