WINCHESTER, Va. – Two U.S. Army Corps of Engineers districts combined their resources to award a critically important project for providing reliable electric power from the Kajaki Dam power house on the Helmand River through the Helmand province in southwestern Afghanistan.
On June 22, the Middle East District awarded a $93.6 million contract for the project – known as Helmand substations and transmission lines – to Perini Management Services Inc. of Framingham, Mass. The Afghanistan Engineer District-South will oversee the work from its headquarters on Kandahar Airfield.
The substations and transmissions lines project is part of a much larger initiative to support major improvements planned under the South East Power System, according to Jim Murray, SEPS project manager, South District.
"The Kajaki Dam power house generates electricity that flows through the Helmand and Kandahar provinces to Kandahar City," Murray said. "Under SEPS, USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) will install a third turbine at the Kajaki power house to supplement the two turbines already in operation. To prepare for the additional power that will be generated, the transmission system must be upgraded."
The Kajaki Dam power house was built by USAID in the 1970s and has long been recognized as the source for sustainable and renewable power for Helmand and Kandahar provinces. Because the entire electrical system has largely been neglected due to decades of war, Afghan and U.S. agencies are partnering to increase power generation and distribution to solve the severe lack of electricity in this region.
Bringing more power to southern Afghanistan supports the Afghan government's efforts to provide governance, economic development, and security for its people.
Two districts collaborate
The Afghanistan Engineer District-South asked its sister district to award this contract because the Middle East District had a set of multiple award task order contracts already in place to perform design and construction projects throughout the 20 countries of the U.S. Central Command area of operations. The MATOCs, awarded in June 2011, allow the district to compete and award task order contracts to 14 firms already deemed qualified to perform work on behalf of the Transatlantic Division and its districts.
"Getting this contract awarded was critical for the republic of Afghanistan and a top priority for both the South and Middle East Districts," said Romel Punsalan, Middle East District project manager. "We knew that we had a great deal of work to do to make this contract award on time. Our team included project managers, contracting officers and contracting specialists, engineers, estimators, and attorneys – from both districts."
Punsalan said that the team worked closely in issuing the request for proposal to the MATOC holders, holding a pre-award conference, hosting a site visit, resolving issues, and awarding the contract. "Our work environment was challenging, yet the team dynamics were excellent and resulted in the project delivery team pulling together to make the award happen."
"This contract award, developed in true partnership with the Afghanistan Engineer District-South, is a vehicle that will enable the USACE team to successfully deliver this critical electrical system to the people of Afghanistan," said Army Col. Jon Christensen, Middle East District commander. "This project is vitally important to the U.S. government's interests in helping Afghanistan be a strong partner."
After award, the task order contract was transferred to the South District.
"This award is a great start to what will be an arduous and challenging journey to execute this project," said Air Force Col. Ben Wham, South District commander, referring to Helmand, Afghanistan's largest province which has seen heavy fighting between NATO and Taliban forces.
"While much of the Helmand province has been cleared and held by the battle space owner (military units responsible for security specific geographic areas) and the Afghan National Army, the insurgent threat is still there," Murray said. "The contractor will be responsible for providing security throughout the construction phase."
Ed Greco, vice president of business development with Perini Management Services Inc., said that the firm is delighted to support USACE in this reconstruction program. "We recognize the critical purpose of this project and intend to field our most senior and experienced people who served on similar projects such as Task Force Restore Iraqi Electricity."
Perini has completely $1.4 billion in design-build projects since 2003 in Afghanistan and Iraq, in partnership with USACE, Greco said.
"Our long-term partners are Tetra Tech and POWER Engineers," Greco continued. "Collectively, our team is rapidly mobilizing our resources to start this project immediately."
"This has been an exceptional opportunity to work together with the Middle East District and the Transatlantic Division to do all the hard work necessary to award this SEPS project," Wham said. "The South District is now ready to press forward on construction, which will lead to a better and brighter Afghanistan."
Transmission lines will help reliability
Improving transmission lines and substations will be done in two phases, Murray said. "The Helmand project is the first phase, with 110kV transmission lines from Kajaki Dam to Durai Junction being rehabilitated. The contract awarded to Perini also includes an option to rebuild the transmission line from Durai Junction southwest to Lashkar Gah, the capital of the Helmand province." Lashkar Gah, like Kandahar City, gets only a third of the electrical power it needs.
In addition to repairing the 110kV transmission lines, the contract also includes design and construction of three electrical substations, a 110kV switchyard, and construction of two 20kV transmission lines to villages near Kajaki Dam.
"Residents and businesses in the Helmand province are getting electricity now, but it's just not reliable because of the condition of the transmission lines and substations," Murray said. "In addition to shutdowns caused by faults from electrical overloads and shorts, some electricity is lost because the transmission lines are in such disrepair. The new contract will increase the reliability of these lines and substations, and the new facilities will be able to accommodate the additional power generated when the third turbine comes on line. That's critical because the existing lines can't handle any more load."
The second phase includes substations and transmission lines from Durai Junction to Kandahar City and will be awarded by the South District later this year. With fewer facilities to be repaired and constructed in the second phase, Murray said he expects both contracts will finish at about the same time – by January 2014.
The transmission lines and substation projects fall under the Afghan Infrastructure Program, a new authority and appropriation granted by Congress in fiscal year 2011 in Section 1217 of the National Defense Authorization Act.
The USACE districts in Afghanistan are committed to helping the NATO International Security Assistance Force and the Afghanistan government with collaborative projects focused on improving electrical infrastructure throughout the country. Several projects have already been completed throughout the republic, including power plants, switch centers and feeder lines. The districts work closely with the Afghan utility company, Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat, and several Afghan and U.S. agencies.
In time, the plan is to connect SEPS with NEPS, the Northeast Electrical Power System, to further increase sustainable and affordable power generation capacity and distribution throughout southern Afghanistan.