USACE has $400M budget to fix Puerto Rico electric grid
SAN JUAN – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has an initial budget of $400 million to hire private companies to restore the distribution and transmission components needed to repair Puerto Rico’s electric grid, but the total is expected to increase, said spokesman José Sánchez.
So far, the corps has only signed one contract, with Weston Solutions, but within the next seven days all three pending contracts should be finalized. Public Affairs Secretary Ramón Rosario said the government of Puerto Rico has delegated the hiring process to USACE.
“It is important to highlight that the Electric Power Authority [Prepa] and FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] are working jointly and have delegated to the Corps of Engineers everything regarding the expertise for evaluating and hiring companies,” Rosario stressed.
ACE is also handling the assessment of needed materials and has placed a $115 million order that includes 50,000 utility poles and 6,500 miles of cabling for distribution and transmission.
USACE is working with Prepa to establish priority when handling power lines to also determine the assignments given to the private companies hired. As of Tuesday, Weston Solutions is supposed to be installing a 50-megawatt generator. Sánchez explained the contract includes an incentive to finalize its installation by Oct. 23, although he didn’t specify the amount of the financial incentive.
While the signing process with these companies has taken more than two weeks after Hurricane María made landfall, Sánchez argued USACE is processing the contract as quickly as regulation allows, adding that bureaucracy has not been the only factor that has delayed the process.
“Companies have to mobilize their equipment and their people and coordinate with the available ships at ports,” he explained.
The engineer declined to provide more information about the identity of the companies being evaluated to ensure an “open and fair” process. However, he said once the companies are selected they in turn may subcontract others as long they comply with federal accounting and auditing regulations.
As for the equipment needed, Sánchez explained that “there aren’t enough materials on the island to fully restore Puerto Rico’s [electric] grid.”
The equipment needed will be arriving in the island periodically, with the first shipment arriving next week and the second the following week. In the meantime, brigades are using the equipment and supplies in inventory.
“We have to highlight that obviously the authority [Prepa] had materials. That is why we have been restoring transmission and distribution lines…but obviously there was a lot of devastation and the amount of materials needed is much higher than there currently is on the island,” he said.