Great News from Mount Coffee: Hydro Power Ready by December 2016

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Fellow Liberians, please take SERIOUS note: It took only a few hours during the civil war to destroy the Mount Coffee Hydro-Electric Plant. But look how long it has taken to rebuild it. We have been working on this thing since the early part of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s administration, over 10 years ago.

The President correctly made the hydro rehabilitation one of the pillars of her administration, because no nation can accomplish anything much without electric energy. In Liberia, without electric energy, economic activity continues to slow down and be stifled; the people’s lives are obstructed; and gasoline pollution from generators in every garage and on every sidewalk has become rampant, causing a serious health hazard. Crime continues to be on the increase, with armed robbers taking advantage of the incessant darkness.

So those who – as Liberia struggles through the enduring political, social and economic problems that continue to bedevil this administration and us – are advocating instability, THINK AGAIN! It is so easy to destroy; but to rebuild is entirely another matter which only Heaven knows when it will happen.

Yes, the chaos and instability that many had been craving came to Liberia. But thank God, with the help of Liberia’s international friends and partners and the Liberian people themselves, the war ended and we have enjoyed a period of peace since 2003.

Let us NEVER forget that yes, it is easy to destroy, but by God, it is hard, very hard, to rebuild! And to rebuild takes time!

That is why our Presidential Correspondent William Harmon, as a good reporter, keenly observed the President’s body language this Tuesday after she finished touring the rehabilitation work at the Mount Coffee Hydro-Electric Plant.

“The President,” reported Harmon, “wore even broader smiles when Project Director Bill Hakin [told her] that ‘December 16, 2016 still stands as the official date that the hydro will come online or actual electricity will be produced.”

Upon completing the hydro tour, the President, said Harmon, could not hide her elation. “[The] level of progress here is absolutely pleasing because when we were here last December, something was going on, but now we can say big light tomorrow is almost at hand!”

The particularly pleased President praised Mr. Hakin “and the four contracting companies from all over the world that brought their engineers and technical staff to assist us.”

Mr. Hakin said something else that further pleased the President. The entire project will be ultimately completed by December 2017—that would be just before she hands over power to an elected successor. That would be the crowning moment of her tenure—leaving a country with light after meeting it, 12 years ago, in darkness!

Some 23 Liberians are being trained in Zambia to man the hydro project when completed. According to Emmanuel Lawrence, LEC’s Chief Engineer assigned to the project, some of them will continue to Germany for further training. More Liberians will go for training in Zambia. We pray that upon their return, they will be truly prepared and ready to run the hydro.

Upon completion of rehabilitating the hydro, the company that has been contracted to run LEC, Manitoba Hydro International Limited, a Canadian outfit, will run the hydro for five years, and at the same time mentor the 23 Liberians, who will take over the operation from Manitoba.

The hydro will be equipped to produce 88 megawatts of power for the entire country. However, the Liberia Electricity Corporation says that the next major hurdle will be to undertake network connections, already begun, to greater Monrovia, to the Roberts International Airport (RIA) and to Margibi and other counties.

Furthermore, there is the issue of building upstream reservoirs in the St. Paul River to ensure year-round electricity. When the hydro is completed, it will run for six months during the Rainy Season. During the Dries, electricity will be substantially reduced because there will not be enough water in the St. Paul for the hydro to generate electricity.

The new government entering in 2018 will have to meet the challenge of raising the US$350 million to US$400 million to build the upstream dams that will ensure year-round electricity, and even raise power production to export capacity.

Over the past quarter century or more since the unscrupulous warlords destroyed the hydro, Liberians have had to endure a nightmare in darkness, with people and businesses compelled to purchase their own generators.

Fellow Liberians, let us forever extinguish from our hearts, minds and vocabularies the terms ‘war’ and ‘warlords.’ But how can we be assured of this?

The answer lies in good, hardworking, honest, patriotic, selfless and results-oriented governance. May God help us to achieve this in the coming 2017 elections.

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