Articles: US Department of Interior Issues Grants to Marshall Islands
- U.S., UN Support Pacific Utility Upgrades - Assessment to Help Marshalls Energy Company which lost $3.4 million last year
PSTF: DOI's Insular Affairs Assistant Secretary, Tony Babauta made available $1 million to support the Prior Service Trust Fund Administration. The PSTFA administers benefit payments to individuals in the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau who worked for the U.S. Department of the Navy and the U.S. Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. The program is designed to provide social security-type benefits to former employees of the TTPI government (or the predecessor-U.S. Navy administration) who were employed for at least five full years prior to 1968, when a TTPI Social Security System was created. The program also provides benefits to survivors of the former employees.
FOUR ATOLLS: Insular Assistant Secretary Tony Babauta signed a technical assistance grant in the amount of $985,235 to continue primary health care for members of the Bikini, Enewetak, Rongelap and Utrik communities in the Marshall Islands. The Four Atoll Health Care Program addresses the medical needs of those injured by the nuclear weapons testing program, which the U.S. Department of Defense carried out in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958.The grant will fund a full-time primary care physician to work in a clinic in each of the four atoll communities and provide routine and specialty care, including dental, obstetrics, immunizations, food safety and water treatment, diabetic assessment and cancer screening.
UTILITIES: The Department of the Interior’s Insular Assistant Secretary Tony Babauta agreed to partially fund a proposal from the Marshall Islands Government and the Marshalls Energy Company, which would implement initiatives to assist MEC to become self sustaining.The $200,000 grant, from the Operations and Maintenance Improvement Program, will help to address studies that have shown that the MEC incurs a more than 10 percent loss from theft and non-payment of electric utility services. The initiatives include installing debit meters for accountability, establishing a meter-calibration program to ensure accuracy, and installing meter locks for security.
ASSESSMENT: The Interior Department is providing $300,000 for an assessment of the 10 power utilities in the 10 U.S.-affiliated islands in the region, while the EU is providing a similar amount for a survey of the rest. The Interior-funded project gets underway next month in Majuro, while the EU-supported work is expected to start in early 2010, Neil said. In a normally functioning power operation, a 9 percent loss is expected, Neil said. But losses in Majuro are running at nearly 30 percent."Losses here are 300 percent higher than expected," he said, which is a similar pattern found in many of the small island utilities.Causes of the losses range from old engines that burn too much fuel for the power they generate to problems with cables and transformers in the distribution system. "This study is an integral part of our comprehensive recovery plan," said Paul."It will quantify our load losses and what is needed to correct the problem." Aside from identifying the problems, the assessment will produce a priority list of equipment that needs to be replaced to operate efficiently, Neil said.