Power restoration efforts on Puerto Rico will continue even after PREPA canceled a contract with Whitefish Energy to rebuild electric grid infrastructure. Mutual aid crews were already on the island (and more are being requested) helping to restore power and now the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has increased its contract with Fluor Enterprises. The entire island lost power when Hurricane Maria hit on Sept. 20.
The Army Corps said it was modifying the contract with Fluor from $240 million to $840 million to ensure “continued execution of the critical repair and restoration of the electric power grid in Puerto Rico.” The initial contract with Fluor included equipment evaluation and repair, as well as work toward the re-energization and recommissioning of substations and switching stations.
The Army Corps’ action signals that Fluor is now the primary contractor on Puerto Rico. The more controversial Whitefish contract was handled directly with PREPA (and not with the Army Corps), according to a Reuters report.
The Whitefish deal came under fire after it was revealed last week that the terms were obtained without a competitive public bidding process. Residents, local officials and U.S. federal authorities all criticized the arrangement , Reuters reported.
Whitefish Responds to Cancellation
Whitefish released a statement Sunday stressing the company's disappointment in the governor's decision to ask PREPA to cancel the contract. "The decision will only delay what the people of Puerto Rico want and deserve – to have the power restored quickly in the same manner their fellow citizens on the mainland experience after a natural disaster. The decision by PREPA to move quickly and our ability to mobilize immediately exceeded all other efforts by other parties. In less than a month we brought 350 workers with specific expertise in this task and were on track to have more than 500 linemen on the island by this week if allowed to continue. We also brought over 600 pieces and 2,500 tons of equipment, including 400 trucks, cranes and excavators, as well as five helicopters. The Whitefish Energy team completed significant work on two major transmission lines that crossed over the mountains of Puerto Rico and some critical work on very remote parts to the south which are only accessible by helicopter and heavy equipment," the statement read.
Conflict over who should lead the process of restoration and oversee PREPA has hampered efforts. PREPA, the island’s bankrupt power utility, and the governor have argued that the utility should maintain control, while a fiscal control board created by U.S. Congress last year to restructure the island’s finances has also jockeyed for control.
Currently, there are about 400 subcontracting crews on the island working to bring back power, according to Reuters. Governor Pedro Rossello said he wants to have 1,000 crews by Nov. 8, leaning on mutual aid from utilities in Washington, New York and Florida, which have crews on the island.
APPA, EEI Respond to PREPA Request
This morning, the American Public Power Association and the Edison Electric Institute received a letter from Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority CEO Ricardo Ramos requesting assistance in bringing resources to Puerto Rico to support power restoration on the island.
"EEI and our member companies welcome today's request from PREPA, which now allows our industry on the mainland to fully support the critical power restoration efforts underway in Puerto Rico," said EEI President Tom Kuhn. "We are already working with our member companies to mobilize crews, equipment, and technical experts in response to today's letter."
"Hurricane Maria caused historic damage to Puerto Rico, and considerable logistical issues remain," said Kelly. "We know that restoring power to Puerto Rico will be challenging. As the letter outlines, extensive portions of the transmission network in Puerto Rico run through rugged, mountainous terrain with little or no road access. Much of the infrastructure will need to be rebuilt before power can be restored. While this is not a typical restoration process, we are fully committed to overcoming those challenges and bringing our experience and resources to Puerto Rico."
Download the letter from PREPA below.