ST. THOMAS — The V.I. Water and Power Authority Governing Board on Thursday awarded three contracts to install more than 2,000 composite utility poles on St. Thomas and St. John.

The poles, which are lighter, stronger and more resilient to hurricane-force winds, will replace the territory’s vulnerable wooden poles and harden WAPA’s transmission and distribution system.

“The grid will be more resilient, less prone to windstorm damage [and have a] quicker recovery post-wind event,” said WAPA spokesman Jean Greaux Jr.

The first two contracts were awarded to Haugland Energy Group LLC, and involve the installation of poles on St. Thomas. One contract involves the replacement of roughly 750 wooden poles on the West End of the island and the other contract involves the replacement of roughly 750 wooden poles on the East End. The contract amounts are not to exceed $24,092,656 and $23,725,308, respectively.

Greaux said the costs will be 90% covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, with the 10% local cost share covered by funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The use of HUD funds is still being finalized, Greaux said.

The third contract was awarded to BBC Electric Inc. and involves the replacement of roughly 600 wooden poles on St. John.

The contract amount is not to exceed $32,886,447 and will also be funded by the same 90/10 match from FEMA and HUD.

The installation on both islands is expected to take three years from the Notice to Proceed. The stronger composite poles have been a high-priority goal for WAPA since hurricanes Irma and Maria badly damaged the territory’s grid infrastructure on 2017.

Currently, St. Thomas has roughly 800 composite poles installed, including 200 on Water Island, which is now complete. St. John has about 1,000 composite poles installed, while St. Croix was last reported as having nearly 600 poles.

The installation of the poles is part of large-scale transformation plan to make WAPA more resilient and efficient.

Other components of the plan include the undergrounding of electrical lines, transmission and distribution feeders and other equipment — which, when completed, will allow WAPA to provide underground electrical service to the meter bases of at least 50% of its customers.

“Today’s award of the three contracts to complete the pole installations is a major step forward for WAPA as we work each day to design a more resilient, reliable and efficient electric system,” said WAPA Executive Director Lawrence Kupfer in a WAPA news release Thursday.

WAPA Board Chairman Anthony Thomas equally praised the effort.

“I am very pleased, the board is indeed pleased, that we have gotten to this point of authorizing contract awards for this most important work,” he said. “These projects are important not only to WAPA as it builds a stronger electric system, but equally as important to the people of the Virgin Islands who expect affordable and reliable electric service.”

— Contact A.J. Rao at 340-714-9104 or email