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Guam requesting $6.4B from FEMA to harden its fragile power infrastructure



Typhoon Mawar, which hit Guam in May 2023, left a trail of devastation and crippled the island's power infrastructure. Photo courtesy of GUNG

By Mar-Vic Cagurangan


The Guam Power Authority is requesting $6.4 billion from the Federal

 Emergency Management Agency for the island’s Infrastructure Resiliency Plan aimed at mitigating threats from natural disasters.


At the same time, GPA is seeking reimbursements and support for post-Mawar recovery, estimating the cost of the storm’s damage at $39.6 million.

 

“Strengthening our system will put us in a better position to supply energy to residents, businesses and military facilities; support vital communications

 systems; and continue to defend our island against prevalent cyber threats,” according to John Benavente, GPA general manager.

 

During a meeting with FEMA officials last week, Benavente disclosed the damage caused by Typhoon Mawar, which crippled the island’s power infrastructure for several months that resulted in lingering instability of energy supply.


Last month, the Consolidated Commission on Utilities approved two emergency power projects that would potentially add up to 54MW of energy to Guam’s power grid over the next six to nine months,


GPA said the projects will render a short-term solution to bridge the gap in Guam's power capacity while awaiting the commissioning of the Ukudu Power Plant, which is anticipated around September.

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The storm’s impact, Benavente said, underscored the need for Guam to place its power lines underground to reduce the threat of losing assets during future disasters.


GPA officials said federal investments will bolster resiliency and capacity for Guam’s islandwide power system. 

 

Benavente is seeking FEMA funds for the following projects:

  • Underground transmission lines and indoor substations, including assets serving military facilities: $833 million;

  • Critical distribution system mitigation such as underground feeders for water wells, treatment facilities/reservoirs, wastewater treatment plants,  communications sites, medical facilities and educational establishments: $813 million;

  •   Other critical infrastructure resiliency projects to secure energy storage batteries, standby generator upgrades placed in concrete housings, T&D operations center and fiber optic system: $730 million; and

  •   Conversion of the remaining distribution systems into a fully underground infrastructure: $ 4.025 billion


“Because of our location in the world and our history of extreme weather, we remain focused on strengthening our power system for the people of Guam,” Benavente said.


“FEMA recognizes that taking this next step to place power lines underground

 will positively affect future recovery efforts after natural disasters,” he added.


The estimated total cost incurred by GPA from Typhoon Mawar is broken down as follows:


  • $6.4 million: Emergency protective measures (pre-typhoon preparation, equipment, fuel and labor);

  • $33.1 million: Utilities (damages to utility infrastructure, mutual aid and restoration  labor); and

  • $100,000: Buildings and equipment/vehicles.

  • GPA said it is currently working with FEMA to provide the necessary documentation for eligible reimbursements, which is estimated at 90 percent under President Biden’s order and the federal share for public assistance, hazard mitigation and other needs.


Men and womne seated and standing for a group photo
Front row from left, Miguel C. Bordallo, GWA general manager; Deanne Criswell, FEMA administrator; John M. Benavente, GPA general manager; Benigno Ruiz, FEMA federal coordinating officer; Back row from left, Robert Fenton, Region 9 administrator; Robert Pesapane, public assistance division director; and Johanna Johnna, Region 9 Response Division director. Photo courtesy of GPA


GPA officials met with FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, FEMA Region 9

 Administrator Robert Fenton, and Public Assistance Division Director Robert Pesapane on Feb. 7.


In November 2023, Guam Del. James Moylan introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, requesting FEMA’s assistance with repairs to critical infrastructure which includes the island’s power system, Guam’s water

 and wastewater systems, Guam Memorial Hospital, communications, and cybersecurity.



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