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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

FEMA approves nearly $600 million to purchase materials & equipment for power grid restoration

The federal share will allow for the advance purchase of materials so that resources will be available once reconstruction work begins, FEMA said.

By John McPhaul

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved nearly $600 million for the purchase of materials and equipment needed to rebuild Puerto Rico’s power grid.

The federal share will allow for the advance purchase of materials so that resources will be available once the reconstruction work begins, FEMA said in a press release.

FEMA’S federal disaster recovery coordinator for Puerto Rico, José G. Baquero, said the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) has already submitted to the agency an initial list of materials and equipment that are currently in short supply and that usually have a long lead time or that could be impacted by future events.

“This is an extensive requirement which includes the areas of transmission and distribution, substations and telecommunications,” Baquero said. “The goal is to have the materials before the work begins. We are very excited to see how the work is beginning to take shape.”

Among the materials included in the project are about 2,500 circuit miles of transmission lines, roughly 23 miles of submarine cable for the municipalities of Vieques and Culebra, more than 300 substations, nearly 200,000 transformers and nearly 13,400 miles of feeders, among other necessary equipment.

Manuel A. Laboy Rivera, the executive director of the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency (COR3), said: “This obligation is the result of the active and proactive work we have executed along with PREPA, FEMA and the close collaboration with [transmission and distribution system operator] LUMA [Energy].”

“I reiterate that the reconstruction of the electrical grid has already begun and the purchase of the equipment under this significant obligation will allow for the streamlined development of other projects,” he said. “Currently, we have disbursed $1.6 billion in emergency categories and $7.1 million for permanent works. As the projects move forward in their development, and PREPA or LUMA submit their requests for reimbursement, we will promptly address them so that the money disbursed will continue to further the reconstruction of other infrastructure in the electrical system.”

The funds are in addition to 18 other projects to restore the power grid for a total of over $700 million. The reconstruction of the island electrical system also has an additional $9.6 million for mitigation measures, such as replacing poles with those that can withstand winds of up to 160 miles per hour, emergency generators to prevent damage to replacement batteries at substations and the elevation of substations located in flood zones.

FEMA has approved over $12.8 billion to PREPA for permanent and emergency work to address damages from Hurricane Maria and the 2020 earthquakes. Of this total, $9.4 billion was awarded through FEMA’s Accelerated Awards Strategy.

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