By Karla Marshall
Afghanistan Engineer District
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Electricity is a scarce resource in Kandahar City, but should become less so for Kandahar government district centers and businesses when four separate projects, designed to improve electricity distribution in key areas of the city, are completed by winter 2013.
Regional Command-South, or RC-South, is overseeing these projects currently in the planning phase. Each required comprehensive coordination among RC-South, USAID, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat, or DABS, the Afghan electric utility company.
"RC-South's goal with these projects is to connect Afghan Government District Centers to the Kandahar City power grid, which is a sustainable power source," said Lt. Col. Robert Bensburg, officer in charge of infrastructure in RC-South's Stability Division. "When we get that done we will have achieved one of RC-South's decisive points."
RC-South has many missions and goals, among them is facilitating provincial government interaction with Afghanistan's national government in Kabul. These infrastructure projects support those goals because they will connect four key district government centers -- Maiwand, Zhari/Pashmul, Arghandab and Panjwai -- to Kandahar City's power grid.
"The four projects will make use of completion kits currently stored by USACE in Kandahar City, which is another plus because the selected contractor will have access to many materials immediately," said Bensburg.
The completion kit materials will be included in the contracts as "government-furnished material," he explained.
The kits include transformers, insulators, electric conductors, cable, lineman crew tool sets, utility trucks and meters, explained Chief Warrant Officer Robert Hopkins, the USACE Prime Power liaison to RC-S and custodian of the material and equipment.
Bensburg said he, the team from USACE's 565th Forward Engineer Support Team-Advance and USAID developed the four projects in concert with USACE's two Southeast Power System projects, or SEPS -- one underway in Helmand Province and the other underway in Kandahar Province. USACE awarded the second project, SEPS-Kandahar, Sept. 28 and when they are complete, DABS can distribute more consistent, reliable and safe electricity.
The SEPS-Kandahar project includes rebuilding a substation at Pasmul and constructing a new substation at Maiwand. The project will also repair an existing transmission line from Durai Junction to the Breshna Kot Substation in downtown Kandahar City.
"Once USACE awarded its SEPS-Helmand and SEPS-Kandahar electric improvement projects, we were able to develop a plan for erecting and connecting distribution lines in key areas of Kandahar to those main transmission lines being rehabilitated by USACE in its projects," said Bensburg.
The first project planned is for the Arghandab district because it is the least technically challenging, Bensburg explained.
"The FEST-A will help RC-South develop a scope of work, we will coordinate it with DABS, solicit the project and we plan to award it in March 2013."
Construction should begin in April and the contractor should complete construction within 90 to120 days.
The Panjwai project will be the most challenging of the four, said Alan Avery the FEST-A electrical engineer who deployed from USACE's Honolulu District.
"We've got to determine if it's feasible to run power lines on a direct route from the nearest substation to the Panjwai district center. If we can, that will mean four kilometers of lines and poles instead of about 17 kilometers if we follow an existing roadway."
"These capital improvement projects will be the enduring legacy of coalition and U.S. efforts from the last decade. The Afghan government will be the recipient of a great opportunity to provide multiple levels of services to its citizens that would most probably not have been available for another 30 years," Bensburg concluded.