US Repair of Puerto Rico’s power grid won’t be complete until May, Army Corps of Engineers says

02:27  14 december  2017
02:27  14 december  2017 Source:   bloomberg.com

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Repair of Puerto Rico ’ s power grid won ’ t be complete until the end of May , the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Wednesday. (ERIKA P. RODRIGUEZ / The New York Times).

Puerto Rico ’ s electrical grid is unlikely to be fully restored until the end of May , the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Wednesday -- months longer than the timeline offered by the island’s governor.

In this Oct. 15, 2017, file photo, Whitefish Energy Holdings workers restore power lines damaged by Hurricane Maria in Barceloneta, Puerto Rico. © (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa, File) In this Oct. 15, 2017, file photo, Whitefish Energy Holdings workers restore power lines damaged by Hurricane Maria in Barceloneta, Puerto Rico.

(Bloomberg) -- Puerto Rico’s electrical grid is unlikely to be fully restored until the end of May, the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Wednesday -- months longer than the timeline offered by the island’s governor.

Lieutenant General Todd Semonite, commanding general and chief engineer for the Corps, said in an interview Wednesday that he expects the Puerto Rico’s electric grid to reach 75 percent of customers by the end of January, 95 percent by the end of February, and 100 percent by the end of May, more than eight months after Hurricane Maria hit.

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(Bloomberg) -- Puerto Ricos electrical grid is unlikely to be fully restored until the end of May , the head of the U. S . Army Corps of Engineers said Wednesday -- months longer than the timeline offered by the islands governor.

Some areas of Puerto Rico will not have power for as long as eight months, the Army Corps of Engineers said .CreditMario Tama/Getty Images.

That departs from statements by Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello, who said in October that he hoped power would be restored to 95 percent of the grid by Dec. 15. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority made a similar pledge last month, saying it would reach 95 percent of customers by the end of December.

The slow pace of restoring electricity following Hurricane Maria has become shorthand for the U.S. government’s uneven response. Just 61 percent of electricity had been restored as of Wednesday, according to data on a website run by the island’s government.

The Army Corps is a key part of a task force of U.S. government and outside groups working with Puerto Rico’s government to restore power on the island.

Semonite said he had told Rossello on Oct. 27 that the Dec. 15 timeline was unrealistic. "Governor, there’s no way you’re going to get 95 percent" by that point, Semonite recounted telling Rossello. "And he was very, very upset."

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The Army Corps of Engineers has projected that power will be restored for most people by March, but those in very remote areas might have to wait until May because of the difficulty in moving supplies.

"The bottom line is, he ought to be upset, because all of his people ought to have electricity," Semonite said. "We’re just as compassionate as the governor is at getting his guys electricity. That’s why I have 700 guys that are going to be there over Christmas."

To illustrate the challenge of getting the grid fully restored, Semonite described flying over a cluster of four homes on the top of a mountain, fed by a single wire that goes up the side of a cliff.

"Those four houses, what I call the last mile, they’re going to take a long time. So I said probably the end of May to get to 100 percent. I’d love to go faster."

Yennifer Alvarez, a spokeswoman for Rossello’s administration, didn’t immediately have a comment. 

--With assistance from Yalixa Rivera

To contact the reporter on this story: Christopher Flavelle in Washington at cflavelle@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net, Mark Drajem

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

Puerto Rico fears economic downturn from new tax overhaul .
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