Gov’t to breathe life into long-proposed Mahogany Vale Dam

THE Government is moving to resurrect the long-buried proposed plan to construct a major water dam in Mahogany Vale, St Thomas, close to its border with Portland, but there is no indication yet as to how much this will cost or how it will be financed.

This is one of several projects which the Government intends to use to increase the supply of potable water to communities across the island, announced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Thursday as he made his contribution to the 2023/24 Budget Debate.

According to Holness, the dam will form part of a major integrated and energy project which he had announced last year to solve Jamaica’s water and energy problems and to make the island a truly green country.

He pointed out that the Mahogany Vale Dam is not new as it was first proposed in a 1967 report as a possible solution for augmenting the potable water supply for Kingston. It was abandoned in the 1970s in favour of the less capital intensive, but lower yielding Rio Cobre Water Supply Scheme.

Holness noted that in 1983 the Yallahs Pipeline Project was started as the first phase of the Blue Mountain Water Supply Project which would have included the building of a dam, creating tunnels to carry water and the building of a hydroelectric station.

“The Yallahs Pipeline was completed in 1986 and now brings water from the Yallahs and Negro rivers in St Thomas to the Mona Reservoir to meet the needs of parts of the Kingston and St Andrew,” noted Holness.

He told the House that in 2010 there was an attempt to resurrect the Mahogany Vale project and attempts were made through Jamaica Promotions Corporation (Jampro) to attract investors, without success.

“I find myself taking on so many nation-building projects that should have been done years ago, but for whatever reason, successive governments just could not find the wherewithal to execute.

“The need for such a project… is beyond question, we must get it done,” Holness said, noting that the initial consideration when the Mahogany Vale Dam was proposed was only the harnessing water for Kingston.

But Holness argued that today Jamaica must also secure reliable water supply for the developments which are being planned for the eastern end of the island.

“I am declaring that this Government intends to pursue the development of the Mahogany Vale Project as a national priority. The financial and technical analyses will require development partner assistance and we have started to pursue various avenues of support, including climate-change funding. Shortly I will announce an enterprise team to manage the project,” declared Holness.

Other water supply schemes announced by Holness include the Greater Mandeville Water Supply Improvement, which is already under way.

Holness pointed out that the Mandeville water scheme is a major capital project, aimed at effecting substantial improvements to the service levels in communities extending from Pepper in St Elizabeth to the full limits of the town of Mandeville.

“The works being implemented include source development, new transmission mains, electro-mechanical pumping equipment and associated storage tanks. Implementation is scheduled for completion in 2024. This is to be done at a capital cost to date of $680 million. The project will be done at a cost more than $3 billion,” said Holness.

Pointing to another plan to improve the supply of potable water, Holness told the House that the long-awaited Content Water Project, which was proposed in 2009, to provide water to the Corporate Area from the Rio Cobre, has finally been settled commercially under a public-private partnership framework.

“The water purchase agreement was signed in November 2022 for the establishment of a water treatment plant at Content in St Catherine to provide 15 million imperial gallons per day. Construction is expected to begin in June 2023 and will last 24 months. This arrangement will fundamentally improve the supply stability to Kingston and St Andrew and Portmore [St Catherine] and support growing housing and commercial developments,” said Holness.

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