WAPA Board Updated on Pole Project, Water Situation

Kyle Fleming, chairman of the Water and Power Authority’s Governing Board, Thursday questioned authority staff if it was using traditional methods to solve problems instead of taking advantage of the resources and technology available in 2023.

WAPA still needs to get 700 composite poles, which don’t decay or rot, up on St. Croix. (Photo from WAPA)

At its November meeting, the board was considering approval to spend $14 million for an emergency bypass of transmission lines around Feeder 13 on St. Thomas. The lines will run from the power plant in Sub Base up to the other side of Charlotte Amalie near the hospital. Fleming asked if other alternatives had been considered instead of “more wire.”

He proposed that the issue be tabled until December.

Ashley Bryan, chief operations officer, said delaying the project would increase the likelihood of more outages in the St. Thomas-St. John District. She said the system was presently stressed.

Fleming said delaying a project that could avoid future power outages was not good. However, he said future projects needed to be presented to allow the board more time for consideration. Turnbull suggested that future projects get a more thorough airing before the board before decisions are made. He told Bryan that he did not want the staff to bring forward initiatives where the decision was already made.

After much discussion, Fleming and fellow board members Juanita Young, Hubert Turnbull, and Cheryl Boynes-Jackson approved that measure and a contract extension for the composite pole project on St. Croix, where 700 more poles need to be installed.

Composite poles are being raised where running transmission lines underground is not feasible. Populous areas and areas with critical facilities are priority areas for underground transmission lines.

Turnbull and Young also questioned the staff about the water situation on St. Croix. WAPA Chief Executive Officer Andrew Smith said the Environmental Protection Agency had taken 123 samples recently, and only three showed elevated levels of lead or copper. To comply with EPA regulations, WAPA must have 90 percent of its samples within acceptable limits of lead or copper, so it complied.

Young asked what should be done concerning the residents getting water from the pipes where the elevated levels were found. Smith said he could not answer that question yet. One of his staff said that residents where high levels were found were contacted and advised on what to do.

Smith said that as far as he knew, there would not be any more testing by the EPA soon.  He added that WAPA was reviewing what sampling it needed to do.