Despite announcing in April that by mid-May invitations will be sent out again for bidders to submit proposals for the desilting of the John Compton Dam, the island’s lone water company, WASCO is yet to announce just when that process will be completed.
The VOICE has made several attempts over the past few weeks to glean information from company officials as to the progress of the negotiations, including various calls to the company today. However, no one at that company seems willing to comment on the matter.
During a press briefing on April 26, WASCO’s Managing Director, Vincent Hippolyte, said the company had pre-qualified two bidders out of the six submissions made for the project last year. Those pre-qualified bidders were subsequently asked to submit proposals to WASCO, which they did in December. Those proposals were evaluated between December last year and January this year.
By February, however, WASCO decided to begin negotiations with one of the bidders after the other bidder pulled out. Guided by the procurement rules set out by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) – which is financing the rehabilitation of the dam – WASCO was engaged in negotiations with the bidder from mid-March to mid-April.
However, those negotiations failed after WASCO realized that the negotiations failed to produce a bid considered acceptable based on the estimates put forward by the water company’s consultant and its own understanding of the works to be done.
At the time, Hippolyte said: “Sometime later this year, say, August or thereabout, we should be in a position to have received, evaluated and either in a position to make an award or enter into negotiations again.”
Added Hippolyte: “We have to get the best plan to get this project completed sustainably. Anything short of that is going to be catastrophic.”
Qualifying companies are expected to be able to desilt the dam so as to allow WASCO greater access to the reservoir’s water supply, especially from the dam’s second column, as well as the setting up of a safe sediment disposal area.
As to whether a successful bidder has been determined or negotiations fallen apart again remains unclear.
During a tour of the dam on November 24 last year, Chairman of WASCO, Egbert Louis, said quotations received to desilt the dam ranged between US$6 million and US$39 million. The 10.43% dredging fee WASCO collects which forms part of a 66% increase in water rates approved by the National Water and Sewerage Commission (NWSC) in 2013 amounts to US$1.5 million per annum, he said, and is “insufficient to undertake the proposed works.”
That same day, the company launched its US$18.3 million John Compton Dam Rehabilitation Project, which CDB’s Division Chief, Andrew Dupigny, said “takes a holistic approach to the sustainability of WASCO and the water sector itself.”
The dam’s storage capacity was drastically reduced following repeated bouts of torrential rains, especially during the passage of Hurricane Tomas in 2010. With WASCO’s estimation of the average citizen using about 30 gallons of water daily, getting the dam back to normalcy is key, especially since drought-like conditions have been the norm for a great part of each year since the dam’s reduced levels.