The Daily Herald – Upcoming underground wiring work for hurricane resilience

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Previous underground wiring work on Vlaun’s Drive. (NV GEBE archive photo)

PHILIPSBURG — NV GEBE and the National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB) plan to bury more than nine kilometers of overhead low-voltage power lines as part of major infrastructure work due to begin in mid-July.


This work is part of the Emergency Recovery Project (ERP-1) Trust Fund. The St. Maarten Trust Fund is funded by the Government of the Netherlands, managed by the World Bank and implemented by the NRPB on behalf of the Government of St. Maarten.
With a budget of approximately US$3.8 million, the works will take place in several phases from July to the fourth quarter of 2022. Road crews from contractor Windward Roads BV will dig trenches in residential streets where there are still overhead cables. These cables, along with new water pipes, will be rerouted underground. The work will be carried out under the direction of GEBE staff and the activity supervisor ILACO Suriname NV.
Empty conduits will also be placed in the trenches, paving the way for telecommunications companies across the country to lay fiber optic cables in the future. In the final stages, aluminum streetlights will be installed to replace the old wooden ones.
GEBE Acting Acting Director Sharine Daniel said this can be seen as a continuation of the underground cabling works which were started by the company a few years ago and she is pleased to see that they are continue.
“NV GEBE has spent several million dollars to execute at least 95% of this massive and expensive undertaking and the completion of the project will certainly benefit our electricity and water systems immensely and by extension the community of St . Maarten,” Daniel said. .
She further stated that in 2020, she finalized GEBE’s decision to upgrade the company’s electricity and water network with resources that had been allocated by the Trust Fund Steering Committee to ERP-1. . The Trust Fund Steering Committee had set these funds aside in 2018 to help GEBE build resilience and restore equipment damaged during the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season.
The establishment of these underground connections will extend GEBE’s existing underground network, improving Saint-Martin’s resilience to natural disasters such as hurricanes. Underground cables cannot be severed and blown away by the high winds of a storm, greatly reducing the chances of power outages or falling debris on the homes of unlucky residents. It also reduces the time it takes to restore electricity, water and internet connections after a devastating hurricane.
These essential services are vitally important in the government’s efforts to coordinate disaster relief and recovery, as well as helping citizens get back to normal.
The underground cabling activity will take place mainly in the Cul de Sac basin, one of the most densely populated areas of Saint-Martin.
Planned works will begin on Spanish Fort Road, Crocus Road, Tassel Drive, Tassel Road and Lavender Road before moving to Carnation Road, Amaryllis Road, Gladiola Road, Killebarn Drive, Bleeding Heart Road, Betty’s Estate Road, Flamboyant Road, Orchid. Road, Marigot Hill Road, Soursap Road and surrounding areas, Mesapple Road, Banana Drive, Genip Road, Guavaberry Road, Peach Road, Beet Road, Cherrynut Road, Pumpkin Drive, Pumpkin Road and Okra Drive.
Before the work begins, residents will be informed via the media of the activities that will take place on the respective streets. Although most of the work will take place on public roads, residents with overhead power lines to their homes will be contacted by GEBE for trenching work on their property to connect them to the grid via underground lines. Windward Roads will replace any concrete slabs or foundations damaged by the excavation work and all reconnections will be carried out by GEBE technicians.
Rigorous safety protocols will be put in place to minimize inconvenience to residents. For example, safe passages will be placed above the trenches in front of entrances and pedestrian paths to ensure accessibility to residences and businesses. In addition, a traffic plan has been developed to help reduce potential congestion for motorists.
However, residents may experience increased noise and/or dust between working hours of 7:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on weekdays. The availability of electricity and water will not be interrupted, except when connecting to the new underground network after completion of the works.
“Neighborhoods without underground wiring went without power for many weeks after Hurricane Irma hit, while other neighborhoods that were powered through the underground grid regained service just days after the devastation,” said said Claret Connor, director of the NRPB.
“This project is one more step to ensure that in the event of a future hurricane or other unfortunate disasters, residents and small businesses in this very densely populated area of ​​St. Maarten can bounce back faster than in 2017.”
The Minister of Social Housing, Spatial Planning, the Environment and VROMI Infrastructure Egbert Doran considers this project a great achievement.
“As we continue to be threatened by hurricanes, the period of rebound from devastation is of great importance, not only for our personal resurgence but also for the economic recovery of the island,” Doran said. He added that the inconveniences of the works will be minor compared to the long-term benefits of the project and asks the public to be patient and considerate during the duration of the works.
For more information on the underground wiring business, people can visit
www.nrpbsxm.org/undergroundcabling.
After the work has started, if anyone has a problem or a complaint related to the activity, they can file a complaint via the form on
www.nrpbsxm.org/complaints-procedure, or by contacting the Windward Roads Complaints Representative at tel. 1721-5427520 or by sending an e-mail to
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